7. Will I be assigned a technician who gets to know my system?

When you call your helpdesk you want a quick and efficient response. If the first thing you’re asked for is your account number, you feel like an account number! How can the person on the other end of the phone know your setup if they don’t even recognise your voice? Outsourcing your IT support is cheaper because IT support companies handle multiple clients, but it should still be possible for you to have a named contact who becomes familiar with your systems and can therefore fix any issues quicker. That isn’t to say you won’t speak to other technicians but having someone you build a relationship with is beneficial to both you and them for things like knowing where the router is, or what it looks like; that you have an intermittent issue with power or your server is tucked under Jane’s desk. And isn’t it nice when you call, that someone recognises your voice, and can even ask how Dave the cat is after his visit to the vets last week?

18 things to ask when choosing an IT support company (2 of 3)

8. What will it cost if I need someone on-site?

There will always be things that require an IT savvy person to be there in person. Whether it’s a failed hard drive or a memory upgrade, there are some things that just can’t be done remotely. If you’re looking at outsourced IT support, make sure you know the cost involved if you need someone to come out to you on-site. It’s common to be charged a call-out and an hourly rate; some companies may give you the option of rolling a number of visits into the cost of the annual contract; and there may even be the option to include all call-outs. If you do want visits included, there will be terms around them such as what will and what won’t result in a call-out. If the company is local to you, will they waive the call-out fee? And should you be lucky enough to have someone in your company already who has a little IT knowledge, would the IT support company be prepared to talk them through a procedure, if deemed appropriate, to save some time and money?

9. What hours of the day is support available and what happens out-of-hours?

Not all IT support companies will offer 24 hour support, but do you really need it? If you prefer a service where you have an assigned technician then you can’t expect them to be available 24 hours a day anyway. If 24 hour support is available then you’ll be paying extra for it, some companies operate only in regular office hours but what happens if you’re working late on a tender or other important project and something goes ‘bang’, is there a procedure for getting help out of hours? And if so, what are the additional costs?

10. What are your response times? Check the Service Level Agreement

Calling with a problem is only the first step, but you really need to know what the next steps are and how long the problem will take to fix. Many issues will probably only need a quick yes or no, but some may need a little more time to put right. If you don’t get through straight away to a technician, how long will it be before they will call you back? It’s no good if you’re sat twiddling your thumbs unable to work; the problem may even have gone away by the time they do call back! Find out what the initial response time is and then the expected fix times. You’ll probably find these vary depending on the type of issue and how severe it is.

11. How are calls prioritised?

You’ll probably find this varies depending on what, and how severe, the issue is. If you can still work then you may find it will be resolved later than a problem that is stopping everybody in your office from working. There’ll even be things you report where you say, “It isn’t urgent, just when you get a minute”. An IT support company will have a way of prioritising calls so make sure you know how they do this so you know where to set your level of expectation. There’ll always be the non-urgent things that only take two clicks and will be done in a heartbeat, but you want to be sure that anything that stops you working is given utmost priority, followed by the things that just slow you down. The last thing you want to be doing is paying your staff to sit through downtime.

12. What is your disaster recovery policy/procedure?

If the worst happens, it’s unreasonable to expect everything to be fixed within an hour. But you need to know how quickly someone can be with you and how they’ll work towards getting you fully up and running again, and most importantly, how much it is going to cost. Also find out what measures are in place to prevent disasters, should they happen. A good supplier will work with you on your business continuity plan, and various worse-case scenarios, to ensure you can still service your customers without a fully working system; and most importantly that if you lost everything it wouldn’t be the end of your business.

In case you missed it, you can read part 1, and this article is continued on part 3.