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Here Are Top Questions to Ask Potential IT Service Providers
Discover the most important questions to ask about products, quality, expertise, competency, security and breadth when selecting an IT service provider.
Business leaders who want to cut operating expenses, improve efficiency and leverage the newest technologies turn to IT service providers. With the right technology partner, a business can see considerable gains in productivity, communication and data security.
Choosing the right IT service provider is an important decision. Here are a few of the questions to ask to help you make the right choice.
How Do We Know If an IT service provider is a Quality Business?
Determining if a business is run well and according to best practices is often a difficult assessment. Here are some things to look for:
- Staff Size. If you have extensive needs, a large staff with specialized areas is usually better equipped to handle complex clients. However, a smaller company may get lost in the shuffle of a large organization only focused on the largest clients.
- Technology Partners. IT service providers cannot do everything by themselves. That’s why the best rely on partnership agreements with high-quality tech companies to deliver specialized products and services. Ask for a list of their partners; strong connections to top companies is a good sign.
- References. If you encounter an IT service provider that refuses to provide references, walk away. Ask for references from clients that are the same size, in the same industry or facing similar challenges as yours.
What Do We Ask to Determine if an IT service provider is Technically Competent?
You rely on your IT service provider to have the technical expertise to address your needs. How can you assess their technical abilities? Ask about the following:
- Competencies. Certifications and preferred partner status are good indicators of technical quality and where the IT service provider’s strengths are. Especially in small shops, an emphasis and expertise in Linux may mean they’re not as strong at Windows. Use this space to ask about professional development for their staff and their training commitment.
- Out of Scope. If you are paying a flat rate for managed services, you need to know what’s included and what isn’t. There are plenty of services that could be included in a package, including network security monitoring, ISP troubleshooting, software and firmware upgrades and patching, hardware installation and server upgrades. Be sure to shop around and know what’s covered by your plan and what is either an extra charge or not available.
- Disaster Recovery. If a natural disaster or hacker attack hits your company, you need a business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place to reduce the damage and impact. It’s a common service for an IT service provider to offer. But you need to know what your IT service provider’s own disaster recovery plan is. If your IT service provider can’t be up and running quickly after a disaster, they are unlikely to be able to help you.
- Compliance Coverage. More and more businesses face compliance challenges at the federal, state local and industrial level. Foreign entities are also demanding compliance with mandates, often concerning securing and using personal data. Ask your IT service provider about their experience with the compliance requirements, such as HIPAA, GDPR, PCI or FSMA, that your company has. Inquire about a service level agreement (SLA) that guarantees compliance with the mandates you are required to fulfill.
- Automation. Advances in automation have taken the place of lots of manual tasks. Your IT service provider should be committed to using automation and AI solutions wherever possible, freeing their staff to work on higher-level projects. If they are not using the most cutting-edge technology, how will they advise you on how to leverage new solutions?
Can We Measure the Service Quality of an IT service provider?
Service is critical when choosing an IT service provider. You want a partner that’s attentive, responsive and effective when you have a critical need. Ask the following:
- Internal vs. Outsourced. Your IT service provider will promise to deliver an extraordinary range of products and solutions. However, it’s important to know who will be doing the work on your account. Ask your potential IT service provider what work is done internally by their employees and what is outsourced (and why).
- Strategy and Advising. Some IT service providers focus exclusively on selling you technology solutions. Others take a comprehensive approach. You want an IT service provider that can act as a virtual chief information officer, providing help with technology strategy, budgeting and growth that aligns with your present and future business priorities.
- Scalability. As your company grows, you need solutions that can scale rapidly as new customers, data and technologies emerge. Be sure to ask how scalable an IT service provider’s solutions are, how they will help improve efficiency, how they will reduce costs and how they will reduce workload.
Thoughtful questions asked consistently of each potential IT service provider puts your business in the best position to select the right technology partner.