Does this sound like your current IT support provider?

  • Takes too long to respond to your requests;
  • Promises to call you back and then doesn’t;
  • Fixes other people’s problems when they’re meant to be fixing yours;
  • Keeps sending you someone who doesn’t know you or your network;
  • Seems to be a jack of all trades, but a master of none;
  • Causes a different problem every time they touch something.

If you answered “Yes!” to any of the above questions, then it’s definitely time to find a new provider for your IT services.

Surveys consistently show that over 50% of businesses are unhappy with their current IT support provider. However, making the switch can often be a daunting task - how do you stop yourself getting burnt again? Here's the 10 Golden Questions you need to ask each of the contenders:

#1 - Do They Have Different IT Support Plans Defined?

Providing IT services to different businesses is definitely not a case of one size fits all. Some companies want an as-required basis, others make a business decision to get outside help for all issues. Both are valid strategies, and any IT company that is serious about providing the right support levels to their customer base will have a range of clearly defined plans to offer you.

#2 - Do They Have a Formal Agreement Document?

Like most things in business these days, there is too much at stake to rely on a handshake. Your new provider needs to have a plain English written agreement that precisely identifies the scope of the services and the costs for those services. You also need this Agreement to include a confidentiality clause as you are effectively handing the keys of your business secrets to an outsider. And finally any Agreement you sign needs to be fair to both parties – not heavily slanted in the provider’s favour.

#3 – Do They Have Relevant Tertiary Qualifications and Current Microsoft Certifications?

The IT profession is unlike most others as it has no mandatory accreditation system. For example, organizations that provide plumbers, electricians, engineers, architects, lawyers, dentists, doctors and accountants are regulated to protect their client base from receiving sub-standard or unqualified services. You need to find a provider whose entire technical team is qualified with some form of IT tertiary qualification. And because the IT industry is always evolving, it’s important that your new provider keeps its staff up to date by investing in their ongoing education with current industry certifications from Microsoft.

#4 – Do They Have Multiple Staff On Hand to Provide Both Quick Response Times and a Wider Spread of Knowledge?

Many organisations use a one-person entity for their IT support. Now a lot of the time, they do a really good job for a good price. However, the long-term challenge comes when they can’t respond to your emergency or complete your project on time or provide support on your new solution or keep you up to date with the ever-increasing range of IT solutions. This is because they get too many clients, or they don’t have enough time to keep up-to-date, or they get sick, or they go on holiday. And eventually, many go out of business because they can’t make enough money, leaving their clients in the lurch.

#5 - Do They Have a Service Desk System In Place?

It’s one thing to have a guru who just jumps in and starts “fixing” your problem. And it’s another thing completely to have a systems based process to record the details of your requirements, recording the actions taken to resolve the issue, and following through to ensure the task has been completed to your satisfaction. Every provider – big or small – must have an industry-recognized Service Desk software system at the heart of their service delivery operation. A system that adheres to the ITIL standard and that integrates into your monitoring and remote access systems will provide ongoing efficiency, consistency and reliability.

#6 – Do They Monitor Networks Continuously So That Issues Can Be Fixed Before They Become Big Problems?

Every provider likes to use the phrase “we’re proactive, not reactive”. The big question is how do they achieve that? Many providers simply use a range of cheap ad-hoc tools to monitor a few client sites for different things like internet access, network performance, server uptime and so on. But to be able to utilise a comprehensive range of tools that are integrated into one solution is vital for any IT support provider that has more than two staff and is looking after more than 10 clients.

#7 – Do They Absolutely Promise to Check Your Backups Every Day?

Checking backups every day for a week for one client is easy. Checking backups every day FOREVER and for multiple clients requires a procedure, an audit process, an automated test restore process and sufficient trained staff to cope for absences. Actioning this vital process takes a company-wide commitment to do the right thing and check client backups EVERY day, as promised.

#8 – Do They Provide a Clear and Concise Report Every Month on the Health of Your System?

As well as having all your day to day issues resolved in a timely manner, it’s also very important to know whether your system is ticking over smoothly and that there’s not a big problem looming. This is best achieved by choosing a provider that uses a comprehensive software solution to provide all their clients with a regular report on the health of their network. This report needs to be automatically generated (no “manual adjustments” allowed!) and distributed on a monthly basis.

#9 – Do They Provide Other Value Added Services?

These days, everyone expects that IT companies can provide high quality services at a cost-effective price. The “X-factor” is what else they can do to help businesses innovate and use technology to improve profitability. Technology companies today also need to be able to deliver innovative software apps, VoIP phone solutions, online business websites, cloud computing, devices for the mobile workplace, Internet connections and expertise in your industry.

#10 – Do They Encourage You to Perform Reference Checking on Their Existing Clients?

The most important action to take when choosing a new IT support provider is to find out what their existing clients have to say about their standards of service. Anonymous quotes on a website mean virtually nothing. A provider that is proud of its service levels will have multiple client testimonials for you to read through, and will actively encourage you to make contact with them.

Take the First Step NOW

We encourage you to download a PDF version of this 10 Golden Questions article so you have it on hand when you're discussing your IT requirements with prospective new IT support providers.

And if you're interested in talking to an IT company that scores 10 out of 10 in this report, please fill in the webform below.