7 Key Factors That Define the Best IT Support Partner

IT systems have become such a crucial and integral part of everyday business life that even the slightest glitch can seriously impact business performance.

So it is important that your IT systems are designed to run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. If something does go wrong, you’ll want to have the confidence that it can be fixed quickly and effectively. How you do this will depend on your specific circumstances.

Not all businesses want or need their own in-house IT support staff. If you’re one of those, then having a dependable IT support company on your side, just a phone call away, and ready to provide help fast when you need it, is not so much a luxury as a necessity.

But what exactly should an IT support partner offer you?

This article outlines the range of services that any prospective IT support company should be able to offer you. Alongside the specific, named services on offer, there may be many and various “grey areas” and additional services that it is important to be clear about during contract negotiations. That way you will be able to make a more informed decision about the kind of company that is best suited to your particular needs.

So: what factors should you look for in your IT support partner?

Availability

To provide full support, your IT Support partner be available 24 x 7 to come in and fix problems as and when they arise.

Accessibility

The support should be accessible through a single, central support hotline or support email address through which you can ask questions, report errors or check the status of the reported issue.

Flexibility

Your IT Support partner should be flexible enough to resolve any problem rapidly and with as little disruption to your business as possible. They’ll need to be prepared to offer everything from an emergency piece of hardware on a Sunday afternoon, to taking an employee through a software application upgrade step by step over the telephone.

Comprehensive Cover

The support should include assistance and support for the operation of all peripherals, including printers, switches, hubs, routers and wireless hardware. Be aware that your office peripherals such as printers and faxes may be supported by the manufacturer or the company you purchased them from, so make sure you are not paying twice for the same service!

Hardware support should cover all types of servers, desktop machines and laptops, whether they are Compaq, Dell, HP, IBM or Apple.

Software support should include all Microsoft products and operating systems, CRM systems such as ACT, anti-virus software like AVG or Sophos and all telecommunication systems including Alchemy and BT Nortel Systems. Again, make sure you are not paying the company that installed your telephony systems already.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

It is very important to check the SLA or Service Level Agreement offered by your IT Support partner. At minimum it should clarify the response time and resolution details for each support query.

In general, most IT Support companies will use guidelines such as the following:

Email support query:
Within the same business day

Phone support query:
Within the same business day

Remote assistance request:
Within 2 hours

Onsite assistance request:
Within 4 hours

Proactive IT Systems Monitoring and Management

Ensure that your IT Support provider is able to provide “proactive support” as part of your IT support contract. This means that they will take active management measures to prevent problems before they even arise, leaving you free to focus on running your business.

Your IT Support provider should be able to monitor your servers, router and firewall remotely using monitoring software. This will allow them to get live feeds about your systems and alert them if there is any problem that needs to be addressed.

For smaller companies with less than 5 computers, monitoring can be carried out when the IT engineers come onsite to save money.

Onsite IT Support

Is your IT Support company willing and able to visit your workplace on a monthly or weekly basis – or according to your business size and needs – and to make recommendations about the various ways you can upgrade and improve your IT systems?  Such visits will be vital in finding ways to reduce your business IT costs.

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