Updated: June 1, 2014
I’ve been in this business now 20 years as a company and more than 24 in the industry. I have seen every technology issue in a business from “my computer is too slow” to employees stealing proprietary data. What amazes me is that with all the technology that we implement in our daily lives that people still don’t know how to determine competent IT versus what I like to call “Make a buck” IT.
What I mean by that is that IT services are the infrastructure that most businesses require in order to operate. At the same moment, most businesses who are not tech “savvy” don’t realize the importance of their infrastructure or what would be a reasonable investment to ensure reliability and efficiency.
To that end, out of necessity they try to rely on IT providers to dictate what is needed and what is expected both in terms of specifications and budget. The issue becomes whether they blindly accept the IT provider’s offerings or whether they make a judgement call as to what they think it is worth. (That is a topic for another article but you can see where this is going).
So how do you trust that the IT provider is looking out for your best interest for the success of your business?
Here are 5 ways to tell if your IT provider is legitimately and sincerely working with your best interest. These are in order from #5 to #1 (being the most critical in our opinion). You can take these as warning flags OR as things you should ask for references or referrals upon. Either way, diligence here is key.
#5 – Does your IT provider ask questions about your business operations that are NOT technology related? This is an easy one. When IT comes to do their work, do they ask about things that have changed in your office that is not related to their technology? Did your signage change? Did employees change? We try to observe the operations of our clients while engaging in our tech activities in order to offer any potential solutions or resources that our client may need. This is more about customer service than tech implementation.
#4 – Does your IT provider research competitive quotes? This is one that is hardware related but when purchasing capital cost items that are big purchases, it’s important to make sure that things are competitive. That being said, it is also important to realize that if you want competitive quotes, the time and effort required to get that information can be billable by your IT since you are asking them to do research on your behalf. You may want to save money and buy from a discount wholesaler but if your IT provider spends 3 hours on the phone figuring things out, there is going to be a charge at one end of the scale or another.
#3 – Does your IT provider charge enough or too little? This leads from #4 and even though it sounds funny, when it comes to your best interest you have to look at it from the same point of view as your own business. Do you charge enough for what you do? A good IT provider need not be expensive, but you have to know what is billable and what is not. For example, we do not charge for “Scan” time. Scan time is what we refer to as the time for a computer to scan or process something (usually antivirus) that we do not directly observe. If a computer is scanning for 3 hours, unless we are asked to sit and wait for it, we do not charge for this time. Some IT providers have creative ways of making money which include exorbitant travel fees, scan time fees, and unreasonable minimums. It is one thing for a company to pass on a parking or travel fee to a client, it is another to make it cost more than the base service provided.
#2 – Do they speak ENGLISH? I’m not referring to language, I am referring to vocabulary. A good IT provider will communicate continuously and in terminology that will make you feel comfortable. I compare this to auto mechanics where your “induction flange” needs replacing. Most clients don’t care about the names or the details (some do of course), they just want it fixed. A simple “the computer is overheating due to the fan inside failing” is enough for most to understand what that means. Computer issues can be very technical and detailed and in some cases the cause of the problem is not understood, but as long as the solution is implemented the issue is resolved. If the IT provider can explain things to you in language you can understand and feel comfortable with, then that means the provider is being considerate to your level of understanding. If you do not understand what the IT provider is explaining, then it’s time to ask somebody else.
#1 – Does your IT provider retain ownership of your assets? This is the biggest annoyance for us. Personally, I think anybody who tries to blackmail you for your own proprietary intellectual property is a scumbag. This is very common with cloud and web based providers who help business establish domains, websites, cloud services, hosted services and backup services. They sell you on the idea of their product or service, and then register everything in their name. If you decide you no longer want their offering, you either have to pay additional fees to retain your ownership or they can simply refuse to give you ownership altogether. This especially applies to website domain names and hosted databases solutions. MAKE SURE YOUR NAME IS ON THE REGISTRATION OF YOUR DATA. Just as a test, if you are unsure who owns your website, go to www.whois.net and put in your website URL (www.name.com) and see who comes up as the owner. If it is not you, you might want to think about getting that resolved ASAP.
If you have any questions about any part of this article, feel free to contact me anytime and if you liked this article, check out:
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