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Managed IT and Cloud Services Blog

PrintWe had a chance to share some ideas about managed IT serivces with the readers of the Intuit Small Business Blog.  We discussed nine different questions to help small to mid-sized business owners determine whether a potential vendor is a good fit for their organizations.

Read the full article below.

 

 

Generally speaking, using a managed service provider is a good idea. The owner of a  small chain of pizzerias, for example, rarely has the time or the expertise  to keep its tech infrastructure running smoothly and securely. (He probably  doesn’t work as a mechanic to keep the company’s delivery fleet in tip-top  shape, either.)

But finding the right managed service provider can be challenging, especially  if you don’t “speak geek” or know much about how the networks, applications, or  systems your business relies on work. Here are nine questions to help you  determine whether a potential vendor is a good fit.

1. What is your billing model? “Technology spending based on time and  materials creates a natural conflict of interest,” explains Kevin Trottier, CEO  of Twist Solutions, a managed  service provider. “The technology vendor wants to come back and so is not  concerned about fixing the problem right the first time.” A better billing  model, he says, charges a fixed fee (vs. an hourly one) for a portion of  the support. “The smoother things are for the client, the better it is for the  technology vendor.”

2. What are your technical specialties? “IT professionals love  technology and generally will say ‘yes’ to any technological problem, even if  they lack the expertise,” Trottier says. To gauge the best fit for your  business, he suggests, look for providers with references and experience in your  particular industry.

3. Do you use outsourced monitoring or help-desk services? To lower  costs, your managed service provider may hand off the baton for monitoring or help-desk  services. But you may also get lower-quality services and have difficulty  communicating (particularly if the third-party subcontractor is based outside  the United States). Trottier says it’s better to keep all of the services  in-house with your contracted provider.

4. How will things work when your technician arrives? Standard,  repeatable processes should be in place. “For example,” Trottier says, “the  technician should check in with their point of contact, review open items,  resolve what can be resolved on-site, assign items to remote staff as needed,  and check out with the point of contact, explaining where things stand.”

5. What response times do you guarantee? A solid IT support contract  guarantees someone from the managed service provider will respond to problems  and requests within a given period of time. Without that,  response times for ad hoc agreements leave the business vulnerable to whatever  other, higher-priority commitments the service provider has.

6. What does the contract cover? Increasingly, small-business owners  rely on more than just the PCs in their stores or offices. If your company uses  tablets, smartphones, or even just other peripherals, such as printers, be sure  those devices are covered in your agreement if you want them serviced too.  Equally important, if certain hardware, software, or services are not  covered by the contract, that’s good to know in advance, so you can plan  accordingly.

7. What type of insurance do you have, and how much? Everybody makes  mistakes. Accidents happen. Smaller managed service providers may not have the  resources on their own to help you recover from these unforeseen events, but  their insurance companies can.

8. Do you provide services proactively? “Preventive, proactive  maintenance lowers your total cost of ownership over time,” Trottier points out. “By avoiding preventive maintenance, many small- to mid-sized businesses have  outdated technology systems that are not maintained or managed correctly, and  [they] are setting themselves up for expensive problems over time.” In most  cases, an advanced analysis can project when capacity will require additional  resources or equipment will, or should, be upgraded.

9. What is the length of the contract? Anyone can enter into a contract.  When things don’t go as planned and the managed service provider doesn’t take  steps to correct the situation promptly, you’ll want to know how to get out of  the contract — or at least how much longer you’ll have to put up with  it.

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