Outsourcing is one of the fastest growing trends in the small business world today, and for good reason. By outsourcing parts of their operations, small businesses almost always save money and often end up with higher quality service than they’d be able to afford otherwise. When one considers overhead and training associated with internal hiring, the amount of expertise that can be had for a given budget is much greater with an outsourced partner than a full time employee or team of employees. This is especially true in the field of IT, where quality technicians are paid high wages and it’s nearly impossible for an individual to be an expert in everything.
The only downside to the outsourcing model occurs if a business enters into a lengthy contract with a provider that isn’t a good fit. Unfortunately, as technology continues to become more essential to everyday business practice, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for small business owners to know what to expect from an IT provider and which of each provider’s merits are reliable indicators of outstanding service.
Here are some surefire qualities of a good small business IT provider:
- Flexibility – Above all else, in order to properly serve the small business community, an outsourcing company needs to be flexible. Choose a provider that’s willing to customize a service plan for you, both in terms of pricing and level of service. If you only have a handful of computer users at your company, it may make the most sense to pay your provider at an hourly rate on an as-needed basis. On the other hand, if you’re supporting a dozen or more users and have more frequent needs, it can be much more cost-effective to operate on an unlimited-service basis at a flat monthly fee. Even with an unlimited service plan, however, you should never have to pay for service you don’t need. For example, if your backup service is managed by a third party company and you don’t need your IT provider to touch it, have them deduct that service from their price. One-size-fits-all does not equate to cost-effectiveness in the small business marketplace, and a good provider will be willing to work with you to find the best plan for your specific situation.
- Responsiveness – One of the biggest advantages of having a team of IT guys on your side instead of just one or two is the ability for them to respond to issues quickly. That doesn’t mean you should expect your IT provider to get to everything instantly, but you should be able to expect them to clearly lay out their standards for responsiveness and meet those standards consistently. The bottom line is this: every minute a technology issue prevents you or one of your employees from working is a minute that your business is losing money. When you’re shopping for an IT provider, you need to be able to trust that your provider can be responsive to the degree that your company requires – no matter what. (more…)