A business guide to hiring an competent, responsive, and fairly priced Managed IT service provider
Choosing the wrong managed services provider to support your network can be incredibly frustrating and expensive, and could end up costing you in downtime, data loss and expensive repair bills. That said, we understand that selecting the right one for your business can also be a painstaking task that can involve doing days full of research. It is important to not put your company’s critical data and operations in the hands of just anyone.
For that purpose, we have created this business advisory guide, armed with 21 instigating questions that you can ask any computer and IT Consultant (including your existing one as well) in order to help simplify the process and clear out vendors you shouldn’t be wasting your time with. These questions cover critical issues related to network as well as backup solutions as well.
To make it simpler we have also provided a response that we think an ethical service provider, such as us, would give you.
Q1. Do you answer your phones at all times or will I have to leave voice mail and wait for someone to call me back? What happens in the time of emergency?
Our Answer: In today’s work culture, the productive time varies from company to company and person to person. We understand that and offer support whenever our clients need us. We answer our phones live from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the weekdays and even give clients an emergency after-hours number so they can call us if and when a problem arises, including on weekends. Service providers who can’t get a hold of your network during these situations can be a source of incredible frustration.
Q2: What is the standard response time after calls?
Our Answer: We guarantee to have a technician responding to a problem within 60 minutes or less of your call. For us this is a standard procedure that is written into every service agreement we give to our clients.
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 make you feel uncomfortable for asking simple questions?
Our Answer: Our technicians are trained to have the “heart of a teacher” and will take the time to answer your questions and explain everything in simple terms. That’s not something we say but our clients do for us.
Q4: Do they proactively offer new ways to improve your network’s performance, or do they wait until you have a problem to make recommendations?
Our Answer: Our end goal with clients is to optimize their operations and help improve efficiency with every aspect of their work. To do so, we conduct quarterly review meetings with our clients to look for new ways to help improve operations, lower costs, increase efficiencies and resolve any problems that cause hindrance. By doing this we can help our clients be more profitable and competitive in their industry.
Q5: Do they provide detailed invoices that clearly explain what you are paying for?
Our Answer: When it comes to IT services, a company itself has to be vigilant against unethical service providers who might not give you information about your investment. We at NorCal provide detailed invoices that show what work was done, why and when, so you never have to guess what you are paying for. We also double-check our invoices for accuracy before they are sent to you.
Q6: Do they have adequate workers’ compensation insurance to protect you?
Our Answer: Here’s something to consider: if one of their technicians gets hurt at your office, who’s paying?
Q7: Do they guarantee to complete projects on time and on budget?
Our Answer: All the projects we undertake are guaranteed to be completed on time, in writing. This is very important to us as it is of the utmost importance to our clients. There are many unethical or incompetent computer guys who will only quote time and materials. but will avoid giving you a fix date.
Here are certain questions you can ask about the maintaining your network infrastructure
Q8: Do they insist on remotely monitoring your network 24-7, around the year to keep critical security issues, virus definitions from turning into problems that can turn into downtime caused by viruses, lost data and other issues?
Our Answer: Our remote network monitoring system watches over your network to constantly look for developing problems, security issues and other problems so we can address them before they turn into bigger problems.
Q9: Will/Do they provide you with a monthly report of all the updates, security patches and the status of every machine on your network, so you know for sure your systems and data are secure?
Our Answer: We provide our client with a detailed report every month that shows an overall health score of their network along with the updates made to the antivirus, security settings, software 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 your kingdom'?
Our Answer: All our clients receive this in written and electronic form at no additional cost. We also perform a quarterly update on this material and make sure certain key people from your organization are updated on this information and know how to use it, giving you complete control over your network and additionally the peace of mind you deserve.
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?
Our Answer: Yes, and since we keep detailed network documentation (basically a blueprint of your computer network) and updates on every client’s account, any of our technicians 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?
Our Answer: - Our “all-inclusive” support plan is just that – all-inclusive.
Q13: Do they insist on monitoring off-site as well as on-site backups, or are they letting you rely on outdated tape backups?
Our Answer: We make sure all of our clients are covered under our P.R.O. Solution with a bullet proof combination of NAS (Network Attached Storage), BHD (Back-up to Hard Drive) and Cloud back-up. This method gives us the ability to operate and recover independently, regardless of circumstances affecting either internet connection or local disasters that may occur. This ensures your company's IT operations are (P)rotected (R)ecoverable & (O)ptimized.
Q14: Do they do periodic test restores of your backups to make sure the data is not corrupt and it could be restored in the event of a disaster?
Our Answer: We perform a monthly drill and perform a test restore from backup for our clients to make sure their data can be recovered in the event of an emergency. After all, the worst time to test a backup is when you desperately need it.
Q15: Do they insist on backing up your network before performing any type of project or upgrade?
Our Answer: We do; and that’s simply as a precaution in case a hardware failure or software glitch causes a major problem, especially when it comes to hardware upgrades, and migrations associated with lifecycle management.
Q16: If you were to experience a major disaster, do they have a written plan for how your data could be restored and/or one that enables you to work from a remote location?
Our Answer: All our clients receive a simple disaster recovery plan for their data and network. We encourage them to do a full disaster recovery plan for their office, but at a minimum, their network will be covered, should something happen.
Here are certain questions you can ask about their technical expertise and support:
Q17: Is their help desk US-based or outsourced to an overseas company or third party?
Our Answer: We provide our own in-house help desk and make sure the folks helping you are friendly and helpful. We consider this one of the most important aspects of customer service, plus we feel it’s important for keeping your data secure.
Q18: Do their technicians maintain current vendor certifications and participate in ongoing training – or are they learning on your dime?
Our Answer: Our technicians are required to keep the most up-to-date vendor certifications in all the software we support. Plus, our hiring process is so stringent, 99% of the technicians who apply don’t make it through.
Q19: Do their technicians arrive on time and communicate professionally?
Our Answer: Our technicians are true professionals that you would be proud to have in your office. They communicate professionally, show up on time, and if they cannot, we always notify the client immediately. We believe these are minimum requirements when delivering a professional service.
Q20: Are they familiar with (and can they support) your unique line-of-business applications?
Our Answer: We own the problems with all line-of-business applications for our clients. That doesn’t mean we can fix faulty software – but we will be the liaison between you and your vendor to resolve problems you are having and make sure these applications work smoothly for you.
Q21: When something goes wrong with your Internet service, phone systems, printers or other IT services, do they own the problem or do they say, “That’s not our problem to fix”?
Our Answer: We feel we should own the problem for our clients so they don’t have to try and resolve any of these issues on their own – that’s just plain old good service and something many consultants won’t do.
Armed with these questions, you can feel free to question your current or potential IT consultants. If the answers to any of these questions doesn’t come close to what we claim, then we suggest you reconsider.
At NorCal Voice & Data, we want to look out for our clients the best way we can and offer solutions according to their needs and budget. If you are unsure of your current service provider or are currently looking for a new one, we will be happy to conduct a free consultation and give you an idea of what you might be missing. You can also feel free to contact us if you have further questions in optimizing your business backend the best way possible.