Denver small businesses have an untold amount of choices when it comes to selecting an outsourced IT provider. You have local companies, moonlighters, nationwide chains, some mix of reliable and great IT companies, and others that leave something to be desired.
So how do you choose what type of managed services IT support is right for your small business? Well I don’t have a magic formula, but there are some things I would look for.
1) Do they have a good reputation?
Ask for references, read their online reviews. Are their salespeople enjoyable, techs personable? There is a lot you can find out about a company before you make a final decision, and that research is important to do. Your outsourced provider will have access to much of your important business data, so make sure they aren’t a three headed monster before you partner with them.
2) Do they have a plan for your network and it’s security?
This is something I can’t stress enough. Your small business may be hacked in the next couple years, in fact, according to the FBI it is likely. So what does your current or soon to be outsourced IT recommend and provide? Don’t let them tell you that you need to spend thousands of dollars to do so. What is their plan to secure your network as it stands today? If there are mission critical pieces that are missing that should be added or replaced, that’s fine, but don’t accept a bid that requires an arm and a leg just to work with them. Ask questions about their plan and understand all the costs, all the protections and where your vulnerabilities lie. No matter who you are, your business does not have enough capital to eliminate every vulnerability, even the pentagon is getting hacked.
3) How will they onboard your company?
It is not enough to have one IT Support provider on a Friday and a new one the following Monday. Do they have a proven process that will allow you to transition your network into their care? You and your employees must be able to do your work with minimal distraction and down time. I know this was mentioned above, but ask about your network security during the transition and make sure it doesn’t leave you outside in the cold.
4) What is it going to cost you?
There is an easy comparison which is dollar to dollar. If you get the same value from every potential outsourced IT provider, then this is a really good way to compare two companies. But every provider is a little different than the next, so their value is harder to compare. Here are the things I would recommend you consider:
Length of IT Suuport Contract.
If they ask you to sign a long term contract, the burden of doing business is on you. Look for a provider that provides a long term partnership with a month to month obligation. That flips the burden back on them to earn your business every 30 days.
Type of Managed Services contract
There are, in theory, three common models. Some are better than others, but ultimately it may come down to what you prefer and what amount of risk you are willing to take. Time and material contracts provide plenty of flexibility with no commitment. However, those contracts also hamstring your provider’s ability to give you their best foot forward. If they don’t spend regular and consistent time on your network, then they wont know it, when they come in from time to time. It also excludes them from being proactive at all.
Hourly contracts are the next step up. They are like cell phone data contracts, giving you X number of hours per month. If you use less, you are still charged for the full amount, but if you exceed your hours be ready for some overage fees. The benefit is that you get a break on the hourly rate for the agreed upon amount of hours. The downfall is that you are a small business, and your needs will change quicker than the weather here in Colorado. You may determine the perfect amount of hours when you start, but the likelihood of that never changing is slim.
The third method is the per seat contract. This is the most scalable of all the plans. These companies will charge you a flat rate with unlimited support based on the number of computers and servers on your network. The benefit is that your outsourced IT provider has the same incentives as you do. The more stable and secure your network is, the less risk they take on in giving you unlimited support. The reason you are paying them is to make your network secure and reliable isn’t it?
What about tech peripherals?
Tech peripherals are all the additional IT costs that quickly add up. Not only do the products get expensive but the management of all those vendors are time consuming. So what does this potential IT support group provide your business? Do they take on the financial responsibility for your network security? Do they provide unlimited server backups? If your internet goes down, or your printers are not working, will they take on the responsibility to call that vendor and find a resolution? There is a lot of value in having a company that will take all of this off your plate.
As a small business in Denver, you are not lacking in choices for outsourced IT, but having available choices is not the same as having great choices. If you want to find a great outsourced IT provider, make sure you ask the right questions, understand where they fall on not just pricing, but also value.