Choosing a new IT company? Here’s 12 questions you need to ask:

1. Does the IT Support Company have Engineers Local to Your Main Office?

Onsite support is a huge benefit when working with an outsourced provider. Choosing a local IT company means you’ll get faster service if an onsite support issue arises.

Example: Your firewall fails and needs to be replaced. If your IT support company isn’t within an hour of you, they may have to find a third-party to help. That can add time to the job, and mean extended down time for your IT systems

When a provider’s resources are nearby, dispatching an engineer to resolve your issue is quicker.

2. Does the IT Support Company Have Experience with Your Industry?

Technology varies by industry. A provider who knows the ins and outs of your industry’s technology is preferable.

Here are a few questions to ask: Do they service other companies in your industry? Have they been ranked or earned awards in your industry? Are they certified in your industry’s technologies?

3. Does This IT Support Company Have Experience Supporting Your Company’s Software/systems?

What software(s) or application(s) are most critical to your business? Does the IT provider have experience with most or all of them?

Two things to keep in mind though:

1) A business with custom applications shouldn’t expect an outsourced IT company to know how to use their software. But they should be able to triage and troubleshoot any problems.

2) Software development/programming/website development and IT are different fields. You shouldn’t ask your developer to run your IT, and your IT personnel shouldn’t be expected to create or modify your software.

4. How Fast Can You Expect Service When You Need It?

Every company has different processes for supporting their clients – response times vary greatly. Ask for their Service Level Agreement (SLA) or response time metrics, which encompass things like:

  • How fast do they respond to issues?
  • How quickly are issues resolved?
  • How long will it take if you need onsite support?

The proof is in the numbers. Anyone can say they’re “fast,” but can they prove it? They should be able to back up their statements with facts and real-time numbers.

5. Can the IT Company Handle an Organization of Your Size?

Is the IT company large enough to support all your needs? Ask how many engineers they have on staff, in different departments, and ask about their support processes.

Example: Do help desk technicians double as sales people? Or, if there are more phone calls than help desk engineers available, how do they handle it?

6. Can They Scale to Meet Your Needs?

In business your IT demands will change as you grow. Can your provider provide the services you need now, and in a few years’ time as you scale up?

7. Do You Meet Their Prerequisites?

What makes you a qualified contender for their services?

Some IT companies require businesses to have a certain number of workstations and/or users to provide support. Or, some require IT infrastructure to change to their uniform standards. Having standards isn’t a bad thing, but you need to know what you’re signing up for in advance.

Make sure that you are a good fit for each other BEFORE you sign up

8. Check for Certifications and Partnerships

Making sure they’re a reputable organization is your responsibility. Typical IT company partnerships include major manufacturers like Microsoft, Dell, and HP. Their staff should also hold certifications of their own. Ask for a list of their current partnerships and certifications.

Most of these partnerships have different tiers. A Microsoft Gold partner for example in a particular area may be more experienced than a Microsoft Silver partner.

9. Does the Agreement Work in Your Favor?

There are many types of contracts in the outsourced IT world. Make sure your expectations line up with services they offer.

Look for an IT support company with both proactive and reactive service options. Note that with a proactive support type of arrangement, the IT company’s incentive is to NOT have IT problems. A win-win for both of you!

Consider this to avoid surprise charges or feeling duped. Be certain of what you’re signing. If you have questions or concerns, a good IT company will happily explain every part of the contract.

At the end of the day, selecting the best IT support company is about doing your homework. Using this list can narrow down your search in a hurry, but make sure you know exactly who you’re getting into business with before signing the contract.

10. Ask for some reference companies to speak to

Everybody knows that there’s no greater measure of a company’s ability to deliver than through referral so always ask for several references. You don’t have to call them all but if they can provide a few to select from it will instantly give you confidence.

And for those you do speak to, here are a few potential questions you could ask:

  1. Do they deliver what they promised?
  2. Are they responsive and easy to get hold of?
  3. Do they communicate well – letting you know what’s happening with issues?
  4. Do they stay within the projected budget?
  5. Would you use them again?

11. Ask them to show you current live metrics of their helpdesks performance

When using an IT support company, it makes sense to see how they use technology to be efficient and provide a great service. If they don’t have a live metrics of their helpdesks performance, customer satisfaction, customer wait times are they likely to be the best IT support company to deal with?

12. What range of services do they offer?

You may only need an IT company for specific tasks outside of the scope or skills of your existing IT department. Do the services offered match your requirements? Do they provide the services you might need down the road? These can range from database management, system monitoring, cross-platform integration, security, phone systems and more. As your business expands, so will your IT needs. Find a partner whose work can scale with your small business.