How Good Is Your IT Support? – 5 Things You Should Look For in an IT Provider

In what is a very crowded sector, choosing the right IT provider can seem like an impossible task.  With many providers purporting to offer better service delivery and customer care than their competitors, it can be hard to differentiate the providers skilled mainly in self-promotion, from those who genuinely do offer a first-class service.

Post-incident helpdesk support remains a critical component of outsourced IT, but it represents on a fraction of the service your provider should be offering.  From proactive security and remote maintenance to workplace productivity solutions and high-quality business connectivity, the best providers offer an extensive portfolio of products and services that are adaptable to the operational constraints of their clients.

In our last article we wanted to help you discern the quality of the IT support you currently receive.  Now, let’s consider 5 things you should look for in an IT provider, so you can choose the right partner for your business with confidence.

Custom solutions and services

IT providers’ websites can often be a bit formulaic.  You’ll often be presented with a list of managed services, there could be a telecoms element and they’ll often press their commitment to cyber security best practice.

So how do you distinguish the best from the rest?

The best IT providers present their services in a malleable way, and adapt their offering to the needs of individual clients.  If you’re simply looking for a bolt-on service to complement an internal IT team, terms like ‘co-managed IT’ are a good indicator of a provider willing to offer such services.  On the other hand, if you’re seeking a provider who’ll take full ownership of your digital estate, keep an eye out for terms like ‘full service managed IT’ and ‘virtual CIO,’ as these indicate providers with an all-encompassing service offering.

You also want to look for providers who seek to deploy solutions tactically to address the urgent business problems and pressures their clients face.  Such providers will use phrases like ‘IT roadmap’ and ‘long term strategy,’ signalling their willingness to tailor solutions to unique operational challenges and stressors.

Experience working with your industry

If your business operates under a heavy, industry-specific compliance burden, or in a sector where IT plays a particularly business-critical role, then it pays to find an IT partner with prior experience of your sector.  Whether you offer financial products and are bound by FCA regulation, or you’re a care provider operating under the regulatory authority of the CQC, a provider with experience in your field will be able to use technology to hardwire compliance into your business.  You also want a provider with experience maintaining and supporting the industry-specific software programmes you use, including the likes of legacy databases. Put simply, an IT provider who understands your sector will be better placed to help you navigate the compliance landscape and support the infrastructure upon which you depend.

Often providers who focus on certain industries will be keen broadcast this information on their website.  If you don’t see your sector listed, enquire about similar organisations they’ve worked with in the past to help you determine their compatibility.

Cyber security is a top priority

The 2022 Cyber Security Breaches Survey found that approximately 40% of UK businesses fell prey to a cyber-attack in the previous 12-month period.  The survey also found that the average attack resulted in £4200 of financial damage: a potential ruinous sum of money for small to medium sized enterprises.

Finding an IT provider who demonstrates a steadfast commitment to security best practice is therefore essential.  Remote monitoring/management is a vital line of defence, ensuring that your network, its component devices, operating systems and software programmes are in good health, and that security updates are applied in a disciplined, timely manner.  Without this essential capability, a provider will struggle to maintain the integrity of your environment, leaving it vulnerable to cyber threats and prone to episodes of disruptive downtime.

They should also possess the ability to offer a wide range of technical measures designed to safeguard every hub and spoke of your IT system.  From email filtering and endpoint antivirus to firewall protections and cloud backups, it’s vital to ensure a provider has an extensive catalogue of tools to aid in the protection of your environment and your data.

Dynamic support backed by a comprehensive service level agreement (SLA)

In our previous article we said that there is far more to good IT support than the stipulations of a service level agreement.  While we stand by that belief, a comprehensive SLA is vital to ensuring the service you receive is structured and delivered in accordance with your expectations.  The SLA should give details of the services that are to be delivered plus any performance targets, with reference to key performance metrics.  A well-run IT provider will be willing to guarantee certain aspects of service delivery, possibly even offering right to recourse if key targets aren’t met.

In terms of the support offering, look for providers who can offer a helpdesk that’s manned 24/7.  This may seem unnecessary, but should you need support on that occasion you decide to work late or on an overseas business trip, it will suddenly make sense.  Then consider response and resolution time metrics.  A good provider will aim to react to support requests in under 30 minutes, and strive to fully rectify issues on first contact.

A commitment to great customer service

This is what separates the good IT providers from the great ones.  A culture of exceptional customer service will ensure you and your team feel comfortable approaching your provider for advice or assistance.  The best providers will begin the relationship with a thorough onboarding process, during which they’ll aim to gain insight into the nature of your business, sector-specific pressures, commercial constraints and the current state of your IT system.

If you’re looking for an IT provider to assume a comprehensive technology management role, you really want a dedicated account manager to oversee every aspect of service delivery.  This individual will become knowledgeable on the finer details of your IT and the way your operate, and be able to act as an extension of your team.  Look for assurances that a dedicated point of contact will be assigned.

Applied strategically and with care, technology can bring about transformative business benefits.  Without the right IT partner however, tapping into these potential dividends can be more of a struggle.  Hopefully this short blog series has been useful in helping you evaluate the quality of support you’re currently receiving.  If your provider is failing at their basic duties and lacks the drive to help you get the most out of your IT, then it may be time to look elsewhere for your IT support.

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