In our last article we covered why outsourcing your company’s IT to an external service provider is a smart business move. This article discusses how to shop for the right managed fixed-cost IT services provider that will serve your business best.
One of the key distinctions to consider is the size of the IT service provider. It is important that your IT service partner has sufficient personnel and processes to keep up with your service requests. Their personnel also need to have the specific technical expertise that you need in order to solve problems in a timely manner to minimize downtime and to also be able to recommend and implement new solutions correctly.
Different IT Support Models
There are two primary IT support models for small businesses: hourly fee support, and fixed-cost support.
IT services for the SMB community have traditionally been provided through the hourly fee model (also known as “time and material support” and “on demand support”.) These are typically reactive services provided by a solo practitioner or small IT provider who can only handle a few support requests at a time, and usually works with other solo practitioners or “mom-and-pop” businesses that have relatively simple needs; these IT providers may also have limits on the types of industries or fields they can support.
Businesses with more complex needs, and typically those with more than 10 computers, are usually better suited to engage with a fixed-cost IT support partner that specializes in pro-active IT support plans, along with a full staff of IT experts, and a wealth of technical capabilities along with mature business processes. These firms are in a position to offer system monitoring, maintenance, cloud-based services, IT consulting, and more at a flat rate.
How to Compare Fixed-Cost IT Service Providers
When interviewing a fixed-cost IT service provider, find out exactly what services are included within the scope of their service plan.
A robust flat fee service package will include truly unlimited support – and not just remote support, but also unlimited onsite support, at a set, contracted rate. There should be no surprises, and no time and materials billing. What you have budgeted for based on your contract is what you should expect to pay.
If a service provides only offers a limited number of support hours a month, or limits the number of on-site support hours, or only offers remote support, then you should be very wary because you are likely to incur additional monthly out-of-contract invoices.
In addition to IT support, your IT partner should provide 24x7x365 system monitoring and maintenance as well as IT consulting services, all within the fixed-cost scope of your agreement. Think of it as hiring a complete IT department – from the IT Director down through the helpdesk personnel – to provide you with complete IT support and guidance that your business requires.
Are They Stakeholders?
With a fixed-cost program, both the IT provider and client should have the same goals: to keep the systems running and properly maintained, to be proactive about anticipating needs and recommending new technology solutions, and troubleshooting whenever needed at no additional fee.
As you interview potential providers, try to get a sense of whether or not the firm has a pride of ownership in its services and in the way it manages its clients’ IT needs. Ask for referrals and speak to their current clients about their services.
Is the provider actively monitoring the system to ensure there is no costly breakdown or disruptions? Does the provider take care of necessary remediations quickly, as if it were its own systems that were suffering a failure? Remember, they have to fix any system failure or disruption at no additional cost to the client, so yes—they should have a stake in the success of your business!
Are they Flexible?
A well-rounded managed services provider should have the expertise and staff available to address the IT needs of a variety of industries or fields. Depending on the industry, a client may need on-site and off-site servers, Cloud services, strict security criteria, mobile or wireless needs distinct from what the office staff uses, cloud computing and web-based dashboards for telecommuting employees, etc.
In addition to the industry solutions it offers, a good managed IT provider is also responsive to its clients’ changing IT needs. Will the companies you are interviewing be able to extend your coverage as you grow?
The IND Difference
IND Corporation specializes in flat-rate IT support and consulting services for small and medium-sized New Jersey businesses. Our TotalCare™ service plans can either manage and support your company’s entire technology infrastructure, or compliment your existing IT personnel, with a level of IT support and management that reduces your operational stress, contains IT costs, and improves your office productivity.