Over the last 20 years or so, IT support has changed beyond all recognition. While traditional “helpdesk” support remains a vital service component, today’s IT providers are required to go far beyond the basics of post-incident support.
Digitalization has changed the business world beyond all recognition, with technology offering operational productivity gains and allowing goods and services to be delivered in new and innovative ways. In line with the rise in these new technologies, organisations now hold greater quantities of data than ever before, necessitating strict cyber security protocols and cutting-edge technical measures.
In this new digital age, complacency leads to a fall. Your IT partner should be helping you stay ahead of the pack, by offering strategic advice on best-fit solutions that consider your compliance landscape and operational constraints. They should be instrumental in ensuring your vital systems remain operational 24/7, so you maintain your reputation as a dependable and resilient organization. Lastly, the security and integrity of your network should be their top concern, and they should offer a broad suite of technical apparatus designed to guard your data and systems against malicious intrusion. Failure to fulfil these responsibilities means they are failing to support your business adequately in an age when business technology can mean the difference between success and failure.
At this point you may be thinking: “well, I haven’t been with my provider too long so I don’t know if I can make a judgement” or “my provider hasn’t helped me with a complex project thus far, I don’t want to rush to conclusions.” More often than not however, the hallmarks of poor IT support present at the very beginning of the partnership, so it pays to know what to look out for.
Here at Centarus, we’ve helped countless organisations across the San Francisco Bay area leverage business technology for maximum reward, but we’ve also seen first-hand how limiting and inhibiting poor IT support can be. To help you reflect on the quality of the IT support you’re receiving, we’ve compiled a list of some of the tell-tale signs your IT provider might be keeping some crucial service elements from you.
Downtime is damaging your business
According to a 2014 report by Gartner, the average cost of a minute of downtime is a shocking $5,600. While this is an average figure – the figure being lower for small businesses – downtime episodes remain a significant financial threat to businesses of all sizes, with around one third of incidents resulting in immediate revenue loss.
Data from the FBI internet crime complaint center suggests that we’re particularly at risk here in the San Francisco Bay area, with Californians reporting 268.8 cyber-attacks per 100,000 residents – the eighth highest rate in the country.
Your IT partner should therefore be on top of their game when it comes to optimizing the health of your network and ensuring swift application of system updates. These 2 vital actions will ensure downtime is minimized, and should be achievable via remote monitoring and management tools which allow providers to scan networks for deficiencies and apply fixes without having to be physically present. Such systems allow minor issues to be spotted and rectified quickly, before they’re allowed to escalate into business-crippling service outages.
If your business is experiencing repeat episodes of disruptive downtime, and you fear recurring issues are the root cause, then it’s likely your provider is failing to address underlying issues and is instead applying “quick fixes.” You wouldn’t want your car to be maintained in this way, so is this approach good enough for your cherished business?
The “Basics” define the service
There is great utility in a comprehensive service level agreement: they set out expectations, and help all parties understand their basic duties and obligations. They also define the parameters for good service delivery, setting out key performance targets using quantifiable metrics. Problems arise however, when these contractual commitments come to define the entirety of the relationship.
In addition to response time commitments and uptime targets, your provider should offer advice and guidance to ensure your technology is cost-optimal, ensuring you’re never paying over-the-odds for a product or service when a cheaper alternative would do the same job. They should be helping you strategize, by deploying adaptable and scalable solutions that can conform to the future changes your business is anticipating, and should offer ‘strategic consultancy’ to help you plan ahead. They should also take a proactive lead in ensuring the security of your environment, with a range of security measures deployed as a matter of course. And lastly, your provider should be keen to understand the regulatory constraints you face, so that the solutions they provide facilitate the satisfaction of compliance obligations.
A lack of interest in your business or an unwillingness to be a strategic partner could signal a provider who isn’t in the relationship for the long haul and is instead more concerned about short-term profits.
They don’t communicate well
The IT sector doesn’t have a reputation for effusive, larger-than-life characters, but that’s no reason to tolerate standoffish communication or abrupt customer service.
Think about a time your provider implemented a significant change to your network. Did they offer to explain the changes in depth? Were they willing to assist your team in understanding the alterations? Were they instead conspicuous by their absence, leaving you to grapple with unfamiliar hardware or systems? A good IT provider will be a supportive partner, and this means offering guidance and expertise unprompted to ensure you (the client) fully understands and can fully utilize any new deployments.
It's also worth thinking about how much you enjoy interacting with them. Do they give you a dedicated point of contact who’s on first-name terms with you and your team, or are you just another faceless number on their system? Are they approachable and do they encourage you to reach out for support, or are they withdrawn and reticent when it comes to offering help?
Here in San Francisco, our business community is vibrant and friendly, so why should you suffer at the hands of an IT provider you don’t get along with?
The customer service aspect of IT support is a vital yet often overlooked service component, and is essential to ensuring you gain maximum value from the technology you’re investing in.
They’re always giving you the “hard sell”
Every tech deployment, no matter how big all small, should seek to address an acute business issue you face. This requires your IT provider to gain thorough insight into how your business works, including the operational pressures you face, the budgetary constraints that exist and the regulatory landscape you operate in. Once your provider fully understands the issue at hand they should then leverage their expertise to devise a tailored solution that addresses the pressing issue, while remaining within the constraints we’ve mentioned.
Sadly however, many providers take the opposite, product-led approach. This involves taking a familiar product and relentlessly pushing it, regardless of whether it addresses the critical issue at hand. If you suspect your provider is guilty of this, ask yourself one question: are they framing the product/service in the context of an issue I’ve described to them? If the answer is a resounding “no,” then it’s likely your provider is more concerned about making a quick buck than sourcing tailored, optimal enterprise technology for your organization.
When choosing an IT provider it’s useful to think ahead, and consider whether a provider has the capacity, ability and breadth of expertise to help you scale-up and overcome the tech challenges inherent in that process. For this, you’ll want your IT provider to offer a reasonably broad range of specializations, ideally backed up by recognized industry accreditations.
While there are some truly remarkable, multi-talented people in the field of IT, for the most part maintaining competence in a wide variety of disciplines requires a sizable team of engineers and technicians. Staying ahead-of-the curve in the world of technology is a challenge for the best of us, so it’s worth making a judgement as to whether a one (or two)-man-band MSP has the depth of knowledge needed to scale and develop your business’s technology in line with your growth ambitions.
You should also consider whether your provider has relevant, up-to-date accreditations and any experience assisting businesses in your sector. It isn’t unreasonable to ask for evidence of both.
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.