Today, IT and computing plays an essential part in the day to day running of companies and organisations, with an abundance of IT support companies springing into existence over recent decades to help keep systems up and running. With your IT systems playing such a pivotal role in day to day operations, maintaining customer relationships, keeping data secure and ultimately the success of your organisation, you need to ensure that you have the necessary IT expertise on hand to ensure they run smoothly.
Whilst larger companies may afford inhouse IT experts, a full time IT professional is not often an option for small and medium sized businesses. Even the largest companies frequently bring in an outside IT support company to assist their inhouse teams with complex challenges. But with more providers emerging daily choosing a capable and reputable partner is increasingly tricky. So, how do you decide which IT support company to trust with your business? We have put together a short guide to help you make that decision.
Longevity – Find out how long your prospective IT support company has been in business, and importantly, if they have a proven track record of delivering for their clients; do not be afraid to ask for a number of references to contact.
The number of years in operation is not always a great indicator – certainly not when used in isolation. For example, the company may have been trading for years, but not at any scale that represents the ability to manage your current requirement. In the rapidly changing IT space, you also need to see evidence that the company invests in the latest training for its engineers and that the directors stay abreast of the marketplace.
Size – In the world of IT support companies, size really does matter! Choosing a freelancer or a very small IT provider with a low hourly rate may seem tempting to small businesses and start-ups. However, this can prove very costly in the long run; consider the costs to your business of your systems being down whilst you wait for a freelancer to finish their other jobs. Also think about what happens if your systems go down whilst the freelancer goes on holiday and whether they would be able to respond to a cyber-attack or another emergency. A medium sized IT provider will most likely be able to handle challenging requirements but retain a more personable, professional service ahead of very large and often ‘faceless’ organisations.
Industry Specialism – Every business is different and therefore has varying IT needs to support its objectives. Choosing an IT support company that has worked within similar organisations and industries to yours will increase the chances of them fully understanding the intricacies of your business IT. Efficiencies can be reaped from both sides, with less learning required at the start of a relationship by the provider and less hand-holding required from you as the client. Your chosen specialist may also have seen some of the problems that occur for your organisation before and be well placed to implement proven IT solutions quickly.
Hardware or Software Specialists – Try to determine the core strengths of the IT support company you are considering. Did they originate as a computer equipment re-seller, a software provider or a consultancy business? More importantly, what are they able to offer today and do they have experts in IT strategy, software and hardware within their team that can be called upon for assistance as your business grows?
Training, Development and Certifications – Your business is unlikely to benefit from the latest technology or reap competitive advantages through an effective IT strategy, if your IT support company is not up to speed itself. You may be surprised just how many IT companies have become stuck in their ways – repeating only what they have known for years and failing to update their knowledge. You might also be surprised at how many IT support companies have outdated IT equipment in their own workshops!
Choosing suppliers who can demonstrate ongoing training for their workforce, certifications and accreditations from industry bodies or partners such as Microsoft, should not be underestimated. Remember that cheap is not always better – companies that charge a little more but invest heavily in their staff training are more likely to keep your business safe and may even need less hours for solving problems to keep you up and running.
IT Support Company or a Jack of all Trades – Whilst we appreciate that IT services, software development, web and telephony have converged, you need to be sure that your IT support company is competent in resolving IT support issues. Originating foremost as an IT support business, LBT now has specialist personnel that work in each of these areas of expertise ensuring that a full-service wrap can be delivered to clients where required. However, it is not uncommon for telephone companies, photocopier providers or web developers to branch out into IT support services, without having the in-depth knowledge required to effectively support business critical IT systems. Our advice is to dig a little deeper into a proposal to find out the size of the team that will be handling the IT support side of your contract.
A final point to note here is that some companies offering IT support, will outsource aspects of their IT service where they do not have the expertise inhouse. We advise checking to see what your prospective supplier is intending to complete inhouse and if anything will be outsourced to a third party.
Response Times and Emergencies – Not only is it important for an IT support company to engage with you in order to learn about your business, but for you to be clear how your chosen IT provider works. Consider what level of service you can expect in return for your money. Things to ask here regard the size of their technical team, how they prioritise problems and cases from clients, their response times and how problems or enquiries should be logged with them. Not only that, should your business experience a major IT failure or a serious incident such as a ransomware attack that threatens the business, does the provider have a means of escalating the case in order to provide an immediate response?
Strategic IT Planning – Whilst maintaining the smooth running of your IT systems on a day to day basis is essential, the best IT support companies will work closely with you to develop an IT strategy that will meet the future needs of the business and align with your overall objectives. It is important to assess whether your IT provider is likely to be proactive in helping to keep you abreast of the latest technologies and able to provide IT consultancy as well as ad-hoc trouble shooting.
If you are looking for an IT support company in Hertfordshire, London, or Cambridgeshire please do not hesitate to contact us for a free initial consultation. We would love the opportunity to explain what makes us a little different. For those further away, we hope that you found our guide a useful way to cut through the plethora of IT support services on offer and choose a provider that is right for your organisation.