How To Find The Right IT MSP For Your Business
IT Support for Small Businesses and Firms
When do you think about your IT support? You may only think about it when you’re experiencing IT problems, need advice, don’t understand how something works, need help for something outside your skill set, or when you’re worried you’ve been hacked. IT is a cost of doing business that, badly managed, can cripple your business.
However when you partner with the right Managed Service Provider (MSP), IT support becomes an invaluable resource that helps you get the most out of your small business or Firm. Good IT support frees up your team to focus on their day to day jobs and removes the costs and distractions of ongoing problems. Proactive IT support ensures you and your Accounts department don’t fall over backwards every time you receive an Invoice from your IT Provider!
IT support from the right MSP is like background music. Something that runs in the background, makes your workday more pleasant and efficient, and that you can choose to ‘turn up’ any time you want more from your IT Partner.
How Do You Get Good IT Support?
A couple of things effect the quality and level support you can receive.
- What you need.
- Technical capabilities.
- Delivery capabilities.
What Support Your Small Business or Practice Needs
Do you know what elements within your Firm or office requires, or may require, technical support? Things such as managing the lifecycle and security of your IT devices, servers and photocopiers; data backup; internet connections; hosted (cloud) services; line of business apps; online conferencing; phones and phone lines; auditing software licensing and helping employees who don’t like or understand technology?
What level of support do you need to manage those things? Whatever you decide impacts your schedule. Aside from capital expenditure decisions and future planning, what level of involvement do you want to have in handling day-to-day IT issues? Do you want to be over every conversation and in charge of troubleshooting IT and communications, or would you prefer someone else to handle that?
Perhaps you are currently the ‘go to’ person for IT issues in your business, or someone else in your team. Maybe you use someone you can call ‘whenever’ to fix matters as they occur, such as your local ‘IT geek’, a friend of a friend, or a family member of an employee. Whatever works for you, please keep in mind three important factors.
- If you’re the owner or manager and ‘go to’ person, is fixing IT issues the best use of your time?
- How often are computer problems occurring? Do they keep happening? Are you losing more money in downtime than you’re saving by not having managed IT support?
- (Please, this one is really important!) Please make sure your confidential and crucial business data is being backed up! If you don’t have a data backup system, please order one today! If you do have one, please make sure now that your backup system is working! Don’t accept assurances, get proof! Backup systems that don’t work, or exist, is one of the most common problems hurting Australian SMBs. Click here for my foolproof tip to check your backup system is working. NB: If something goes wrong it’s not ‘backup’ that matters – it’s being able to recover your data! (Learn how the company I work for, itro, monitors backup and disaster recovery solutions to ensure they are always working.)
The fast-changing, interconnected world of IT and communications and critical need for cyber security means anyone looking after your IT must have more than ‘a knack’ for technology. Whatever size business or Firm you operate, the complex landscape of IT and cyber security means you need a wide range of technical skills supporting you and protecting your team and data.
Unless your business or Firm is at a size or profitability where you can maintain your own in-house team, by far the cheapest way to access specialised skills is to partner with a Managed Services Provider. For a set monthly fee you get a team of engineers who will efficiently manage your network, cloud services, cyber security, hosted systems, conferencing, internet and telecommunication connectivity, data management, manage third party vendor relationships, and more.
I work with a team of skilled engineers and I can assure you, not one of them says they prefer to be solely responsible for managing every aspect of a business’s IT needs. Good IT support relies just as much on being proactive as being technically capable, especially with cyber security. Having a team of experienced engineers to bounce ideas off is ideal for proactive management!
Just as systems and devices need to be constantly updated to stay ahead of cyber threats, engineers need to make sure they are keeping up to date with new tools and technologies. The Australian Government has provided some excellent questions you should ask of your Managed Service Provider to assess their personal commitment to cyber security alertness, and what level of protection they are offering to your systems. Refer to the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s Questions to Ask Managed Service Providers here.
Remember how I referred to IT support as ‘background music’? Background support that makes your workday more pleasant, and that you can choose to ‘turn up’ whenever you want more from it.
