With technology playing an increasingly pivotal role in business success, it’s never been so vital to have the right IT partner onboard to steer your business in the right direction. From cloud technologies that could give your business a competitive advantage, to ensuring compliance with best-practice data security measures, having the right solutions and services in place is vital in today’s competitive marketplace.
In our previous article we looked at some of the most common hallmarks of sub-standard IT provision. If some of these traits seemed all too familiar it may be time to cut ties with your current provider and seek a new, committed IT partner. So let’s now consider 5 of the top things you should expect of an IT partner, and some of the key qualities a provider should possess to help your business flourish through technology.
Flexible, tailored solutions and services
When you visit the homepage of an IT service provider, you’re immediately presented with a range of products and services. Sometimes however it’s not about which product and services are on offer, but how they are delivered. If you only require supplementary support to bolster an in-house team, look for terms like “co-management.” If you want more comprehensive, outsourced support you should look for a provider who can act as a “virtual CIO” or a “virtual IT department.” Ultimately, the best providers don’t rigidly define the boundaries of their service, and instead are amenable to the unique circumstances of their clients, offering unique, tailored packages for each.
Similarly consider how they offer different tech solutions. A broad range of specializations is preferable, and terms like “strategy” and “road map” are an encouraging indicator of a provider willing to apply their expertise in a problem-solving manner, developing solutions which address specific operational hurdles.
An understanding of your industry
If your business operates in a compliance-laden industry it’s beneficial to find a provider with experience in that sector. If you’re a healthcare provider for example, you’ll want an IT partner who understands the rigors of maintaining PCI and HIPAA compliance. If you’re an accounting firm, you need a provider who’s sympathetic to the legislative compliance burden you face, and able to maintain and support the accounting software you use. Basically, if you operate in a regulated industry it’s extremely helpful to have an IT partner who has a sound working knowledge of the pressures you might be under. Don’t be afraid to ask for industry-specific references and case study examples to ensure a provider is the right fit for your business.
A proactive approach and a security-first mindset
If you don’t perform regular maintenance on your car, chances are it will leave you stuck at the side of the highway at some stage. IT systems are no different, requiring regular upkeep to avoid disruptive episodes of downtime. With a profusion of cyber threats attacking from all angles and the modern expectation of near 100% service availability, reactionary IT support (which steps in after a disruptive event) no longer cuts the mustard. Your IT provider should be ahead of the game, with the ability to provide remote monitoring/management capabilities. They should offer remote patch management: applying software fixes ahead of time to prevent code vulnerabilities escalating into serious issues. They should also have the ability to deploy cyber threat detection, which via comprehensive network oversight, will allow them to identify and eliminate and cyber threats which present on your system.
Lastly, every action they take and every service they offer should be underpinned by a steadfast commitment to cyber security best practice. From endpoint antivirus and firewalls to backup solutions and end-user training, they should offer a full suite of tools and services designed to protect your sensitive data.
Responsive, SLA-backed support
When issues do develop into disruptive episodes, it’s important to have an energetic and responsive support partner who’ll get you running again in no time. So what should you look for? Firstly, you want support that’s always available. Even if you generally work 9 till 5, it’s important to have round-the-clock support in case you decide to work late or for those business trips where you’re working from a different time zone.
You also want response time commitments written into a service level agreement. A as a rule, top-tier best support providers will aim to respond to most requests in under 30 minutes. Waiting up to an hour is considered acceptable, but anything far beyond that could prove problematic.
A friendly, customer-focused service
A good IT provider delivers on their commitments, and ensures their clients get the most out of their technology, but a great one does all this while prioritizing the very best customer care. You want a provider who takes a keen interest in your business and your team from the very start. Look for providers who set out a clear and comprehensive onboarding process, with a keen focus on forward planning based upon an initial audit/fact finding exercise. After that it’s beneficial to have a dedicated point of contact. Seek assurances that you’ll be assigned a dedicated account manager who’ll manage every aspect of the service you receive. They will develop a detailed understanding of your tech environment, and be able to fine tune the service offering to your needs.
We hope this list has helped develop your understanding of what good IT provision looks like. If your current provider is failing to meet your expectations, it could be time to open a dialogue with them and express your concerns. However, if your provider is operating too far below the required standard, it could be time to explore new options, and discover an IT partner with the energy, drive and determination to be the tech partner you need in these challenging times.
INNOVATIVE, FLEXIBLE & TRUSTED
Since 2002, Echelon Technologies has been a leading provider of IT support and consulting, focusing on small and medium-sized businesses in the Greater Phoenix area. We have helped hundreds of companies, and thousands of users, to increase productivity and profitability by making IT a streamlined part of their operations. We equip our clients with customized technology solutions for greater operational value and to reduce risk. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact and see what we can do for you.