When you’re trying to run a business the last thing you want having is your computer system breaking down on you. What can be a very stressful time should be overcome with the knowledge that your company’s data is in good hands. You’d want to receive instant support, expert solutions and be charged fairly. In this case you need to have a reliable, quality I.T consultant on call. Funnily enough, it can be tricky to find the perfect IT company who ticks all the boxes but if you know the right questions to ask you’ll be on the right track!
IT is not just about support. Information Technology covers a vast area including hardware, software solutions, business processes, telecommunications, networking and security. Very small businesses may get by with an IT consultant that just provides support. Growing or larger businesses need their IT consultants to provide expert advice and solutions in all of these areas. Without that expertise, critical areas of these businesses can suffer.
When choosing an IT Consultant, you need to find out how your consultant delivers their solutions. If you’re a very small business; casual support at an hourly rate could give you flexibility and help when you need it with no commitment. The consultant might also offer a flexible set of services, such as security or backup, which allow you to pick and choose what suits your budget and requirements.
For a more structured service there are proactive monitoring and maintenance type programs which are custom-designed services for your business. With these services the consultant directs some of the effort to help make sure your systems are running smoothly. Lastly, if you want to focus on your business while letting your IT consultant focus on theirs, there are fully managed services where you can leave everything to the professionals to a fixed monthly fee, saving yourself time and headaches.
The wasted costs of business downtime can be much greater than the costs of IT repairs. That is why it is essential to find out your IT Company’s efficiency rate in solving and repairing problems. Most IT support companies have significant measures in place - they can monitor the state of your network, servers and computers without even having to visit your premises. They can also do many upgrades and quick fixes this way too. Remote management can heavily reduce the time it takes to fix things and cut travel costs.
This is an important question to ask because you don’t want to sign a contract only to be lumped with extra charges down the track. If you don’t take up a fixed cost agreement, it is beneficial to ask your IT tech if they can spend no more than one hour troubleshooting before reporting back to you as to whether it’ll take more time and cost more money to find and fix the problem. Having fixed costs not only allows you to monitor your IT expenditure but also keeps you in the loop with what services and support you’re receiving.
Knowing your IT Company’s support process is vital when an unexpected problem or emergency occurs. In the case of an unplanned situation it is important to know that your IT consultant will be able to provide assistance, get you up and running again, or retrieve your data within a guaranteed specific timeframe. If the consultant cannot meet that commitment, they may provide some form of financial compensation, or outsource the work to another reliable local vendor.
Most business functions are at least partially influenced by IT. From sales and marketing to administration, product design, service delivery, logistics and point of sale your IT systems will either help or hinder all of your business processes. Planning is therefore critical and your IT provider should be able to help in two main areas;
General IT planning and specific advice. General IT operations planning is important for efficiency of systems. Your IT provider should be able to report to you on capacity planning, warranty expiries, license usage, new technologies available and upcoming hardware refreshes. This will keep you informed about what you need to do in order to run your business at a high level and also enable you to plan and budget so you are not stuck fighting unexpected fires or having unplanned capital expenditure.
Your IT provider should also be able to provide specific advice in various areas of IT and discuss how this relates to your business requirements. Is your server infrastructure dated? What does the replacement project look like? How much will it cost and what is the cost / benefit? Do you need a better way to track sales opportunities? How do different CRM systems compare?
A good IT provider should have good business domain knowledge as well as technical knowledge so they can give you quality business focused advice.
Asking this kind of question may seem a bit vague but it gives you the golden opportunity to find out what services are available to help your business succeed. IT spending, and any other spending for that matter, needs to provide a benefit to your business greater than the cost of the product or service. Any prospective providers should be able to demonstrate how their services will either save or make you money to give you a return on your investment.
It is important to first think about your requirements for after-hours support. Do you need 24x7, weekends, or just business hours? What type of support do you require after hours? Full helpdesk? Just emergency server support? Find an IT Consultant company whose operating hours match your requirements.
There you have it, 8 questions to save you from stress and panic later down the track. An IT consultant that can tick all of these boxes will help the smooth and successful running of your business.