Entrusting a business to handle all of your technology is a big decision. More likely than not, you are shopping around for an IT consultant at a time when you need to make changes or upgrades to your existing technology, plus many IT providers have their own preferred vendors and way of doing things, AND loop businesses into contractual agreements. That’s why it’s worth putting in time before agreeing to anything to make sure that you are making the right choice for your organization.
We’ve mentioned this before on our blog, but your business should look at your IT as an investment, and not as a mandatory expense. It’s not the same as insurance or your electricity bill. The money that goes into your technology should result in one of two things: 1) better output in some way, either directly or indirectly, or 2) the protection or continuity of your data and business as a whole.
Before you sign a contract or agree to make massive changes to your IT infrastructure, it’s worth asking these questions and evaluating the answers of the potential IT providers you are considering.
1) What is actually covered under this agreement?
It’s definitely worth making sure this is perfectly clear. If you’ve agreed to pay for a monthly IT agreement and still ended up getting unexpected service bills, you’ll know exactly what we mean.
Before you meet with a prospective IT provider, write down a list of issues and headaches you and your staff have dealt with over the last 6-12 months. It doesn’t need to be totally comprehensive—you just need to know what you are getting into. Ask if scenarios like those are covered under the agreement or if you would be getting a separate bill.
The reason this is so important is that some managed IT providers haven’t quite matured to the point where they can safely cover all support under their monthly fee. They either haven’t made the investment in their tools, their internal knowledge base, or their technicians, and a seemingly simple problem can put them far outside of their budget. This, of course, always gets passed on to the poor business that is likely already suffering from downtime as it is (we call this “kicking them while they are down”).
With Fuse Technology Group, we don’t nickel or dime our clients for support. We don’t spin up quotes until we are discussing brand new projects, new software, new hardware, or seats for new users.
2) What are you doing to protect my data?
This is a big one. Protecting your data and the rest of your organization is a huge part of your IT. It’s so easy to lose data. Hard drives are extremely sensitive devices that are, more or less, a miracle in engineering. Yes, we can and do depend on them, but you shouldn’t ever rely on storing your data in one single location. On top of that, cyber threats and other types of disasters can pose a threat to your data.
The bare minimum answer that an IT provider should provide is redundancy. At the very least, your data is backed up on a second device. However, a more thorough approach would be backing up the data on a separate device, AND keeping a copy offsite in a secure data center. That way, if a power outage takes out multiple pieces of equipment, your data is still going to be safely stored somewhere.
3) What are you doing to protect my endpoints/users?
Your data isn’t the only thing at risk. You don’t want cybercriminals and malware to interrupt your operations. Today, cybersecurity is one of the biggest threats to small businesses and the days where antivirus is doing the heavy lifting for your security are far behind us.
Yet, more often than not, when we audit a network that is designed to be secure, we often find serious flaws that are putting the organization at risk.
Security isn’t about dropping in an antivirus and firewall and calling it a day. It starts at the very foundation of your network. Your network can be configured to prevent users from accessing too much, and requiring elevated permissions to install applications and make changes to a device. This means that in most cases, malware will run into a wall when trying to make changes to a device as well. At Fuse Technology Group, we have a whole comprehensive set of protocols we follow when setting up a network based on industry best practices as well as our own experience and expertise. Beyond that, we proactively monitor your network to ensure that threats are mitigated and prevented. Anything less will put your business at risk.
4) How can you help improve my business with technology?
To some managed IT providers, your business just looks like a bunch of dollar signs. They want to get in, install their tools, get you on some new workstations and servers, sell you hardware and software, and hope you don’t need much support.
It shouldn’t work this way. The entire point of technology is to make you more effective at what you are doing. Look at the productivity shift from typewriters to electronic computers—the benefits gained were massive. Modern technology can have similar gains if you know where to look and where to invest. Your IT provider should be able to help you with that.
Most modern efficiencies come from automating processes, integrating software, and taking data and extracting valuable information in complex ways. For example, a manufacturing company could use a combination of IoT (Internet of Things) devices to monitor inventory and specialized software to track orders to eliminate labor spent on managing your inventory. These tools could also be applied to an ecommerce system on your website to allow orders to come in online.
Technology can do a lot to help Detroit businesses, and with the right consultant, the sky’s the limit.
5) What would a second opinion tell us?
I don’t just recommend this question for your next IT provider—use this one for everybody, all the way from contractors to wedding planners! It definitely doesn’t hurt to put a new vendor or consultant in the hot seat for a minute and see if they are willing to level with you.
If a provider is worth their mettle, they’ll likely tell you that a competitor will likely run a similar audit on your network, and come up with a similar plan. There might be discrepancies when it comes to the vendors and solutions they use, but generally the big difference at the end of the day won’t be the physical technology.
We run network audit reports, and just about every IT company in Detroit can purchase the same software we use and spit out a nice 30-page checklist of problems that need to be addressed on any given network.
The difference is going to be the service. Are they willing to understand your business goals? Are they competent enough to sit down with you and actually budget your IT roadmap? At Fuse Technology Group, IT is all about making you more profitable and effective. We want you to make more money, we want to make your job easier. We know that if we do that, you’ll never feel the need to look for a second opinion.
Want to learn more? Are you looking for a second opinion about your IT? Give us a call today at 248.545.0800.