So, you’ve decided to outsource some or all of your IT support needs to a managed IT services provider. Now comes the hard part – figuring out which IT support company is best for your business.
You know as well as I do that there are a ton of IT companies to choose from. At Accent Computer Solutions, we’ve seen plenty of IT companies come and go as the IT industry has shifted over the past 35 years that we’ve been in business.
With so many choices, how do you compare them to each other? How do you know which one is right for your business?
We’re here to help. These 10 tips will help you answer the question, “How do I choose the best IT support company for my business?”
- Their IT support agreement options work to your advantage
- You get a robust and diverse team of certified IT support professionals
- Your relationship is actively managed to improve your technology experience
- They know what types of organizations are the best fit for their service offerings
- They have experience in your industry
- Their awards, partnerships, and certifications are earned – not bought
- They have a thorough, documented onboarding process
- They take their own security seriously
- They have a track record of success
- They have a documented process for handling support requests
Let’s get started.
1. Their IT support agreement options work to your advantage
There are many types of IT support arrangements in the outsourced IT world. Each IT company structures its offerings differently. Make sure your expectations line up with the services they offer.
With a fully managed or all-inclusive IT support agreement, the outsourced provider becomes your IT department. This type of fixed-fee agreement puts IT management into the hands of the provider, allowing you to focus on your tasks while providing peace of mind that your technology will be handled with the expertise you require.
If you have an internal IT person or IT department, you’re likely looking for a co-managed IT support agreement. With a fixed-fee co-managed agreement, the outsourced provider works alongside your IT team, strengthening them with additional brains on complex issues and taking routine work off their plate so they can focus on higher-level tasks.
In either case, the agreement should be structured as a win-win for you and the IT company. You want your technology to stay reliable and secure, and fixed-fee IT support agreements make that the IT company’s goal too.
When the agreement isn’t in your favor, as is the case with block time or monitoring contracts, it’s in the best interest of the IT company that you do have problems so they can bill for additional services. I’d bet you want to work with a company that invests in your success instead of profiting from your problems.
Related Resource: Common Outsourced IT Contracts Decoded
2. You get a robust and diverse team of certified IT support professionals
Modern business IT environments need expertise in cyber security, networking, support, cloud computing, systems administration, etc. You’ll want to make sure there are enough qualified IT professionals with varying specialties to handle whatever may come their way to support your environment. (And that there are enough of them to help if more than one employee has an issue at the same time.)
Some IT providers try to do everything with an undersized staff, so people end up wearing multiple hats. Help desk technicians double as salespeople, or CEOs double as lead engineers. This creates a situation where when you need help, your provider is busy handling other tasks. Working with a company that allows its employees to focus on their roles ensures that you get the best support possible.
How will you know if they’re qualified?
Ask about certifications and ongoing education. Technology changes fast – a culture of continuous growth keeps employees’ skills sharp. Certifications like CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and Microsoft MS-900 (among others) are indicators of proficiency in the basics of IT support. You should also expect certifications in other technologies they commonly support, such as Azure or WatchGuard.
3. Your relationship is actively managed to improve your technology experience
Any IT support company can fix computers – but as Marty Kaufman describes in his book, Do IT Right: It’s Not About the Computers, IT is much more than computers.
Technology should help move your business forward, not just keep it humming along. You should expect your IT support provider to help you improve technology usage, keep you on track with your technology plan, suggest improvements, and follow through.
Beyond communication about support tickets, you should meet with your Client Success Manager and Technology Advisor regularly (weekly, monthly, or quarterly depending on how rapidly things change in your business) to realign your business priorities, assign resources, and report on results.
At Accent, we call this the IT Results Cycle. This process of active IT management helps you use technology as a competitive advantage AND keeps everything running smoothly and securely.
4. They know what types of organizations are the best fit for their service offerings
IT companies spend years honing their processes and procedures, and they know who will benefit from their specific services. However, what they’ve created might not be best for you. With too few users, the service may be more than you need. And if you’re more complex than their typical client, the service or expertise might not be enough.
A mature IT services provider will know the types and sizes of companies that will benefit the most from their services and should be honest when they aren’t the right fit for you.
When you’re chatting through your needs and the services they offer, you should sense that they “get” your business. They understand your company’s primary functions, they know how to support you in the way that your business requires, and the solutions they present are tried and true.
5. They have experience in your industry
When you work with a provider that knows your industry, you’ll notice a significant difference in the delivery of their service. They’ll know your industry’s compliance regulations, the common issues you face, work requirements, how you make money, and what technology can work to your advantage.
For example, suppose you’re a medical group. Your goal is to see as many patients as possible while delivering the best patient care and ensuring data security. An IT provider experienced in healthcare can help you do just that by providing support that’s specific to your needs.
Or if you’re in the DOD supply chain, you’ll want an IT provider with a deep understanding of NIST and CMMC compliance.
