There’s Only One Way to Choose an IT Firm
People ask me about how to evaluate a prospective IT firm, and I get it. For some business owners, it seems daunting. You don’t know anything about this stuff. It’s very specialized.
Given all of this, choosing an IT firm is often a challenge for a small business owner. But it shouldn’t be. It’s really not that hard. Here are a few tips on how to make the right choice.
Asking for a referral
I run an IT firm. It’s not a typical firm. We implement customer relationship management software. We sell the software, customize it and teach people how to use it. We don’t do the typical tech stuff like security, hosting, fixing printers, etc. But my clients need firms that do this stuff. Because I’m involved in this world, clients frequently ask me to recommend a good IT firm in our local area, and I have a list of known and reliable providers that I’ve used over the years.
And that’s it. That’s how you choose an IT firm. You ask for a referral or two from someone you trust. Period.
You shouldn’t rely solely on email campaigns, ads and other marketing. Instead, you should rely on the experiences of people you know.
Ask other business owners. Ask people you know in the IT business. Ask your software vendors. Ask customers or suppliers. Every business has an IT firm that they use, and I’ve found that most of the owners of these businesses either love or hate their IT firms! They will be quite transparent about what they think about their firm. You’ll get lots of honesty.
Choose a firm that covers the necessities
So, what does a good IT firm do? In a nutshell, they make sure that your data is secured, backed up, and accessible, and that your software is updated. They’ll also be on top of all of your employees’ devices—mobile or at home—to ensure they’re updated and secure. They’ll offer service contracts to support any remaining hardware left in your office like printers.
Today’s IT firms provide a critical service. Most of them now are partnered with the big tech hosting platforms provided by Microsoft, Google and Amazon. Smaller firms are partnered with larger managed service providers that in turn are also partnered with the tech hosting platforms.
Important questions to ask
Even after you receive a positive referral, there are still a bunch of standard questions that you should ask of any prospective IT firm. Here are the top 10 I recommend:
- How long have you been in business?
- What is included/not included in your support contract?
- How is support provided and what are your response times?
- Who are your staff and what is their experience?
- What’s the monthly fee?
- How accessible and available are you when I have a problem?
- Where is my data stored?
- Where are my backups?
- How are you protecting my data?
- Can I visit your facility?
These are good questions to ask. But here’s the thing: Even if the answer to the above questions are great, you still don’t know for sure, do you? You can’t really check up on these things. You’re taking them at their word.
Asking questions is important, but it’s just as important to verify the answers. There’s no better way to verify what your prospective IT firm is telling you than to get the scoop from an actual client of theirs.
Talk to IT firms’ clients
When it comes to ultimately choosing an IT firm, here’s my advice: Rely on the people you know.
Speak to someone you know that uses the IT firm and has been using them for enough time (a few years, at least) and can confirm the level of service they received and how satisfied they are.
There are some services you can buy merely on face value. But the firm responsible for your company’s data shouldn’t be treated that way. Perform the due diligence and ask the questions. And in the end, trust in those you know to tell you about their honest experiences.
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