Is Small Business IT Support for You?
If you’re a small or mid-size business owner, you may feel that a temperamental IT infrastructure is an unavoidable inconvenience that simply comes with the territory of a limited budget. Unlike bigger companies, with their full-time in-house IT departments that take care of everything from the smallest email problem to big picture technology planning, small and mid-size businesses often lack the means to hire a full-time IT staff.
Luckily, small business IT support fills this gap by offering smaller businesses a wide range of support. From providing IT consultation on how to reach long-term goals, to supplementing an in-house team, or even serving as a fully outsourced IT department, an MSP can help small business owners hop off the hamster wheel of faulty technology and get back to what they do best.
If you’ve decided that outsourcing your business’ IT is the solution for you, then there are a few crucial questions you should ask of your potential partner in technology. Not only will these make you sound like a technological dynamo, but also ensure that you get the very best small business IT solution for your company’s needs.
1. What industries are your clients in?
Learning the types and sizes of businesses that an MSP already services can give you a better idea of whether or not they will also be a good fit for your business. Be specific—ask directly whether or not they are familiar with the programs you use day in and day out. An IT provider who has previous experience in your field will understand your unique hardware and software needs so they can spend more time optimizing technology for success and less time familiarizing themselves with foreign applications.
2. How flexible are your IT support options?
As a small business, your IT provider should not only foster company growth, but also be able to grow with you, adapting their services to fluctuations in your business environment. Most MSPs offer varying degrees of support depending on your business’ IT needs and budget. A dependable service provider should be able to offer a variety of customizable solutions including:
- Serving as your fully outsourced IT department
- Supplementing an existing IT staff
- Customizing a data backup and disaster recovery plan
- Providing expert consulting to help construct an IT plan that supports your company’s long term goals.
3. Does your company keep current network documentation?
Keeping a present-day detailed log of your network’s IP addresses, software licenses, drive mappings, DNS information and more is critical for comprehensive IT maintenance. Rather than storing this valuable data in some dusty binder that needs to be fished out of a back closet every time there is a change on your network, a dynamic documentation system captures these updates in real-time, ensuring a complete picture of your network, 24/7. Having this plethora of information chronicled in one easily accessible, up-to-date location allows an MSP to be more resourceful and respond quickly to technical issues as they arise.
4. Will I get a dedicated account manager?
Unfortunately, many MSPs overlook the importance of appointing a dedicated account manager to oversee their clients’ unique service needs. Instead, they rely solely on technicians to not only manage customer accounts but also perform day-to-day IT duties.
While this may seem like a good idea on paper, the responsibilities of an account manager, such as answering questions regarding services or prices, scheduling face-to-face meetings, and developing lasting, successful partnerships with customers, are vastly different from those expected of a skillful service technician. An MSP with dedicated account managers provides clients with the most comprehensive support by letting both their techs and managers focus on what they do best.
5. Are your services preventative and proactive?
While the old adage, “It it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may work for some things, your business’ IT infrastructure definitely is not one of them. For many small and mid-size businesses, growth is the name of the game; and your network will inevitably face numerous IT hurdles as it expands.
While it may seem prudent to slap some quick-fix Band-Aids on these problems as they arise, this "break-fix" strategy will eventually land you with a technological house of cards—wobbly at best and slated for inevitable collapse. Proactive and preventative IT management monitors your network for potential problems so that they can be taken care of before your company has an IT melt down on its hands. Simply reacting to a problem after the fact may not resolve the root of your network’s issues, leaving you vulnerable to even costlier fixes down the line.
Taking the time to carefully choose a reliable MSP can mean the difference between having an entire team of IT professionals dedicated to your business’ continued success, or a company that merely fixes your technological headaches as they crop up.
Taking the time to carefully choose a reliable MSP can mean the difference between having an entire team of IT professionals dedicated to your business’ continued success, or a company that merely fixes your technological problems as they crop up.