For IT support to be easy, an IT provider needs to deliver services in a way that works for you and your team. Common delivery capabilities to keep in mind when choosing your IT partner include:
- Hours of support
- Cost of Support
- Easy to Understand
- Remote Support
- Proactive Support
- Right Fit
Hours of Support
This is a simple one. Check that your Provider’s standard operating hours match with yours. Also check what support is on offer outside of your Provider’s standard operating hours (eg, after hours, public holidays, etc), and what extra charges may be incurred during those times.
Something else to consider is whether you need 24/7 IT support. For example, if your business operates across multiple time zones, paying for 24/7 support makes perfect sense. For others, limited benefits may not justify the added cost.
Your choice of IT partner to manage your systems and security can also impact your need for 24/7 support (please refer to my below comments under ‘Proactive Support’).
Cost of Support
Whilst some businesses like to work on a reactive ‘break and fix’ relationship, the best way to avoid bill shock and transfer responsibility of managing your IT to your Provider is by having a Managed Services Support Plan with a set monthly fee. Caution: If you’re being asked to sign a contract to engage a Provider’s services, always check the fine print first (please refer to ‘Related articles’ links at the end for more information and tips).
The company I work for, itro, manages IT support services for businesses and Firms ranging in size from single practitioners, less than 5 employees and up to 100 employees through our two different Managed Support Plans.
itro also offers a unique Self-Managed Support Plan designed for inhouse for IT Departments, called ‘itro Self-Serve’. This Plan is designed specifically for in-house IT Managers with limited resources. We ensure you retain full ownership and transferal rights of your systems and data. To learn more please contact email@example.com for more information.
Easy to Understand
One of the simplest ways to make IT support easy is having a local team of engineers who speak plain English. I recommend you find out where a Provider’s first call support responders are located. Are they local or at an overseas call centre? Whilst overseas call centres offer the benefit of crossing time zones, local engineers have the benefit of understanding the local culture of your team and operate under the same Australian business laws as you.
2020 has been a brutal year for teaching businesses the importance of being able to run their operations and team remotely, and reports indicate that Australian businesses are unlikely to ever return to ‘normal’ office staffing levels. It’s imperative that your devices, systems, communications and security can be managed remotely, whenever required, and that your IT Provider can supply your remote workers with reliable internet, hosted phone, conferencing and collaboration tools.
itro’s talented, local engineers can give your team the support, internet connectivity, cyber security and cloud tools they need to do their jobs from any location.
Proactive support takes into consideration your existing and potential business needs, saving you money! For example, 24/7 support. Proactive management clarifies if you need 24/7 support, identifying why or what type of issues happen outside standard working hours and the most cost effective way to support your team.
Managed IT Services is meant to transfer the risk of managing IT from you to your Provider. The importance of receiving proactive support and advice cannot be underestimated. itro’s engineers are constantly alert to identify new opportunities, threats or potential issues that could impact Firms and businesses we partner with. Our focus in on helping you understand how you can take advantage of or avoid issues before they become a costly problem, such as data theft.
An integral aspect of effective IT support is having a good working relationship with your Provider. For that you need an IT Partner that resonates with your business culture and values.
What you value as a Practice Manager, business owner or internal IT Manager shapes your view of ‘success’, and what type of partnership an outsourced provider can have with you. For example, if you are looking for ‘cheap and cheerful IT’ using consumer grade hardware and unlicensed software, or willing to overpay for subscriptions and services under the guise of ‘24/7 support’ and complex contracts, itro is not the MSP for you.
Think about things that you value in your existing working relationships – why they work so well – and use that to create an outline of what values you want an IT Provider to live by in working with you.
The Right MSP for Your Small Business or Firm
Hopefully I’ve provided you with some practical ideas, links and tips on how you can get the right IT support for your business or Firm. Partnering with the right MSP (Managed Service Provider) gives you a team of engineers responsible for maximising the IT efficiency and cyber security of your small business or Practice. Having the right support frees up your team to focus on what they need to do to keep your business profitable.
itro has been managing IT for businesses and Firms for over two decades. We do not lock our clients into fixed contracts. We want our clients to stay with us because they love the service we provide, not because they are contractually trapped.
If you’re looking for a new IT Provider, unhappy with the service you’re currently getting or just discovered your data backup isn’t working, please give itro a call on 1800 10 3000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today. We’d love the opportunity to help and work with you.