Businesses are starting to recognise that providing all their IT requirements in-house is no longer cost-effective. It makes much more sense to outsource the job to a third-party and get them to do it instead.
However, results can vary. While some IT providers and managed service providers are excellent, many of them leave a lot to be desired.
In this post, we introduce some of the questions you should ask next time you go shopping for IT services. The answers will provide you with some protection and ensure that you’re using the right people for the job.
So, how should you cross-examine them?
How Easy Will You Make It To Scale My Operations?
If your business is growing rapidly, it helps to know how easy it will be to scale your network. Emerging brands often have to add users, endpoints and storage capacity periodically to keep up with internal demand.
The good news is that most cloud-based MSPs make scaling easy. They always have a reservoir of spare capacity and simply open it up to you when you need it, charging you for any additional expense.
A lot of companies, though, can struggle. Some don’t have the necessary bandwidth to provide you with the speeds you need. And others can struggle with security issues and data integrity.
Have You Worked With A Company Like Mine Before?
This question ties in nicely with the last. Ideally, you want to find IT providers who have already worked with companies like yours and understand their computing needs. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where your IT provider is able to help you scale your enterprise in one direction, but not another.
Usually, the IT provider will be able to tell you about the challenges they faced in the past and how they overcame them. You can then use these examples to reassure yourself that they will be able to accommodate your needs if your computing requirements increase.
What Makes You Better Than Other Business IT Services?
There are plenty of service providers out there. Your business is spoiled for choice.
The issue is finding one that offers you something that you can’t get elsewhere. Sites like Buy-Hosting.net, for instance, run through different host providers that your company might use, weighing up the pros and cons of each. This information gives you evidence that you can use before you go into a negotiation.
You can also ask them if they offer any unique perks or loyalty benefits. Sometimes, you’ll find that the IT provider employs specialist professionals who deal with your specific development needs.
How Will You Tell Me If Things Go Wrong?
If you’re an experienced business owner, you’ll know that IT problems crop up all the time. Systems go down, and often the causes can be the most unexpected things.
It’s important, therefore, to quiz your IT provider on how they will inform you if things go wrong. What’s their policy on the matter?
What you want to avoid are MSPs who try to hide the truth from you and don’t tell you when things go wrong with your systems until it’s too late. Ideally, you need communication transparency from the start.
Will I Have A Dedicated Point Of Contact?
Most IT service providers are collections of professionals from a variety of backgrounds. And that’s a good thing. It means that if a problem does arise, there’s probably somebody on the team who can fix it quickly.
Even so, having a dedicated point of contact can help. You want at least one person on the team to understand your needs intimately. It helps process queries quickly, and it may even help predict issues likely to crop up with your systems in the future. Dedicated points of contact – an individual who manages your account exclusively – is also good from a customer service perspective. Your team doesn’t have to continually bring new reps up to speed on the problems that you face.
Have You Conducted Similar Projects To Mine?
While an IT service provider might have worked with similar companies to yours, they may not have worked on the same kind of projects. For instance, your business model could be considerably different from your competitors. And that could change your IT needs entirely according to quora.com.
Don’t be afraid to go into detail when interviewing your MSP. Usually, they should be able to provide you with an in-depth account of how they helped another client achieve similar goals.
They don’t have to disclose any specific client details when they explain this. But they should be able to provide case studies and examples to make their point.
What Is Your Hiring Process?
You can also learn a lot about the quality of a company from its hiring process. Remember, IT professionals are in quite short supply, and so some providers cut corners in choosing who they hire. Developers, in particular, are in high demand, so there’s always a temptation for MSPs to cut corners.
A lot of IT providers now run their own in-house boot camp training programs to bring their colleagues up to speed on the basics. However, these are not a substitute for a long and varied career. Professionals, therefore, may still lack the experience that you need to run your organization effectively.
What Tools Will You Use To Communicate With Me?
Finding out how the IT provider plans to communicate with you is vital. You need to find out more about their communication style, and how it fits in with your overall business strategy.
Fortunately, the vast majority of IT service providers offer 24/7 phone support for troubleshooting and network issues. So even if you discover a problem early on Sunday morning, you can get the help you need to fix the problem.
A lot of IT companies, however, have lacklustre helpdesks. So it’s worth finding out a little bit more about them in advance before you sign any contracts. Ask if it’s possible to take the team for a test drive to see whether they’re able to deal with issues your firm is facing right now.
How Many Other Clients Do You Serve?
MSPs are usually groups of highly trained professionals who combine their resources to manage multiple companies. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this model. In fact, it can work rather well. However, if the MSP overstretched itself with other clients, it could affect the quality of services that you receive. And that could mean that they eventually let you down.
It’s vital, therefore, that you find out how many other clients your provider is currently serving – and the size of their team. That will give you an idea of the number of people they will be able to dedicate to you at any given time. And it’ll also tell you whether they will be able to deal with issues quickly or not.
Can I See Your Service Level Agreement?
Whenever you outsource your IT, you should sign a service level agreement – or SLA.
This document spells out the responsibilities of each party, detailing exactly what everyone can expect from the agreement.
It’s important that companies do this for complex relationships like this. Everyone needs to know precisely where they stand. It helps to avoid confusion. It also lets you know if you need to add supplemental IT services to your existing stack.
Be wary that many IT providers offer what they call “all-inclusive” packages, but you should take this with a grain of salt. What all-inclusive means to an MSP can be very different from what it implies to a firm.
Also, be critical about the type of services that you need. You might need a provider to provide web hosting and data backup, but do you really need content marketing and social media monitoring? Probably not.
How Will My IT Staff Be Affected?
Lastly, you want to find out how any new arrangement will affect your current IT staff.
In most cases, the answer will be “not much.” Some companies can get away with outsourcing their entire network functionality, but the vast majority can’t. Most need on-site staff to assist end-users – people in the office struggling to get the most out of their IT equipment.
However, outsourcing some aspects of your operation may change the type of work that your in-house staff do. They will probably spend less time doing updates and backups, and more time training and instructing staff on cybersecurity issues.
Overall, therefore, you want to get a sense that outsourcing your IT will make your existing resources more effective. The IT company should be able to help you map out all the changes that you’re likely to see in the weeks and months ahead.
In summary, asking IT outsourcing companies probing questions is essential. With the rising importance of data and remote working practices, it is vital to find partners who can help move your business forward. It is particularly important to find a team that can provide the kind of services you need in your industry.