What should we ask a prospective IT Support Provider?

With over 15 years experience in the UK IT industry, we know there are a number of providers out there offering a range of services for your business. Finding the right one for you can be a daunting task. Here are 10 questions to ask a prospective IT Support provider to aid your search.

The services they offer can vary dramatically. It’s important when looking to outsource or switch from your current provider, to ask the right questions so you can get a clear understanding of what you’re signing up for and how they will help your business grow.

Facts based questions will tell you what’s included in a contract, what’s extra and what they do and don’t provide.  But the more touchy feely based ones will help you gauge the kind of business and people you will be working with, helping you assess whether you’re a good fit for each other.

Ask about different levels of IT Support

1. How can you support us?

There are a number of different ways that IT Support companies deliver their services to their clients so it’s important that you choose a service that meets your individual business needs.

Here’s some of the terminology to held you understand how potential prospects work.

Pay as you go/Break Fix

This is generally where you pay an hourly rate for support as and when you need it.  If this is what you’re looking for then make sure you ask what the hourly rate is and if there are any minimum charges.

Its important to remember that although you may save money by only paying for work carried out, you could find that any more complex issues that take a number of hours to resolve could mean you incur a sizeable invoice.

Block hours

This is where you buy a block of hours, normally 10 or 20 at a discounted rate and essentially use them as and when you need them over a period of time. Make sure you check the block rate,  how long do you have to use them, are they automatically renewed and what they cover?

Monthly support contract

This is where you pay a monthly fee for daily IT support. This tends to be the most popular approach for businesses. You and your teams will normally have access to a service help desk that you can contact whenever you have an issue. As you are paying a fixed monthly amount, you will have engineers on hand as and when you need them and for however long it takes to fix an issue without incurring any additional fees.

It is important to clarify the times that this service is available though;

  • 24/7
  • 9am -6pm
  • Monday-Friday
  • Monday-Sunday

It’s also important to find out what is included in a support contract. Start with the basics, like helpdesk, but also ask about any network monitoring, or anti-spam too.

2. What’s not included?

Once you have established how they work and what the service includes, you should find out what isn’t included such as;

3. How much is it going to cost and how will we be charged?

It seems an obvious question but don’t forget to ask.

It is unlikely that a prospective provider will tell you then and there how much everything will cost. It’s standard to draw up a proposal based on the elements you’v discussed in the meeting.

However, it’s good to get a general feel for the potential costs involved, how they are broken down as well as payment terms. Will you be invoiced monthly, quarterly, and will they require any upfront payments if you decide to employ their services.

4. What are your response times/terms of your Service Level Agreement?

A good managed service provider will have an SLA which they should share with you. It will detail response times for any tickets logged based on the severity of the issue.

Although in an ideal world every issue will be solved almost instantly, it’s not a magical land where a fixing wand is waved. An SLA will explain how issues are reviewed and given a priority level and then an expected time frame for them to be resolved. It forms the agreement between you and the provider and clarifies the expectations of both parties.

5. What devices do you support?

As we continue to change the way we work, it is likely that you and your team work from a number of devices. No longer are they chained to a desktop as they utilise the technology of tablets and mobiles to complete their roles.

It is important to ask any prospective providers what devices are included in their support contracts.

Is it the number of overall devices throughout the business, or will you pay for so many devices as part of a per user cost. This is an important point to clarify as it could make a big difference to overall costs if assumptions are made.

6. Will you monitor our systems?

It’s important to understand what will be going on behind the scenes. Will your support contract include remote monitoring of your systems or is this available separately? If it’s included, what is it monitoring? What does this mean for your business?

7. How do we contact you?

Ask how you and your teams will log issues. This is to establish if the process makes sense and will be easy to follow. It needs to be as straight forward as possible and a good help desk will offer both telephone and email logging options, maybe even live chat.

8. What applications have you worked with specific to our business?

If you work with specific line of business applications, finding that a prospective provider has also worked with them is a bonus.

If they haven’t, it isn’t necessarily a problem. Ask about any software they use with other clients and their approach to working with new applications.

This will give you an idea if they have the right attitude and commitment to learning something new with you.

9. Who do you work with?
It’s good to know why they want to work with you too!

 This question will help you establish what kind of businesses they work with and if they specialise in your industry.

If you are an accountancy firm and they have other accountancy clients, they may have more experience working with specific line of business applications, such as Iris or Digita etc.

This can be a bonus in terms of good communication as they are likely to have a better understanding of when updates are needed and how you are likely to work.

10. Why should we work with you?

Finally, this is an opportunity for the provider to sell themselves. It’s their chance to highlight why they would make a good partner and what makes them different from their competitors. It’s good to know why they want to work with you too, to establish if there is a desire from their side to develop and grow together.

 

Hopefully the above questions will help make the process of sourcing a new provider less daunting.
Asking the same questions to each provider will also enable you to make easier comparisons of the services they offer, making the task of choosing far simpler.

 

Further reading:

How easy is it to switch IT Support Providers?

Why should we outsource our IT Support?

 

 

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