13. Will your IT support work with us in a longer term strategic manner?

Your organisation may change on a day-to-day basis, or it may be quite static. Whether you’re growing or shrinking (hopefully the former!) then you need to be sure your IT support company can adapt to your changing needs. If you shrink, can you easily remove computers that are no longer being used; and if you grow, can you add new ones pro-rata so you don’t have multiple contracts in place? Some IT support companies will include non-technical visits to discuss what your plans are and to check that the services they’re providing are most appropriate for your needs. IT is a very fast moving industry so there may be a better way to structure your IT infrastructure or there may be a new service that will benefit you. Find out whether the IT support company you’re considering will have an active relationship with you, and this shouldn’t be just trying to sell you the latest gizmo that you don’t need.

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

14. What isn’t covered by the contract?

Every supplier will give you a list of what is included within the price but be sure to ask what isn’t included. As well as on-site visits, you’ll be surprised how many suppliers will raise additional invoices throughout the term of the contract for things like removing viruses. If a computer gets a virus then surely the IT support company is at fault for not providing adequate protection? Often viruses are contracted by staff carrying out non-work related activities such as downloading ‘free’ screensavers, or opening an email attachment boasting ‘here are your airline tickets’ (even though they haven’t ordered any); but there are ways to restrict the types of files your staff can download to prevent this sort of thing, and techniques to prevent malicious files ever reaching your staff so even if they’re trigger-happy on the mouse, they won’t cause any damage.

15. What is the term of the contract and how much notice is needed?

Most IT support companies will tie you into a 12 month contract. There are a few where you may only be required to give 30 days’ notice at any time. You may run a charitable organisation that is unsure about its future so a short term is a must, or you may be a business that’s going places and wants to commit to a longer term – if you do, will they give you a discount? And if you’re unhappy with the service being provided do you still have to stay with them for the full term or is there a supermarket style ‘no quibble’ guarantee? Make sure you know the financial commitment you’re making and are comfortable and clear with how to end the contract if needed. Read the terms – make sure there is no confusion between what the salesperson is telling you and what you’re actually signing; if there is, make sure to ask for written clarification and keep it with your copy of the contract.

16. Can you help us save money?

It might seem like an odd question but a supplier that can help you make savings, which can be offset against their cost is much more attractive and will gain your loyalty. An IT company that is monitoring your system should be able to tell you which computers are being left on overnight – 30% of people don’t shutdown their PC and the annual cost of each PC left on overnight is £43. You may have a service that you don’t really use; will they tell you, regardless of whether they or a third party are charging you for it? It could be something as simple as switching from in-house servers to a cloud-based solution. They’re not going to make the few thousand pounds from selling you a new server, but will they advise on what is best for you rather than what they’ll make the most profit from?

17. Can you provide me with references from a couple of your current customers who wouldn’t mind me contacting them?

Why take the supplier’s word for the service they provide? Just like an interview process, ask for references that you can check. Provide additional criteria such as, “a charity client” and “a site with around 5 PCs” – this way it makes it difficult for the supplier to manufacture the references, or to send you the same ones they’ve been sending to everyone for years. It’s even better if you can speak to the referees directly.

18. Who is this company?

Do your research! With such a powerful tool as Google at your fingertips, there really is nothing easier. Search for information on the company, and make sure you look beyond the first page, which is likely to contain only information created by the company itself. Look further and see where else they are mentioned. You may come across some glowing reviews, but equally you may find less favourable information. And if you have names, do your research on these too. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter - all of these can give you great insight into the people you are choosing to do business with. It only takes a few minutes and it will be time well spent; you should be able to gain access to a lot of useful knowledge about your potential IT support provider.

In case you missed it, you can read part 1 and part 2.