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IT Support and Managed Services

IT Support
Steven Carrie

By Steven Carrie Business Solutions Consultant, Updated 17 May 2017

In the digital age organisations of all sizes are increasingly reliant upon IT hardware and services to survive. And so there is a very low tolerance for any kind of infrastructure outage, since even a minor issue can lead to damage to reputation and ongoing costs. In spite of this, downtime is surprisingly common across a range of industries. This means that businesses which prepare for worst case scenarios will be able to recover as and when they occur. And there are third party providers of IT Support Services which can make businesses more resilient, no matter what their scale.

In this guide you will be introduced to the principles of what IT Support and Managed Services providers offer their clients and how to choose between competing companies in this segment of the market. There are solutions for SMBs and large corporations alike. And this guide will assist you in connecting with the correct company and service package for your business.

IT Support Solutions: What to Expect

The best thing about IT Support providers is that they recognise that there are distinct differences between each and every one of their clients. This means that you can benefit from packages which are tailored to your needs. Businesses will be able to select a level of cover which reflects whatever skills or knowledge gaps they may currently face. And even firms without any staff dedicated to managing IT issues can be accommodated by suppliers of support services, with comprehensive solutions covering every conceivable scenario.

So what should you look for when selecting an IT Support provider? Here are just some of the features that may be appealing depending on your circumstances:

Dedicated Helpdesk Access

Most providers will offer assistance via a remote helpdesk, manned by experts who will be able to talk you through IT issues and resolve problems, whether via phone, email or instant messaging. This can be particularly convenient for addressing minor issues without needing someone to visit your premises. And with software making it possible for the helpdesk staff to take control of on-site hardware remotely in order to carry out analysis and maintenance, it can be a streamlined process.

Ideally you will want to work with a provider that has a dedicated call centre to deliver round the clock support over the phone. And to find out how effective this service is before you commit, contacting the call centre to see how knowledgeable they really are is always a sensible move.

Assistance with On-Site IT Problems

In some cases an issue may arise that cannot be fixed over the phone, in which case a support company will need to offer the option of having a specialist visit your premises in person to carry out any necessary work.

From faulty hardware to software bugs, repairs and replacements can be carried out during these visits. As a result, you will need to check that a prospective provider offers on-site support in your area, as well as guaranteeing a time frame within which solutions will typically be found.

Hosting Support

If you operate servers on-site to provide hosting for data and apps that are critical to your business, then making sure that these are running smoothly will be a daily concern. This will be even more important if you have servers on which your business’ website is hosted. IT Support firms should be able to fix any server issues that arise and also carry out on-going monitoring of server performance in order to ensure that your systems are optimised.

Regular maintenance can help to keep servers running efficiently, enabling you to avoid running out of vital resources such as disk space and bandwidth without realising. If you cannot do this in-house, then outsourcing it to a provider is worthwhile.

Data Protection and Continuity

Information is the currency of the digital age and can have a major influence on sales and marketing. Furthermore businesses are obliged to provide adequate protection for customer data under Government legislation. So when data loss or theft occurs, the ramifications can be significant. With the assistance of an IT Support supplier, you should be able to improve security, carry out regular backups of data and ensure that you have the right plans in place to provide continuity in the event of a disaster.

Everything from a firewall to protect network traffic and on-site systems from breaches, to software dedicated to rooting out viruses and malware when they make it onto your devices should be on offer. And the best IT Support companies will let you select the most appropriate combination of data protection and continuity services in accordance with your requirements and budget.

Practical Considerations of IT Support Services Procurement

In addition to the services that a provider can offer its enterprise clients, there are also a number of elements which will influence your decision. And taking each one into account will make it possible to narrow down the list of potential providers to a single suitable firm.

Responsiveness and Coverage

Providers should indicate response times that clients can expect depending on the type of contact. This includes the speed with which they will reply in the event of an emergency, as well as how quickly routine support calls will be dealt with by their staff. Guarantees of the window within which a problem can be solved are also useful, as is confirmation as to whether or not the installation of new parts will be charged additionally to the client or covered by the package.

Structured Costs

Some suppliers allow clients to take an on-demand approach to support payment, only charging them for services as and when they are required. Others offer pay monthly packages which are inclusive of access to on-site response and helpdesk features. Pre-paid packages which can be replenished with credit to spend on support at a future date are not uncommon.

However the costs of support are structured, it is necessary to go into the procurement process with both a clear budget and an idea as to the kind of assistance you will need in the course of an average year. This will let you get a gauge on how different providers really compare on price.

Size and Scalability

Try to pick an IT Support provider which has services suited to the size of your organisation. Some cater to smaller firms while others operate with the largest businesses on the planet. This means that choosing the provider with a long list of high profile clients is not always the best option for SMBs because they could find that in this environment they are not prioritised.

The appropriateness of a given IT Support provider will also be determined by whether or not it specialises in working with a particular set of hardware or software. Businesses which primarily handle Mac devices and other Apple products might need to bear this in mind, for example.

Reputation and Industry Recognition

It is possible for IT Support providers to become accredited by major hardware and software suppliers, so it makes sense for businesses to choose to work only with firms that have achieved this industry recognition. Furthermore, you can find out a lot about a company based upon the testimonials of its current clients, so check independent sites that provide details to determine whether or not a provider is likely to live up to expectations.

Ease of Transition

Moving from one support solution to another can be tricky, which is why you need to make sure that any new provider is happy with the idea of your current partner handing over responsibility. This interim, overlap period might be complicated to manage so it is good to know that the new firm will be capable of coping with any inherent challenges.

Finally, it is a good idea to ensure that the IT Support supplier you select is one with which you believe you can do business. Relationships between your own staff and the support team will need to develop over time and so there is no sense in choosing a firm that does not seem to gel with your company’s ethos and culture.

Taking into account the cost of support packages is clearly essential, but it should not be the only concern. Rushing into a deal is never advisable. Carefully weigh up the various options and you will have a far better chance of a satisfactory experience in the long term.

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