You need IT support. It’s as simple as that, but getting it is complicated and may seem expensive. How can you find good support when you’re not an expert? You’ll have to do some learning, and this is a great place to start, as we discuss everything you need to know about selecting a Managed IT services provider.
Why Outsource to a Managed IT Services Provider?
Since you need IT resources, you have a choice to make. You can hire internally and staff your own IT department, or you can outsource to a managed IT service provider. So, what are the advantages of the latter?
For starters, most businesses will save money when they outsource. The truth is that you need 24/7 IT support access, but you won’t use it nearly that much. If you’re paying internal employees to be on call all of the time, labor costs will skyrocket. With outsourced IT, those on-call support agents have to be there for multiple customers. In essence, you’re splitting the cost of 24/7 support with every other client your provider serves. It dramatically lowers these costs.
There are plenty of other benefits. Because you aren’t directly paying the salary of the entire IT staff, you get access to more expertise. Many small and medium-sized businesses can’t afford to staff a robust IT team, and consequently lose access to specific areas of expertise. When you outsource, you get all of the expertise. This is vital when it comes to cybersecurity. You want top-level security to protect against data breaches, ransomware, and other malicious attacks. The most affordable way is with a managed IT provider.
There’s also the issue of service. Since the managed provider has a larger staff than you can afford on your own, they’re often able to provide faster responses, resulting in less downtime and better overall reliability.
On top of all of that, outsourcing provides you with peace of mind. You know that you’re getting excellent service. You don’t have to go through the guessing game of vetting every single member of your IT team. Instead, you only have to vet one company.
Vetting Potential Managed IT Services Vendors
Then again, how are you supposed to vet your IT service provider? How can you distinguish the high-quality pros from overrated sales pitches? If you focus on four specific criteria, you’ll have a better chance of selecting a quality provider.
The first is communication, and it really is the most important. You are counting on an external expert to take care of your business’s critical infrastructure. If they can’t clearly and consistently communicate, they’re no good. They should always be able to explain what they are doing and why they want to do it. An “expert” who can’t explain the mechanics of what they do clearly lacks understanding or communication skills. Either of these is a deal-breaker.
You also want strong, written policies. The contract is really designed to protect both parties and remove confusion. You want an IT provider that puts promises in writing and backs them with guarantees. Before you sign the agreement, you should know precisely what happens when downtime occurs, or other problems arise. The same is said for scheduled maintenance, IT strategy and anything else of concern to you. It should all be clear and transparent.
Another great way to vet an IT provider is to talk to their vendors. IT providers constantly procure hardware and software for their clients. The best providers will have good relationships with quality vendors, and if those partnerships are really strong, the vendors will confirm as much when you contact them.
Lastly, you want to look for vertical knowledge. It’s not an absolute must, but it helps a lot when the providers are already familiar with your industry. The managed IT provider will let you know if they have vertical experience. For instance, an IT company with multiple law offices on their client list will advertise as much when they go after additional legal firms. With that vertical industry knowledge, they have better insights into how technology can be used for the specific tasks that make legal businesses run.
Questions to Ask Before Signing on the Dotted Line
If you think you’ve vetted a promising managed IT provider, there are still a few things to consider before you sign a contract. Those considerations can be broken down into these questions.
How many people will work on my contract?
This boils down to how support is provided. Do they outsource to an offshore call center for help desk troubleshooting? Do you have a direct contact or account manager? How many people do they regularly staff to take care of you, specifically? These answers tell you exactly how support is provided and what you can realistically expect from that support.
What guarantees do I have for service fulfillment?
The service contract should spell out the provider’s specific responsibilities and obligations. You want it to include guarantees. If a system goes down, how long will you have to wait before it’s fixed and back up and running? Do they offer compensation if you lose money due to their failures? No one is perfect, and that’s why guarantees need to be in the contract to protect you when things go wrong.
Exactly how does billing work?
This is a significant question. How much is the regular contract fee? How often will you be billed? When will you be billed? What happens if you need a service outside of the contract or regular agreement? You need to know exactly how billing works. If anything feels like a hidden fee, that’s a red flag, and you have to address it.
What isn’t covered?
This is probably the best question you can ask. If you have established good communication with your prospective service provider, they’ll be happy to tell you what isn’t covered. Setting these expectations is essential and note that no single contract can cover absolutely everything. Make sure both parties are in agreement about coverage from the outset.
A lot goes into choosing a managed IT service provider. The best way to start narrowing down the list is to talk to IT experts. Contact the team at Wisconsin Document Imaging today. We service customers in Green Bay and Menomonee Falls. We’ll get to know your business and explain how we can take care of you.