What to ask when choosing or switching tech providers

Outsourcing your IT Services
There are plenty of good reasons for outsourcing IT operations to a service provider, but doing so comes with inherent risk. Today's organizations are entrusted with customers' financial data and other sensitive information, so it's never been more important to carefully evaluate potential service providers.

A lot is at stake when it comes to IT management, especially around security practices, business continuity and disaster recovery, supporting a mobile workforce and more. After all, your IT operation is the backbone of your business. You simply can't afford to hire a provider that promises the world and doesn't deliver, or even worse, one that doesn't adhere to the right practices.

Key Questions to ask before you select a new or switch IT providers:

Team Members

Who are the team members I'll be working with and what is their experience?

Understanding an IT service provider's core competencies is key, but knowing the individual team members you'll be working with is equally important. You want to work with individuals who are familiar with your organization's industry-specific challenges and really understand your business and its short- and long-term goals.

Often, service providers will introduce you to their top technicians, then pull a bait-and-switch where you get an entirely different team once you sign an agreement. To avoid this, be upfront and ask for introductions to the specific team members you'll be working with should you sign. What are their experience levels? Which certifications do they hold? And most importantly, do you trust them?

High Availability

What is your model for high availability?

Data loss and IT outages can be catastrophic. According to the National Archives and Records Administration, 93 percent of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year; 50 percent of businesses that had no data management within the same period filed for bankruptcy immediately.

You simply can't afford downtime due to an IT issue. That's why it's so important to ask prospective IT service providers about their model for high availability and how they'll ensure uninterrupted continuity of operations should a failure occur.

How long have you been in business?

Now is not the time to take a chance on a company that is just learning about how to proactively manage an entire network infrastructure

What is your customer retention rate over the past 5 years?

If they have lost any customers find out what happened. If they haven’t lost any customers find out what their customers like best about them.

Do you have experience with our particular industry?

Are you familiar with the compliance regulations in place for our business?

It is extremely important to deal with an IT Support company with experience in your industry. Is the company familiar with your internal compliance policies and security issues? If you are a law firm, these regulations are different as well. Be sure your company can speak intelligently to these policies, and if not, be sure they are able to quickly get up to speed before signing on the dotted line.

Ask for references!

If the company is good at what they do, they should have a list of references to pull from to help make the decision making process easier.
•Does this company have a good response time?
•Are their technicians friendly and knowledgeable?
•Would you recommend their IT Support Services?
•Do they deliver as promised? Was there anything unexpected?

What are your thoughts on Tech Certifications?

We may be on our own on this one, but we believe tech certifications are a waste of time. There, we said it. Here’s why:

Unfortunately, technology changes so rapidly that these certifications require more time than they are ultimately worth. Our recommendation is to find a team of experienced engineers, not a bunch of certifications.

Think of a group of recent college grads, sure they have a bunch of book knowledge – but would you really want them running your business network?

What is the greatest IT disaster you have ever faced and how did you address it?

You need an IT Partner that is experienced and calm under pressure. Learn about their approach when facing an IT disaster and how they fixed the issue.

When was the last time a client called in with a complaint about their service and how did you address it?

Look for the truth in their statements, and listen for empathy. Were there investments into the business that helped to improve those services? Was it a lack of communication? How did they address these issues?

Help Desk

Do you staff your own in-house help desk or outsource to a third party?

The best service providers staff their help desks onsite. Providers with onsite help desk support are better able to train their technicians and uphold them to the highest standards, which can translate into a better overall customer support experience.

Providers that outsource help desk support usually won't proactively make this known, so be sure to ask. Know that if you partner with a provider that outsources support, you'll likely be speaking with overseas technicians who aren't familiar with your business and preferred processes.