IT is Too Important to be Taken Lightly
The Knowledge Gap
IT outsourcing is a common practice with business owners and CEOs. Increasingly it has become less expensive to put your vital IT processes in the cloud and hire an outside IT firm to manage your systems and networks. Usually, the knowledge gap between a company and its IT vendor can be substantial. Stated quite simply, you know much less about IT than your MSP, so you are vulnerable to scams and charlatans. Closing the knowledge gap is sometimes impossible due to the sheer amount of learning involved. Complicating matters, the IT environment can change very quickly, and it can be hard to keep up. So, what is a business owner to do? You contract with a managed IT service provider.
How to Properly Vet Your IT Service Provider
Instead of taking a crash course in IT, business owners can look for a few tell-tale signs of whether they are dealing with a reputable managed service provider. It should be noted that business age and longevity are not indicative of quality service providers or honest and reputable business people. There are plenty of businesses that have managed to hang around because they cut corners and rip off their clients. Similarly, there are many new, hungry IT service providers that will bend over backwards to please their clients. Here are some guidelines that should help business owners navigate these waters:
Check Their Website
First and foremost, do they have a website? If not, move along. Secondly, does the website look well executed and professional, or thrown-together and cheap. While this is not a deciding factor in and of itself, it can indicate whether the service provider displays the attention to detail and willingness to do things the right way.
Check Their Reviews
The internet is an amazing place with a ton of information at your fingertips. Use this to your advantage. Check places like Google, Facebook, Yelp and Bing for reviews relating to the company you are vetting. Not everyone is going to be perfect all the time, so don’t necessarily be turned off by a single bad review. Use this information to get a sense and feeling for the type of company you are doing business with. Look in to the businesses and people that left the reviews. Get an idea of what type of businesses your candidate is doing business with. Do you best to differentiate between people leaving honest reviews and people looking to cause problems.
Research Their Staff
Between their company website, Facebook and LinkedIn, you should be able to get an idea of who works there and what their credentials are. Check to see if there is a high rate of turn over, and definitely take a look at their education and work history. This can be a great indication of the type and quality of work you can expect during your engagement.
Get Competitive Quotes
It is very important to get a number of different quotes to:
- Establish a baseline for what technical concerns need to be addressed immediately
- Get a better understanding of your companies ongoing IT needs
- Compare prices
Through this process you will find a happy place between the vendors that over sell because they are greedy and under-sell because they are lazy. Odds are you already have a decent understanding of where you need to be. You might just need some help getting there. If you feel like you are being pushed in a direction that you are uncomfortable with, it might be best to move along.
Finally, don’t be afraid to share the competitive quotes with everyone involved and observe their reactions when faced with the competitors ideas. Make sure your b.s. meter is fully engaged.
Ask for References
Any service provider that is unwilling to provide a reference or two is hiding something. Ask questions of these references about their client experience and the general health of their technical environments. Make sure to ask about responsiveness and phone manner.
Buy on Value
It is so tempting to buy on price and price alone. Remember, you are entering into a contract and will likely be doing business with your IT provider for, at least, a year to come. Over time, that lower price could end up costing your business more. Downtime and hastily planned and executed solutions sap the productivity out of businesses. Whatever you save on your monthly invoice, you will give back tenfold in lost productivity.
Listen for Plain English
Big words and technical jargon are convenient ways of sounding smart and fooling unsuspecting business owners. Don’t fall for it. Your managed service provider should aim to speak your language so you always know what they are talking about. If you can’t understand the initial conversation, odds are you won’t be able to understand any of the subsequent ones. The job of the A+ service provider is ultimately to translate technical speak into plain speak.
Get a Referral
Receiving a referral from someone you trust can cut through a lot the headaches and uncertainty you will feel when choosing an IT company. Ask the people you use who they use. See if they are happy.