Choosing outsourced IT services for your small business can be challenging, especially if you’re not an expert on the topic. It’s easy to feel intimidated by the complexity of technology, and some vendors may even hide behind buzzwords and jargon. To ensure you’re choosing the right company for your needs, do your research and ask questions. A well-trained expert should be able to answer them in plain English.
There’s a lot at stake. Cyber crime is a growing threat. IBM estimates that a business is attacked an average of more than 16,850 times a year. That means every business faces more than 46 attacks a day! Your IT partner will help keep your network and data secure. It will also drive efficiency as well as cost-savings and ensure your business technology runs smoothly.
Here are several important questions to ask when evaluating outsourced IT companies.
- How long has the firm been in business? How many employees does it have? How many clients are those employees helping?
These introductory questions help you get a picture of your prospective IT vendor and give a feel for the personality and communication style of the person you’re speaking to. You can also ask about the company’s client retention rate and its approach to customer acquisition.
- What is the typical size of the companies it likes to help?
Does it focus on businesses with one to 10 employees or enterprises with 1000+? Different-sized businesses have different needs, and those needs require different skills and expertise. An IT company could certainly excel at helping businesses of various sizes, but the expert needs to be able to articulate that to you.
- Does the IT consulting company specialize in a particular industry?
Depending on the nature of your needs, a generalist might be fine, but if you are looking for sophisticated services or work in a niche with unique regulations, there could be benefits to partnering with a firm with domain knowledge.
There are also advantages to working with a firm that has a diverse client roster. Ask how the company’s experience in other fields benefits your business.
If you have a specific project in mind, such as moving from a standard server model to the cloud, ask about this, too. The vendor’s representative should be able to describe similar completed projects. Ask if any part of the project surprised their team and if they learned anything that could inform your endeavors.
- What is the last threat the IT company helped a client protect itself against? How was the threat detected? How did the event unfold?
The vendor’s response will shed light on its experience and approach as well as its communication style. Look for honesty, transparency, and self-reflection. Did the firm and its clients change anything as a result of the attack?
- How will this IT company support and protect your business?
The outsourced IT company’s understanding of cyber security is important but so is its logistics. How hands-on is it? What level of support will you receive? Whom should you call if something goes wrong on the weekend? Which team members will you be interfacing with regularly? Details matter, and to avoid surprises, it’s best to have them on the table before you move forward.
- How much do their services cost, and how long do they take?
These questions may seem obvious, but don’t overlook their interconnectedness. If an IT company’s price is much lower than other proposals you’ve received, it could be because it is planning to invest less effort in supporting your business.
Look for vendors with a big-picture approach willing to take ownership and work as an integral part of your team. Because business infrastructure issues are so interconnected, an IT company isn’t doing you any favors by swooping in to fix ad hoc problems. If it doesn’t express a desire to assess and understand your business’s architecture in its totality, be wary.
- What is the #1 job of a system administrator?
The answer is simple: to protect and preserve the integrity of client data. If a potential IT vendor doesn’t answer with something similar—something that demonstrates its commitment to maintaining its customers’ data, security, privacy, and effective work flow—proceed with caution.
Choosing the right IT partner is a big decision. Asking intelligent questions will help you better understand if a vendor is right for your needs. Remember, even if you’re not an expert in cyber security, the person you’re speaking with should be able to provide thoughtful and clear responses to your questions.
The team at Anderson Technologies, a St. Louis IT consulting company, is happy to discuss any of the questions above, or anything else you might like to ask. Feel free to give us a call at 314.394.3001.
“Computers have gotten a lot more complicated. I know a lot about computers, but it got to the point where the staff would interrupt [me] about four times per day with something that wasn’t working, and they wanted me to come and fix it. They kept asking ‘Why does this keep happening?’ and I had no answer for them.”
That’s how M. E., D.D.S., described the information technology (IT) situation at her dental office in Ballwin, MO before they chose Anderson Technologies’ managed tech services for IT. As a small business owner and one of the principals at Smile Station, M. E. knows she can end up wearing many hats. From Dentist to Sales Manager to HR to Director of IT, handling so much can be daunting.
Computer and network instability, technology upgrades, changing HIPAA regulations, and the increasing demands of small business ownership led the office to Anderson Technologies’ managed services offerings. By standardizing the management of their computer infrastructure, Anderson Technologies eliminated uncertainty, implemented real solutions, and dramatically improved the reliability and uptime of their network and computer systems.
As a first step, Anderson Technologies conducted an extensive network stabilization effort and discovered some big gaps in the support and service the office had been receiving. In the past, whenever there was an issue, their existing support company would send new hardware rather than address the actual problem. They repeatedly replaced failed server hard drives and reloaded software multiple times without properly identifying and fixing the root cause of the problem. These “solutions” never addressed frequently-occurring malfunctions, did not permanently resolve issues, and resulted in a lot of down time, wasted money, and fruitless effort.
“It’s different because when [Anderson Technologies] comes in,” M. E. explained, “they truly FIX the problem. It’s a long-term fix. It’s not a Band-Aid fix where they just slap more wires on it. They actually take the time to look at it and figure out what the actual issue is and correct the issue rather than just the symptoms of the issue. That’s a big difference from what the other companies I’ve seen do.”
In addition to the server and workstation issues, Anderson Technologies also discussed network security vulnerabilities with the dental office. “We now have increased security. They put in a hardware firewall, which makes me feel better because there’s a lot of information in here. HIPAA is getting stricter, and there’s a lot more cyber terrorism than there used to be. There are reported incidents of dentists being targeted, so in order to prevent us from being one of them, that was one of the components [they] recommended.” With so many hats to wear, M. E. found Anderson Technologies provides peace of mind in a constantly shifting electronic landscape.
If you are a small business owner fed up with IT companies that slap Band-Aids on problems instead of truly resolving them and are tired of battling glitch after glitch, give us a call: 314.394.3001.