You may be considering hiring an information technology provider to manage and support your company’s computer system. Perhaps you have grown tired of doing the work yourself, or perhaps the provider you have now is not satisfactory. Here are seven features to look for in your technology support partner:
1. Technical expertise
Of course, your IT partner must have a sufficient level of expertise to recognize and resolve problems with your system. Certifications and experience demonstrate that your partner has a basic understanding of the concepts and applications required for strong support. As proof, your prospective partner should be able to spend thirty to minutes looking over your system and provide you with a solid explanation of your system’s condition and perhaps a recommended upgrade or two.
2. Strong communication skills.
You may not need to know the details of everything your provider is doing on your system, but you do need to know the overall health of your network and what expectations to set for the future. It won’t help if your partner has a vast knowledge of all the technical aspects, but doesn’t have the ability to explain the technology in terms you can understand. Effective communication can mean the difference between being frustrated that a problem isn’t resolved right away, and understanding all of your options for addressing a system problem.
3. Share your perspective
Chances are, you don’t have an unlimited budget for technology for your business. You need a partner who recognizes this fact and recommends solutions that will improve your system, while keeping your costs manageable. Sometimes you must make decisions based on factors other than technology, and a partner who shares your perspective will know how to balance the need for an optimal solution with their available resources. There are times when your IT partner needs to get creative to help you achieve your goal without insisting that you invest in the latest and greatest solution.
4. Keep an eye on the horizon
Technology is constantly evolving, with new technologies appearing almost daily. Not all of them will be relevant to your business, or at least they may not be today. A good IT partner watches these emerging technologies and recommends them when the time is right for you.
5. A partner, instead of a contractor
All systems experience failure at some point. It is only during the emergency or major failure that you will see how good your IT partner really is. Do they share with you the same urgency to restore your operation? Will they spend as long as it takes to get your system up and running again? Are they looking to place blame or are they focused on the problem at hand? Once your system is back up and running, do they present their analysis along with recommendations or just advise you to wait and pray it doesn’t happen again? Or worse yet, are they overloaded and need to rush to their next emergency?
6. An Observation Problem Solver
Although your IT partner may have years of experience, no one knows everything about everything. There will be times when your provider is stumped. Successful troubleshooting is a combination of determining the actual cause of the problem and applying the correct solution. Many hours have been spent solving a symptom, rather than a cause. The best way to determine if your IT vendor is an observational troubleshooter is to contact your local references. Not every reference may have a story to tell, but if your partner is proud of their work, you’ll have the opportunity to speak to at least one customer who has seen your IT partner in action during a crisis.
7. Willing to support all your technology
You don’t want to manage multiple vendors for each piece of your system. That takes extra time and effort and can lead to a disjointed support solution, with the server provider blaming the phone provider, who blames the developer, who blames… you get the idea. Look for a provider that can support all of your critical operations, including communications, computer networking, and software programming. If you already have support contracts for specific software or equipment, your IT vendor should be willing to work directly with each vendor on your behalf.
Is your IT provider up to the task? If so, congratulations, you have found a good partner for your business. If not, please contact us. We’d love to show you the difference between an IT provider and a strategic partner. We manage your computers, so you can run your business.