21 Questions you should ask your IT service provider Before hiring them to support your network

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1 21 Questions you should ask your IT service provider Before hiring them to support your network Customer Service: Q1: Do they answer their phones live or do you always have to leave a voice mail and wait for someone to call you back? A: Do they answer their phones live from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and give all clients an emergency after hours number they may call if a problem arises, including weekends? Many of the CEOs and executives work outside normal hours and find it to be the most productive time they have. If they cannot access their computer network AND can t get hold of anyone to help them, it s incredibly frustrating. Q2: Do they have a written, guaranteed response time to your calls? A: You should be looking for a company that provides a guarantee to respond to your problem within 2 hours or less of your call. Q3: Do they take the time to explain what they are doing and answer your questions in terms that you can understand (not geek-speak), or do they come across arrogant and make you feel stupid for asking simple questions? A: A good technician is trained to have the heart of a teacher and will take time to answer your questions and explain everything in simple terms. Q4: Do they consistently (and proactively) offer new ways to improve your network s performance, or do they wait until you have a problem to make recommendations? A: An IT Support company should conduct review meetings with clients and continuously look for new technologies and new ways to help improve their operations, lower costs, increase efficiencies and resolve any problems that may be arising. Q5: Do they provide detailed invoices that clearly explain what you are paying for? A: Detailed invoices that show what work was done will not only give you an understanding of what you are paying for, but can also tell a story about your computer network s health.

2 Q6: Do they have adequate errors and omissions insurance as well as workers compensation insurance to protect YOU? A: Here s something to consider: if THEY cause a problem with your network that causes you to be down for hours or days or to lose data, who s responsible? Here s another question to consider: if one of their technicians gets hurt at your office, who s paying? In this litigious society we live in, you better make darn sure whomever you hire is adequately insured with both errors and omissions insurance AND workers compensation and don t be shy about asking to see their latest insurance policies! Q7: Do they guarantee to complete projects on time and on budget? A: All projects should be fixed priced and guaranteed to be completed on time, in writing. This is important because many unethical or incompetent computer guys will only quote time and materials, which gives them free reign to nickel and dime you as well as take as much time as needed on completing a project. Maintenance Of Your Network: Q8: Do they insist on remotely monitoring your network to keep critical security settings, virus definitions and security patches up-to-date and PREVENT problems from turning into downtime, viruses, lost data and other issues? A: Remote network monitoring system watch over your network to constantly look for developing problems, security issues and other problems that can be addressed BEFORE they turn into bigger problems Q9: Can they provide you with an on-demand report that shows all the updates, security patches, and status of every machine on your network so you know for SURE your systems have been secured and updated? A: A competent IT Services company can provide clients with a detailed On Demand report that shows an overall health score of their network and the updates to their antivirus, security settings, patches and other important network checks (like hard drive space, backups, speed and performance, etc.). Q10: Is it standard procedure for them to provide you with written, network documentation detailing what software licenses you own, critical passwords, user information, hardware inventory, etc., or are they the only person with the keys to the kingdom? A: It s your network; you bought and paid for it. You want to have this in written and electronic form at no additional cost.

3 Q11: Do they have other technicians on staff who are familiar with your network in case your regular technician goes on vacation or gets sick? A: Look for a company that has a team of technicians and specialists available to them to complete work and repair problems as they arise. Good documentation is a must. That way any technician can pick up where another one has left off. Q12: When they offer an all-inclusive support plan, is it TRULY all-inclusive, or are their gotchas hidden in the fine print? Is phone/ help desk included, or extra? What about network upgrades, moves, or adding/removing users? Is hardware and/or primary software included? What about 3 rd party software support? Will they act as a Liaison to fix problems with your 3 rd part software company? What if you aren t happy with their services? Do they offer a Try us for free policy? Are off-site backups offered as part of the contract? To what degree? If you have a major disaster, is restoring your network included or extra? What about onsite support calls? Or support to remote offices? Backups And Disaster Recovery: Q13: Do they INSIST on monitoring a redundant backup system, or are they letting you rely on one type of backup? A: Always have redundant backups, and look for an IT Services firm that has the ability to monitor the backups and creates tickets when the backups fail. Q14: Do they INSIST on doing periodical test restores of your backups to make sure the data is not corrupt and could be restored in the event of a disaster? A: It s important that they do test restores from time to time. The time to test the backup is NOT when you need it! Q15: Do they insist on backing up your network BEFORE performing any type of project or upgrade? A: It is very common to lose files or have files become corrupt during upgrades. It is ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE to backup your data before any version upgrade, hardware upgrade, etc. If you have a technician that is NOT backing up your data, you may want to consider your relationship with them.

4 Q16: If you were to experience a major disaster, do they have a written plan for how your data could be restored FAST and/or enable you to work from a remote location? A: You should have a simple disaster recovery plan for your data and network. We encourage you to do a full disaster recovery plan for their office, but at a minimum, their network will be covered should something happen. See Impact on U.S. Small Business of Natural & Man-Made Disasters and the SBA s Disaster Recovery Plan 2013 Technical Expertise And Support: Q17: Is their help-desk US based or outsourced to an overseas company or third party? A: It s good to have a 3 rd Party help desk provided that is it only supplemental to the current Help Desk team. It would also be beneficial to the IT Support company to have a 24/7/365 NOC (Network Operation Center) that is available to monitor and repair server issues after hours. Q18: Does your IT company have a computer lab where they can test, break and find solutions for systems BEFORE implementing it on your live network? A: You want an IT Support company that has a physical and virtual lab to synthesize and test scenarios and a non-production network BEFORE they test it on your production network! Q19: Do their technicians arrive on time and dress professionally? A: If the technician arrives on your site and is NOT professionally dressed or does NOT act in a professional manner, it may be a sign that your network is not going to be managed professionally. Q20: Are they familiar with (and can they support) your unique line of business applications? A: You want to look for a company that is at least familiar with the TYPE of application you are running. Technology is ever changing so it is important for you to hire a technician who is willing to act as a liaison between you and your third party vendor. Q21: When something goes wrong with your Internet service, printers or other IT services, do they own the problem or do they say that s not our problem to fix? A: You are hiring the IT Services Company to make sure you can use your network efficiently. In the end, it doesn t matter whose problem it is, your IT Support Company needs to take ownership of it and fix it.

5 We hope that this resource is helpful to you. If you have any comments or suggestions to help us improve it, please let us know! At Computerbilities we want to help provide you with the educational resources necessary for making informed decisions about your IT support provider. Your network is invaluable to your business, and we want to make sure that it is in good hands! You may also be interested in some of our other free educational resources. Such as: What every business owner must know about hiring an honest, competent, responsive and fairly priced business IT service provider This guide will give you information into the IT industry that no one else will give you. Free Network Assessment This is obligation free and will help you identify what your network needs to run efficiently. You can visit our website for more information.

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