Depending on where you are located, chances are there are no shortage of companies who position themselves as IT Providers, Network Specialists, Technology Consultants, or some other version of the same basic thing. Regardless of the terminology they use, chances are they provide some combination of the following:
• Computer sales and service
• Network monitoring and maintenance
• Hardware installation and repair
• Backup services
• Cloud services
• And more
So, if they’re all the same, how do you know what you are getting? Here are a few things to ask a potential provider to make sure you are getting the most bang for your IT-budget buck:
1. Do you provide live phone support?
We’ve all been there, and it’s frustrating, we’re in the middle of a workday, trying to meet a deadline, and something freezes up, shuts down, or otherwise stops working. Whenever this happens to you, make sure you have an IT team you can speak with; otherwise, there’s no telling when you’ll get back online and back to work.
2. What hours do you provide live phone support?
Not to be redundant, but make sure to ask about after hours and weekend support. Nothing is more frustrating than being unable to work over the weekend or knock out a To Do list after everyone else has gone home. Also, if it’s important to you, you may consider asking whether or not their live technicians are US based.
3. What services do you provide internally versus using third parties?
It’s important to understand what’s in-house versus outsourced by them. For example, do they do their own:
New equipment staging
Installation and service
On-call phone support
On-site tech support
4. Are they specialists, or are they just savvy?
Not to knock those with a technical bent – Some have a knack for understanding, diagnosing, and servicing a wide variety of technical issues. But when it comes to a specific technology, is their in-house technical staff certified, or are they merely good at figuring out problems? Most IT Vendors like Quickbooks, Cisco, Microsoft, and VMWare have certifications available. Make sure you’re paying for certified support, not just handyman help.
5. How often do they provide strategic recommendations based on their customer’s needs?
One size does not fit all. Ask how regularly they review their customers’ technical situations and provide recommendations. There’s nothing worse than getting into a contract with a company that you only hear from when something breaks. Regular check-ins and strategic reviews can help keep your company ahead of the technological curve for years to come.
6. Is the company growing?
This sort of thing can be fluffed, but as you’re vetting providers, make sure to ask this tough question. It can be uncomfortable, but think about it: If they’re not growing, that may mean they have a tough time keep customers, and customers leaving a provider speaks volumes. Conversely, a company that is in growth mode means that they have provided a high-enough level of service to enough customers for a long enough period that they can afford to invest in growth.
Varying answers to these questions will help you weed through the mass of IT companies in your area, and help you identify which provider will be the right strategic partner for you and your organization.