As a small business owner, you’re probably used to doing most things yourself. Cloud solutions can help any entrepreneur manage their basic computer and technology needs. But there comes a time when your business is big and busy enough that you start to consider hiring an IT provider.
There’s a lot you can do on your own, but at some point, you need to accept that you can’t be good at everything (no one is!)
If you’re ready to consider an IT consultant, ask yourself these questions before making your final decision:
What exactly are you looking for in an IT consultant?
Do you need all your IT managed by an external provider, or do you just need help with a major computer upgrade? Different companies offer different support structures. Some provide IT managed services while others work on a project basis. The majority of IT providers will specialize in one structure or the other.
Don’t be afraid to ask them to explain how each setup works and how it would serve your business needs.
What’s their long-term technology strategy?
A competent IT provider doesn’t just set up your email accounts and reboot your server. The good ones are constantly looking at ways to maximize technology to keep you current, save you time and help you be more profitable.
Ask your provider to explain how they see your company’s IT evolving over the next two years.
What are their technology standards?
Does the IT provider have technology standards that apply to computer builds, warranty terms, network infrastructure and monitoring tools? These are a set of best practices your IT consultant would update regularly to ensure your IT environment is secure and functioning well.
Ask your provider to explain their technology standards and how you might need to adjust your practices before signing on as a client.
How will they bill you?
Know exactly how much you’ll be paying before you sign on the dotted line. Do they bill hourly or is it a fixed monthly fee? Is there a base fee, but with dozens of extra charges for simple tasks? You don’t want to be surprised by your invoice at the end of the month.
Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. A cheap provider could be more expensive down the road if they ignore key technology updates or bill you by the hour for tech support.
Do they have the capacity to take your company on as a client?
Don’t be afraid to ask how many clients they have and how many staff members they employ. Will someone be available to take your call or will you wait at the back of the line?
If you’re ready to sign up your 50-person office, you may not want to go with a one-person shop who answers all tech issue emails himself.
What will the transition be like?
Let them outline how they’d bring you on as a client. Introducing new technology to an office can be a big and complicated undertaking. Your IT consultant should have an established onboarding process they’re happy to share with you before you sign up. This process should minimize your downtime and make the transition as seamless as possible.
What do their clients say about them?
Go right to the source. While many IT consultants will have client stories and reviews on their website, ask to speak to some of their clients about their experiences.
Do you like them?
Some IT providers use a bit too much “geek speak” and a few too many acronyms. Take some time to meet your new IT provider face to face or via Skype. Simply put, it’s important to make sure you like and respect one another. You need to be able to communicate.
This will make middle-of-the-night tech emergencies and intense training sessions much easier to weather.
Need more help? Give us a shout and we’ll walk you through choosing your IT provider.
Topics: To consider
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