What should a small business expect from their IT support company?

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Companies are more and more reliant on their IT and unless they have the luxury of an in-house IT person, they are therefore dependant on their IT Support Company to ensure everything is working well and is up to date.

There is a fine balance between a pushy IT Company and a Complacent one. If a company feels they are always being told to upgrade, purchase new Technologies etc they can feel they are being pushed to spend money for the sake of it. But if they never hear from their IT Support company, apart from when there is an issue, they feel they are not being looked after and why wasn’t the issue spotted before it happened or why are they running on old outdated equipment.

The line between pushy and complacent is slim but there are some things that a Company should ensure they are receiving from their Support Company on a regular basis.

These can range from daily tasks of checking the backups have run, Servers or PCs need updates to the Server needs upgrading and PCs replaced.

Daily / Regular Tasks Carried out Remotely, outside of issues raised by Users:

  • Daily checks on backups are essential and should be part of your support contract
  • Regular checks on the physical server hardware. This can be done through Server management software remotely and ensures Hard Disks are not failing or the power supplies are in good order
  • Server updates. These need to be checked and then a scheduled out of hours’ time agreed to install and reboot
  • Anti-virus is running and updated on the server

Checking PCs can be done by monitoring software on the network, but if this isn’t available random checks on PCs to ensure they are up to date and anti-virus is running properly should be done. Alternatively, a How To can be created by the Support company and sent to all users.

IT Companies are always looking to help and improve systems but sometimes money is an obstacle, but it still worth knowing what else is available to ensure that some new technology isn’t out there that would significantly improve productivity.

If you are wondering if there is something that might help a particular problem, it is always worth asking your IT Support Company. Sometimes things that at first don’t seem to be IT related can be. There are many new Tools and products that are available that Companies may not be aware of. Remember most IT Companies have many clients so they could have come across the problem you are having before.

For instance, a lot of Companies have moved to Office 365 for their emails and may well be using OneDrive to access files when they are out of the office. OneDrive is very similar to Drobox, so we are all used to using it. However, as part of Office 365 there is a more centralised system called SharePoint which may be better for a Company’s needs. Global signature software can also be bolted onto your Office 365 account. This ensures all users have identical signature files with all the correct company logos etc.

So, keeping your IT Company informed about how you would ideally like things to work can be very useful. Even things like telephone systems now integrate with IT Systems, so before purchasing a new system check with the IT Company to ensure your current system / internet line etc can cope.

Many Support Companies will be pushing to ensure PCs and Servers are no longer running either Windows 7 or Server 2008. This is not their fault as Microsoft have decided not to support either of these systems from January 2020. Sadly, this means either upgrading or replacing current kit for new kit. Nothing will really change but if you want to stay protected it is essential to do these upgrades.

Your Support Company should not only be aware of your current setup and ensure it is running smoothly but they should also be aware of your changing business needs and help with implementing systems that can assist in these needs. But it is also incumbent on you to communicate these needs to your Support Company. Therefore, a close working relationship and mutual trust is essential.

There are many types of Support Contracts but the most popular for IT Companies is the fixed monthly contract that covers all support calls and visits. Projects or additions to existing networks are usually then charged on top of this fee. So, is this the best for Customers?

Some, not all, IT Support Companies tend to start off well and fulfil all their promises, but after a while revert to only reacting rather than being proactive.

As much as anything else this is because they have signed you up for the annual contract on a fixed monthly fee. The more support they give the more it costs them. So, in an ideal world they won’t hear from you.

The problem is that because they are not actively in-touch they don’t know what’s going on and therefore miss opportunities to assist you in your business.

So, is a fixed monthly contract a good idea?

In some ways yes as it means a client knows what their monthly bill will be, irrespective of how many problems they have. The problem comes when the Support company shy’s away from giving support in order to keep the “support” bill low.

You may have an excellent relationship with your IT Support Company, and they may give you regular calls to check how things are going and whether you have anything they can help with.

But if not and you are charged on top of your monthly fee for “Account management” calls or meetings to discuss future projects or ongoing issues then maybe it is time to change.

Jay Hine,  IT Director, Optima Systems