Even small businesses need the right IT infrastructure to stay competitive and profitable in today's digital business environment. However, like many of our clients, IT support may not have been your top priority. We get it...but it should be.
When you were starting out, you cobbled together a few things to get started. Then, you hired someone who "seemed to know something about computers" to install a server and set up a file system. As the company grew, you tacked on more software and hardware to the system. You might then have hired a part-time IT person or got one of your "more techy" employees to look after the network.
Until the server started crashing. Or you fell victim to a malware/ransomware attack. Or you needed to comply with regulations (e.g., HIPAA, CCPA, GDPR, DCI-DSS) and had no idea how your data was actually stored. Then, you realized that patching up your system with ad hoc fixes no longer worked -- it's time to get professional help.
The cost and complexity of technologies often make IT the white elephant in the room. Many business owners make the mistake of not getting the right kind of IT support until they're hit by a big problem, at which point also comes with a big price tag.
What's the best approach to making sure that you get the right IT support and how can you get the most from working with an IT support service provider?
Let's look at a couple of case studies to show when it's time to upgrade your IT support, how a professional IT support service can add value to your business, and how you can get the most from working with an IT service partner.
First Thing First... What Are IT Support Services?
Information technology (IT) support services provide support to IT-related issues such as network setup, database management, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and more. For most small businesses that don't need a full-time IT department, it's most common to work with a managed service provider (MSP.)
When you hire an IT support service partner, you're outsourcing the responsibility of maintaining your network to a team of experts. You can access a wide range of IT expertise you need when you need them without the overhead expense of hiring a large in-house team.
Working with the right professional IT support services can help you save on operating expenses and increase efficiency while ensuring that your systems are set up correctly to avoid costly cyberattacks, data losses, and downtime.
Case Studies: How Our Clients Get the Most from IT Support Services
If you go ask around to see if you should use a professional IT support service provider, you may get some mixed reviews. Why? Because not everybody knows when they should upgrade to professional services, how to select the right partner, and what to do to get the most of the partnership.
The experiences of our successful clients illustrate not only how they benefited from working with an IT support service provider but also what they did to get the biggest bang for the buck.
Develop Trust and Stay Committed
This client is a manufacturer of water sports gear such as boats, whitewater rafts, float tubes, fishing products, etc. They have around 50 support staff that requires daily access to their IT system to keep the business running smoothly.
When they came to us over 10 years ago, they were already working with an IT vendor. But they never knew what was going on with their system. They had to constantly call the provider to follow up and check on the status of various projects and requests.
Also, the client was frustrated because it took a long time to get their problems resolved. For example, it took the vendor an entire month to migrate their server! Poor timeliness to resolutions sent the message that the vendor didn't care and eroded trust in the partnership.
This client approached us to help them solve some specific IT challenges, which we did. We also evaluated their IT infrastructure and found a slew of underlying issues, which were the root causes of their persisting problems. As such, we recommended that they replace their servers and desktops, as well as reconfigure their network.
The client wasn't ready to commit to the price tag, so we parted ways. A year or two later, we got a call from them because they were facing the same issues all over again. We evaluated their system and told them that they needed to commit to making some serious changes.
When this client came on board, we had a long list of improvements we needed to make. Understandably, they didn't have a big bucket of cash lying around to make the upgrades all at once. So we prioritized the tasks based on their budget.
Not only did we eventually put everything in place but we also developed a high level of trust during the process, which turned into the foundation of a fruitful multi-year partnership.
In fact, they now refer to us as their quarterback -- whatever happens to their network, they pick up the phone and run it through us first. When they consider incorporating new equipment or technologies, they get us involved early on in the ideation phase to pick our brains and make sure that things will work together seamlessly.
Meanwhile, we appreciate the open communication and transparency. When we engage in client relationships, we need to understand our liability. Moreover, we don't want to be in a partnership where nobody benefits and everyone is frustrated. We appreciate honest conversations to help us make a plan that works for the client's objectives and budget.
Today, we're an integral part of this client's technology roadmap. This is because they value technology and its role as a critical business tool. They're also willing to listen to our recommendations and trust that we'd do what's best to help them achieve their business objectives.