6. Their awards, partnerships, and certifications are earned – not bought
Every industry has something that makes reputable companies roll their eyes, and IT is no exception. There are a lot of IT companies that promote awards they’ve won. A lot of them are legitimate, but sometimes providers pay to be “awarded” for marketing purposes.
When vetting outsourced IT services providers, look for verified awards from reputable sources like Channele2e’s Top 100 MSPs, CRN’s MSP 500, or MSSP Alert’s Top 250 MSSPs. Each of these lists has specific requirements that each MSP must meet to be included. When a company meets those requirements, it’s a good sign that you’re dealing with an experienced provider.
Another great way to know you’re dealing with an established provider is through their partnerships. Typical IT company partnerships include major manufacturers like Microsoft, Dell, and HP.
For example, a Microsoft Gold partnership gives the provider (and therefore you) access to a faster, higher level of support for all Microsoft products. To earn this type of partnership, Microsoft requires that customers verify projects that have been done related to that certification, and requires that a certain number of engineers have pertinent certifications.
Partnership levels like these show the provider’s maturity and capability.
Another benchmark of a provider’s maturity and capability is their certifications. For example, a CMMC Registered Provider Organization (RPO) will have completed training and met specific standards, proving that they have trained Registered Practitioners (RP) proficient in CMMC compliance on staff.
Ask for a list of their current partnerships and certifications, and don’t be afraid to ask how their industry recognition was earned.
7. They have a thorough, documented onboarding process
Like any new relationship, it takes time to get to know each other. The beginning of the relationship with your new IT support provider can be rocky while you’re both learning how to work together.
To shorten that learning curve, the IT provider should have a thoroughly documented onboarding process to quickly get the information they need to effectively support your organization. (Spoiler alert: it’s a LOT of information.)
Onboarding will be balanced with addressing your immediate IT support needs – after all, you wouldn’t have switched providers if you didn’t have any issues. Discuss those needs upfront with the companies you’re vetting and ask about their plan to address them.
Knowing the onboarding process and timeline beforehand will help you set clear goals and avoid misaligned expectations.
8. They take their own security seriously
This is not one of those “do as I say, not as I do” situations. Your business’s security starts with your support provider. If they don’t take cyber security seriously for their own organization, your business is at risk too.
You’ll want to work with an IT support provider that takes their own advice and follows security best practices for their team and their infrastructure.
Ask about their cyber security posture and the measures they take to protect themselves from cyber threats. A good sign that you’re dealing with a mature IT company is that they perform penetration tests, vulnerability scans, phishing simulations, employee training, and other proactive security tactics on themselves.
Related Resource: 17 Foundational Cyber Security Measures Businesses Need
9. They have a track record of success
The more experience an IT company has in providing a specific service, the better equipped they are to provide that service to your business.
An IT support company with a proven track record should be able to provide you with customer reviews that reveal the type and quality of service their clients experience.
Most support ticketing systems have a feature that allows clients to submit surveys after tickets are closed. Ask to see a cross-section of that feedback. (If they don’t have those surveys, or they aren’t willing to disclose the feedback, that’s a red flag.)
Asking to talk to a few current clients once you’re down to your final choices will also give you an idea of if your expectations line up with the support they provide.
10. They have a documented process for handling support requests
Most IT support companies have multiple options for contacting support, such as submitting support tickets through a ticketing system, via email, or by calling the help desk. No matter which methods of communication they use, there should be a documented process for handling requests.
Talk to the IT companies you’re interviewing about how you can contact support and what the support process looks like.
Here are a few questions you may want to ask:
- How are issues tracked? The ability to track every step of a ticket from submission to completion in a ticketing system keeps the IT provider accountable. It also provides you with data to make informed technology decisions. If you have internal IT staff, ask if they will be able to use the ticketing system to track the support issues they’re working on as well.
- How is after-hours support handled?: Your IT provider should always be available to solve your technology troubles. Ask if their 24/7 services are included in their support plan or if those incidents are billed separately. You can expect to pay hefty fees for after-hours support if it’s not included in the agreement.
- What happens when an issue needs to be escalated to a higher level of support? If a complex issue comes up, you want to know that it’ll be handled by top-notch IT specialists. Ask questions about the timeline and what you can expect to happen.
- How will you work with my vendors? Your IT support provider should become the point of contact for all technical concerns and work on your behalf with vendors to solve issues. For example, if you keep losing Internet connectivity, your IT service provider should troubleshoot your network and call your ISP to see where the problem lies.
- How does onsite support work? Local onsite support is typically included in support agreements, but with the explosion of remote work and vacant office buildings all over, it’s worth asking the question directly. If your provider isn’t local and you need a tech to come onsite, how do they manage that? What about out-of-state offices? Do they fly someone out? Do they use a third-party vendor for onsite help?
Take Control of Your Business Technology with the Help of an Outsourced IT Support Company
Now that you’ve gone over the top 10 tips for choosing an IT support company, you can take this info and make an informed decision when going through the selection process.
Interested in seeing how Accent stacks up against other IT support companies? Give us a call to chat with one of our technology consultants and see if we’re the right fit for your organization.