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6 Questions to Ask Before Choosing an IT Service Provider
Every business needs access to quality, reliable IT services. All our daily functions are online, but with so many options out there, it can be hard to know where to start. We’ve taken the time to outline some key questions we’ve been asked by our clients to determine if we were a fit; read on so they can help you: six questions you should ask before choosing an IT service provider.
1. What is the Company’s Culture?
How will the partner engage with you and your team, will they meet with other members of your staff, not just the IT team? Be sure to ask who will be in charge of your account and talk to them. It's important you find out the company culture. A provider that suits an enterprise entertainment industry might not be suitable for a small Boise business.
Whatever their culture, you want someone competent, responsive, and able to problem-solve. If they're unresponsive or get defensive when asking for support or asking questions to gain clarity, this could be a constant headache. They are probably not the right IT services partner for you.
2. Who Will You Work with and What's Their Experience?
You want to understand an IT provider's competencies, but you also want to know what the team members you'll work will bring to the table.
You want to work with members familiar with your business and the industry-specific needs you have. They should understand your business, your goals, and the challenges you may face.
Often, you might meet the service providers' top team, only to end up working with a the b team that is learning to troubleshoot your problems as you have them. To avoid this, ask what team you'll be working with and talk with them from the start, asking:
- What's their experience with the type of network you have and the size of your organization?
- What qualifications do they have, certifications that map to your IT environment?
- Ask for examples and references of who they’ve worked with and how long the engagement lasted. If it ended, why?
Do they know of your business? Make sure they're trustworthy before signing up.
3. What Are the Terms of the Service-Level Agreement (SLA)?
Your SLA is the contract between the service provider and you. It outlines the expected services and metrics to measure them. It'll also include any penalties should the metrics not be met.
They provide everyone with a clear understanding of the requirements. Should any issues arise on either end, no party can claim ignorance. So, you want to have a solid SLA with reasonable terms.
The service providers often put together the SLA but check it to make sure it's in your best interests. The standard formats are just a starting point and you can negotiate to suit your business needs. If a provider isn't willing to negotiate, this is a red flag, or they might be strong willed because they want to keep you and your business safe, be sure to understand the difference.
4. will they Help with a Data Backup & Recovery Plan?
Data loss can happen at any time, in a lot of ways. It could be a mistake, cyber-attack, hardware failure, or even an unprecedented pandemic.
By partnering with a reputable IT service provider, they'll instruct you on when and how-to back-up and recover your data. They'll also help you put together a data recovery plan in case disaster strikes. A good IT support partner can provide you with a detailed plan for key situations. This ensures your business is as prepared as it can be to bounce back from any data loss issues.
5. How Often are their Internal Updates & Maintenance Performed?
An IT service provider who's not looking after their own equipment might not look after yours either. So, asking how often they update and maintain their own internal infrastructure can tell you the level of care to expect.
Find out any updates or maintenance schedules that will impact your business. If they need downtime, are they going to give you a warning, and by what method? How long are their downtime estimates?
Likewise, be sure there will always be a way to contact your provider with these issues. Find out who to contact and the best method to communicate your needs should you have them. You don't want to find your service down and have no one to call.
6. What Will Your New IT experience Be?
It's important not to sit back and hope that your new MSP is doing everything you’ve asked just because you signed the SLA. If you aren't aware of what's going on, how can you tell your IT services are running smoothly? Auditing your IT service provider time-to-time helps you keep on track and spot issues before they become big problems.
Make it clear early on that you want your prospective IT service provider to include you from the get-go. A service provider worth your business will pro-actively discuss your engagement model, how to communicate, and hold both on-site and remote reviews; quarterly at a minimum. Some standard practices to ask are:
- Reports: Are they provided with the service, and how often are they given (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.)?
- Meetings: Are they willing to set up regular meetings to keep you up to date?
- Troubleshooting: Are they willing to involve you to discuss any solutions to problems that occur?
Choosing the Right IT Service Provider Made Easy
At the end of the day, you want a service that works for you. Any good IT service partner or Managed Services Provider (MSP) will be the expert you can lean on to ensure you have not only the services you want, but the coverage and monitoring you need to keep yourself, your colleagues, and your business safe, operational, and thriving.
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