Takeaway: Trust is the key to success in establishing a fruitful partnership with your IT support service provider. Cultivate a collaborative mentality and listen to your IT partner's recommendations. Keep in mind that not everything can happen all at once, especially if you have a tight budget. Make the commitment and have patience. A reputable provider will help you prioritize so you can spend your dollars wisely and get the biggest bang for your buck.
Don't Let Neglect Catch Up on You
This client is an engineering firm with about 17 employees. They contacted us because their server kept crashing. This was very disruptive to a professional service firm where most employees need to be on their computers to do their jobs and produce results.
Until they worked with us, they relied on an ex-employee to provide support after-hours. But you can only go so far and so long with that kind of arrangement. The client was constantly putting out fires. They were not doing anything proactive to keep the system in good shape. The server started crashing regularly and that ex-employee just didn't have the bandwidth nor the knowledge to keep the system working anymore.
When the client called us, we evaluated their system and found that everything was outdated. The server was unstable and the client didn't have a proper backup system in place, which meant they could lose valuable data if the server crashed and couldn't be brought back up.
The major challenge was that it'd take 10-15 days to order and install a new server but the existing server was so old that it could crash any minute. Our first order of business was to put the proper backup in place to stabilize the situation without spending too much money.
Since this was a brand new relationship, we faced a steep learning curve as we went full-steam ahead while making sense of the client's archaic and patchwork system. Thanks to the time and effort our team dedicated to the job, things ran smoothly until the new server arrived and we were able to complete the migration process.
After everybody had the chance to take a deep breath, we proceeded to have a conversation with the client on where they were and where they needed to go. We wanted to make sure that our client has a comprehensive IT roadmap and so they have the right systems and processes in place to avoid future issues.
Takeaway: In today's fast-paced and technology-centric business environment, you can only go so far with the "no news is good news" mentality and ignore the ongoing maintenance of your IT system before negligence catches up on you. Working with an IT support services provider allows you to take a proactive stance on making sure that your IT infrastructure is not only up-to-date but also prepared to handle whatever that's coming down the pike so you're not caught with an outdated system that can't meet market demands.
When Should You Start Engaging an IT Service Partner?
Many small business owners ask us -- how small is too small? When should I start working with an IT service partner? When should I start having a server? What about the cloud?
You're never too small to engage with an IT service partner, especially if you provide medical or professional services (e.g., lawyers, engineers) and have all your sensitive client or patient information stored digitally. Even if you're a one-person operation, you should recognize the value of IT support services -- to ensure access to all your tools and protect all your data so you don't breach the trust of your clients or patients and incur hefty penalties for violating industry regulations.
While a cloud platform is a convenient tool, it's not necessarily cheaper. You're paying for the convenience and accessibility. Also, it's almost impossible to find one single cloud platform that meets all your IT needs so you still need to choose the right tools and integrate them correctly.
Some cloud platforms may give you the illusion that your data is protected or backed up but it's not. For example, Dropbox is designed to facilitate file sharing but it's not a backup strategy. Let's say if your network got infected with ransomware and the corrupted file is synchronized with your Dropbox, then you're left with a corrupted version all around! Even if you preserve most of your files, how much effort would it take if you have to restore one file at a time? What's the cost of that?
You're probably thinking, "it's easy for you to say 'get an MSP' because you're an IT support services provider!"
We get it, we're not a faceless corporation either. We understand that cash flow is a big concern when you're running a small business. But consider how much time you spend on trying to figure out IT -- that's the time you aren't spending on producing revenue.
Don't make the mistake of calling up an IT support service provider when you absolutely can't hold it together anymore! If you can't engage a vendor right away, you should at least have a conversation about your business's IT requirements so you can educate yourself on the best practices, what you should keep in mind, and what you should work towards.
If you're ready to partner with an IT support service provider, there are some key points to keep in mind so you can get the most of your investment. Download this checklist to learn the "Dos and Don'ts of Working with an IT Support Partner to Optimize Your ROI."