• Six Questions To Ask An IT Support Provider

Your IT support provider is your safety net. Choosing the right one can make the difference between a smooth, safe IT environment and hours of unexpected downtime. When the CEO’s laptop gets a virus or the server running your customer database makes strange noises, you’ll want someone there whom you can trust. Here are some questions that your prospective IT support partner should be ready to answer. 

What IT resources do you cover?

Get the support provider to specify explicitly what they cover. Are printers and other peripheral devices included in the contract, for example? What about printers and storage devices attached directly to the network? How about software applications? Make sure that the provide explains any limitations on service, so that both parties are clear. That way, no one will call the company to replace a laser printer cartridge only to be told that it isn’t part of the contract.

What levels of support do you offer and how much do they cost?

A provider might offer different levels of support based on different customers’ needs. Examples include break-fix support where you pay for things on an hourly or fixed-cost basis, or managed support where a company watches your systems and carries out preventative maintenance where possible to stop unplanned outages. Hourly break-fix support might work for companies with small numbers of relatively new machines and an educated workforce where downtime doesn’t matter that much, but in the long term, managed support will be the cheapest, most convenient option for many.

How do you predict problems?

If your prospective support company provides proactive, managed support, then how does that work? Do they provide remote monitoring services that watch for problems on your equipment? Do they send someone out to conduct preventative maintenance checks on your gear or use metrics like mean time between failure (MTBF) to estimate when equipment might need looking at?

Do you rely on one client for more than 20% of your business?

You want to ensure that your IT support company will be around for a long time to come. That means choosing a financially healthy provider that isn’t going to run into difficulties if a key client suddenly pulls its contract. Check to ensure that the support firm isn’t putting all its eggs in one basket. It should diversify its business across many clients so that it your support services won’t be affected if it loses a job or two.

What are your response times?

How quickly can the company respond to a problem? This doesn’t just mean acknowledging receipt of the ticket; it means getting back to you with a fix. Think about the different kinds of IT support interaction that you might need. These go beyond a simple support telephone call from an engineer, to encompass software fixes. Does the support provider offer remote access so that it can log into an affected machine and fix a software problem quickly? 

Consider how the support provider deals with hardware failures. Some might only offer a break-fix option, taking equipment away and returning it repaired within a certain timeframe. Others offer a swap-out service, where they replace a device with a new one to minimize customer downtime. This is more common with managed service contracts that include some form of hardware leasing.

What is your process for logging and handling support tickets?

Ask what the support experience will be like. How do you log your tickets, and what happens after that? This experience varies based on the support provider‘s level of sophistication. Some smaller companies might rely on phone-based problem reporting with manually-managed tickets. Others offer more streamlined workflows, attaching a unique ID to each supported machine that the customer can enter as part of a problem ticket through a self-service portal. Look for a provider that follows up to ensure that a fix has worked and that the problem hasn’t recurred. This should be a part of their standard process.

By getting clarity from your provider on these questions, you'll be able to start the contract with more peace of mind. The more thorough this conversation is now, the more protected you'll feel later. No one wants any nasty surprises when an emergency occurs. In fact, the best IT support providers will help ensure that emergencies are a thing of the past.

Let Probrand help you out with your IT Support today


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