Which it service provider is right for you?
As we progress through the age of computing, computer networks have increased exponentially in their size, complexity and importance to business. Where once a sophisticated network was three computers connected together with a hub, we now have complex setups of core, access and distribution layered switching and powerful routers capable of handling the huge amounts of traffic that is now required to run a thriving business.
The biggest challenges for businesses then is that they often lack the expertise in house to manage this complex network. Businesses that have been around for over 20 - 30 years realize the value of IT and networks, as does any business owner worth his salt, but many are reluctant to provide the funding and focus that the network, once a non-existent cost, it now deserves. Without spending big money on in-house expertise, it now makes sense to outsource the handling of the computers and network support to a professional IT firm. But who to choose, we believe, is a huge challenge facing small and mid-sized businesses.
Key challenges that will affect businesses when outsourcing their IT are as follows:
• Customer service - We think this is the most important. Internally, employees are accountable, accessible and most importantly, visible. Just about every company out there knows how to fix common network issues, but the level of service you receive when you outsource varies greatly. Do you receive a ticket from a machine and wait forever for an actual human to pick up the case? Often this type of system saves the IT company time, but can cause a good deal of frustration for you. You want to speak to someone while the issue is fresh. Make sure you can get on the phone directly to your engineer when needed, as if they were an employee of yours.
• Breadth of service - Many companies outsource to a specific provider based on a current need, and that makes sense. But often this decision ends up costing money and time, because the company chosen doesn't offer the full range of services your business will need in the future. Those needs currently can be listed as helpdesk support, server support, communications support, software development, virtualization, application support, web development, online marketing, hardware sales, IP telephony, VoIP and unified communications, hosted solutions and equipment financing. Make sure your provider can do all these things or risk having multiple service providers and vendors that will cause unnecessary headaches.
• Vendor certifications - judging a business on a meeting with one or two of the representatives and taking note of everything they say isn't a good way to choose an IT services provider. Check the certifications the company has received from the leading Vendors, as this is the best indication you can use to judge the competency of the business.
• Account managers - having a single point of contact through which to direct all your enquiries will save you time and help you to build up trust in a provider. Make sure you will receive an account manager. Get to know them well, buy them presents and praise them constantly.
This all sounds hard, but once a good decision is made you'll finally be able to focus on your business, not your network, or take the work out of network, or any one of the other clever slogans that essentially point to you being able to do what you do best, and ignoring the rest.