"Where is Walter?"
Everyone in the office was asking the same question. It was 2:25 p.m. on a Tuesday, and the accounting office's computer network had begun to revolt. Ruth, the summer student, was the first to stand up in her cubicle and announce she'd been locked out of her laptop.
Larry, a partner, emerged from his office five minutes later to complain that he couldn't send or receive emails. Soon, 30 frustrated employees were hovering around the front desk, angrily asking the receptionist that same question.
"Where is Walter?"
Walter is the only IT guy in the office. He was nowhere to be found. The last one with access to the company database, the receptionist pulled up Walter's cell phone number and dialed.
"It just goes to voicemail," she said, hanging up. "Did he even come in this morning?"
Walter was the only one who knew how to unlock the computers. Walter was the only one with administrative access to the network. Walter kept all the passwords. But Walter was missing. The partners huddled in the conference room, discussing billable hours and client needs. The junior accountants got extra coffees, secretly giddy they were getting a midday break.
Walter, it turns out, was at the dentist getting a root canal. He forgot to tell anyone about the appointment. The office didn't get back to work that day until 7:30 p.m. The junior accountants weren't so giddy about that.
Confession time: We made up Walter. But we know for a fact he exists in offices across the country. He represents one of the biggest myths about IT service providers. We debunk six of those myths right here:
1. They must be located right down the street from you.
Unlike your dry cleaners, your IT service provider doesn’t need to be on your block. They don’t even need to be in your neighbourhood. The majority of your IT services can be managed remotely. Go with the company you like working with best.
All that said, your IT service provider should be able to come onsite in the case of an emergency, but don’t get hung up on the fact that you won’t see them every day. If you need them, they’ll make the trip across town.
2. Cost is the biggest indicator of the level of service you’ll receive.
There is no perfect price for IT service, but it’s important you know where your money is going. By paying more, you could be financing your IT service providers’ fancy office. If they offer you a free iPad, consider that the cost of the device is likely already built into the existing fees.
You should also make sure your IT provider is spending your money on infrastructure and backup, rather than fighting fires. A skilled provider might encourage you to purchase or lease more expensive hardware that’s easier to set up and maintain, whereas a less skilled provider may recommend a cheaper solution that will require more maintenance. This is generally a ploy to increase billing hours.
3. The more people they have on staff, the better the IT company.
You should choose your IT service provider for its level of service rather than its size. A bigger company doesn’t equal more responsive tech support or 24/7 assistance. Your choice company should employ enough staff that a knowledgeable person is always available to respond to queries and emergencies. Those staff members should also build a friendly, trusting relationship with you, ensuring you don’t shudder every time you see there’s an email from your “IT company.”
Feel free to ask questions about the size of your IT service provider and how they maintain high quality client service.
4. It’s better if you forgo an IT service provider completely and just hire a staff member to do IT internally.
We understand this inclination. You want the loyalty and dedication of a staff member who’s in the office from 9 to 5 every day, and you’ve only got the budget to hire one mid-level person. But because you can’t hire a team that will work rotating shifts to deal with problems as they arise, you’ll be stuck relying on this single staff member (like Walter). When Walter is at home for dinner, away on vacation or busy in another division of your company, you’re stuck waiting for him to help you unlock your computer.
An IT service provider provides round-the-clock IT support. You may not always deal with Walter — and we're sure he's really nice — but someone will always answer your calls.
5. An IT service provider only fixes computers.
Your IT service provider will fix your computer, but they won’t stop there. If they’re good, they’ll become a trusted resource for technology questions and inquiries. When you think about upgrading your phone, your IT service provider can talk to you about VoIP. If you’d like to install security cameras or point of sale terminals on iPads, they’ll like also be able to help you. Many companies will even know a thing or two about media advertising. It’s worth it to reach out and ask.
6. An established IT company will cost more than a one-person consultant.
It’s common for established IT companies to dedicate one to two technicians to your file, so you’re not always dealing with a new one. But because those technicians also manage other client files, you don’t pay their entire salaries. Established companies also get better pricing on hardware due to volume, most will pass this on to clients.
You should also consider the long-term costs of hiring a one-person consultant, should something go wrong. If he or she goes MIA, unless you’ve securely recorded all your pertinent passwords and permissions, you’re in lots of trouble. You’ll need to factor in the cost of liability insurance.
Be sure to check out our password toolkit for more information on how to keep your passwords safe.
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