According to a 2021 report by Statista, 59% of US SMBs outsourced their IT to third-party providers, making it the most commonly outsourced business function. From cost efficient access to a wide range of skills to the ability to focus on your core competencies, the practice of outsourcing IT carries numerous benefits, which can be easily realized by finding an IT partner who prioritizes the needs of your business.
Choosing an IT support provider is one of the most consequential business decisions you can make. In an age when technology is so intrinsically linked to business success, it’s vital to choose the right IT partner who’ll rigorously maintain your IT environment and help to align your tech to your business objectives. Unfortunately however, not all IT providers are created equal, and without due diligence you could find yourself lumbered with a sub-par provider who hinders your business’s growth.
Based in the heart of the San Francisco Bay area, Centarus helps dynamic businesses stay ahead of the competition through technology that aligns with business goals and support that provides fast and professional issue resolution. If you’re a San Francisco business looking to switch IT provider or begin your IT outsourcing journey, we’d love you to choose us, but we know you’ll want to weigh up your options first before making a decision. To help you make an informed choice, here are 5 important factors to consider when choosing an IT support provider.
Clear, Transparent and Competitive Pricing
IT support providers offer their services via a variety of pricing mechanisms, which can make it hard to perform back-to-back price comparisons. The best option or your business depends on a variety of factors, including your support needs, budget and the complexity and scale of your network.
If you require entry-level support for a small number of endpoints, hourly pricing, whereby you only pay for support and services your use, can be a cost-effective option. On the other hand, this pricing model can make it hard to accurately forecast IT spending, and the quality of service received can be highly variable, with lack of accountability a common complaint.
The fixed fee model provides a range of technical support and other managed services, typically for a pre-agreed fee charged monthly or yearly. With multiple IT support and management functions consolidated, this option ensures your environment is being comprehensively monitored, maintained and supported, keeping downtime to a minimum. Fixed-fee support tends to lend itself to higher service standards, with dedicated account managers often assigned to ensure customer satisfaction.
No matter which route you go down, it’s vital to examine the small print. Even on the most all-encompassing contracts it’s not uncommon to find chargeable extras contained in the depths of the terms and conditions. Ensure you’re aware of these before you commit so you can be confident the service will meet your expectations.
Bespoke Solutions and Services
No two businesses are the same. You need your IT support provider to reflect this, by showing a propensity to mold their service offering to meet the varying needs of their clients.
For example, if you intend to share IT management and support functions between your internal team and an external provider, look for a support partner who’s willing to accommodate this arrangement – you don’t want to be paying for services you don’t need. “Co-management” indicates a willingness to work in a supportive, cooperative manner, whereas comprehensive support services that cover all aspects of IT management are often defined by phrases like “your outsourced IT department” or “your virtual CIO.”
Similarly, try to find a provider who’s willing to work with you to develop tailored solutions to your longstanding business challenges. A provider who’s keen to formulate a “IT strategy” or an “IT roadmap” is always an encouraging sign, as is a broad range of technical proficiencies, as this indicates the capacity to develop complex, custom solutions.
A Comprehensive Cyber Security Offering
Cybercrime is on the rise both domestically and globally, and research shows small companies are just as likely as large corporations to be targeted. Choosing a provider that offers a broad range of managed security services as part of, or alongside their main support offering, is a great way to ensure your business has adequate protections in place.
Firstly, ensure they have a system to protect your endpoints no matter where they’re located. Some providers use extended detection and response solutions which provide environment-wide protection covering applications, cloud services identities and endpoints. Such solutions use AI to detect irregular behavior and have the ability to apply automated countermeasures, providing protection that surpasses traditional antivirus solutions.
Next, make sure they offer managed network security. Firewalls remain an invaluable network security device, capable of intercepting inbound malware and restricted network traffic to trusted corners of the web. A security-conscious IT provider will offer a managed network security service capable of scanning inbound content for threats and blocking traffic from suspicious sites.
Lastly, look for a provider that offers business continuity and disaster recovery services. This should center around a managed data backup service featuring automated backup scheduling and point-in-time data discovery for easy document retrieval.
SLA-backed Quality Commitments
Most IT providers promise a lot, but not all are willing to provide a concrete service quality commitments. A service level agreement (SLA) provides clarity for all parties, and partitions responsibility between the service provider and the service receiver (your business). It should precisely outline the service(s) to be provided, the service standards expected to be achieved (giving reference to relevant performance metrics) as well as escalation procedures (what happens if key targets are not met). Key target metrics the SLA should feature include response times, service availability (uptime), operating hours and resolution times.
The SLA will help you manage your expectations from the outset and create clear boundaries for you and your provider to work within.
The Experience and Expertise Your Business Needs
Depending on the sector you operate in and the nature of your business, finding an IT provider with experience in your field could prove beneficial. This is particularly true if you operate in an industry with a high compliance burden, such as healthcare, financial services or education.
An IT provider that understands the regulatory challenges, commercial pressures and operational hurdles you face will be able to develop solutions to assist you without requiring constant guidance. There’s also a greater chance they’ll be able to support any specialized, industry-specific software you use, and they’ll be able to foresee the technical challenges you’re likely to face based on their past experience.
Choosing the wrong IT provider could have serious repercussions for your business. From lackluster support that decimates productivity, to inappropriate strategic guidance that causes your IT to diverge from your business objectives, the effects can be damaging and profound. By taking time to choose the right IT provider you’ll benefit from a partnership that brings tangible value to your business.
We help San Francisco businesses leverage technology for maximum reward
Operating from the heart of the San Francisco Bay area, our multi-talented, 20-strong team has the skills and experience required for the most ambitious projects. Our strategy-driven IT support is guided by our extensive experience helping organisations in some of the most technically challenging and compliance-laden sectors, with a desire to allay operational challenges, address regulatory hurdles and overcome commercial constraints central to everything solution we implement. Get in touch today, and find out how proactive, strategic IT support from Centarus could transform your business.