How to choose an IT Provider

How to choose an IT Provider

Wondering about how to choose and IT provider?  IT is an essential function of your business, and it’s important to have the right solution in place.  It can be challenging for business owners and executives to decide on a solution with confidence, and know their provider will deliver as promised.  This is a concise, direct guide that will let you know what questions to ask and important things to look for in a potential provider.

Question #1

Do they answer their phones live, and do they guarantee their response times?

You need to make sure that your calls won’t go into a black void, and that you will be able to get the help you need when you need it.  The most professional and reputable firms will give you a written agreement with a service level guarantee.

Question #2

Do they offer solutions for proactive network monitoring and maintenance?

Anybody that’s ever had a server crash for a preventable reason that went undetected knows that monitoring and maintenance are necessary.  Professional IT firms will have solutions established that allow them to monitor your network for performance, and get early alerts before small problems become big ones.  They also understand the need for basic proactive maintenance such as patches and updates, and ensure these are taken care of for their clients.

Question #3

Do they insist on basic network security solutions?

Quality IT providers won’t budge if you say that you want to run your business without a firewall.  They’ll simply refuse your business.  If you find an IT provider that is ok with no security, it should be a huge red flag.  They should be recommending and maintaining security such as firewalls, antivirus, and intrusion prevention on your network to keep your business safe from evolving threats.

Question #4

Do they meet with you regularly to discuss your needs?

IT providers that know their stuff value open communication with their clients.  They meet with them (typically quarterly) and provide reporting that details all the preventative maintenance work they’ve done.  They also show you the status of all the hardware on your network, so you can plan budgets for IT.  They discuss how to leverage technology to improve your internal processes or streamline your workflows.  They should be a true partner and a strategic advisor.

Question #5

Do they maintain and provide upon request, network documentation, configurations, passwords, and hardware inventory?

Documentation is key.  It’s what will allow you provider to work effectively on your account as a team.  That collaboration is important when dealing with complex networks and systems.  In addition, written documentation gives you peace of mind.  It allows you to know that all the important data about your network isn’t in one person’s head, and that regardless of changing provider or circumstance you’ll be able to pass the baton without issue.

Question #6

Do they insist on performing and monitoring backups at least nightly?

Backups are critical.  If you provider doesn’t insist on having a backup solution in place, or doesn’t have a way to monitor those backups to ensure they’re successful, it should be a huge red flag.  In an ideal world they would also be doing periodic test restores of your data, and have a defined plan for how they would recover your network in case of disaster.

Question #7

Do they claim ownership of issues when it’s necessary to work with a 3rd party vendor for resolution?

The last thing you want to hear from your IT provider is “that’s not our job”.  Quality providers will take ownership of issues on your network and then work with your phone vendor, your software vendor, your ISP, or your copier guy to drive the issue to resolution.  That’s what a true partner does, and what you should look for.

If you take the time to do your homework and ask these questions, you’ll be well on the way to making an informed decision about an IT service provider.  Take the time to vet them.  Ask questions, tour their location, talk to references.  If you take the time to make the right choice, you’ll be happy with your results.