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Hey everybody, it’s Gene Marks, and thanks again for joining me on another weekly episode of the Hartford Small Biz Ahead podcast. This is where I offer just a little tip or advice to help you run your business better. And, here’s my advice for this week, or the question I wanted to answer because it comes up a lot. I’ll be writing about this too, by the way. It’s how do I hire an IT firm? What questions do I ask an IT firm? How do you go about doing this kind of stuff? Now, what makes me qualified to answer that question? Well, I run an IT firm. It’s not, it’s not a typical IT firm. My company, I have a 10 person company outside of Philadelphia. We don’t offer manage services or security or we don’t fix printers.
We implement CRM systems, customer relationship management systems. That’s a little niche that we do, but we rely a lot on IT firms. I get referrals from IT firms and in the Philadelphia area where I’m from and other places around the country and our platforms need good IT support overall to run good. So, I’m into it. I mean, I’ve been in the IT sort of community for a long time. I know a lot of the players and I know the good, the bad and the ugly. So, people say like, so what questions should I be asking? You know? Yeah. There are a lot of questions you can be asking. I mean, there are a few that come to mind, of course, you want to find out how long they’ve been in business.
You want to find out what’s included or not included in their support contract, or how do they provide their support and what their response time is. You wanna find out about their staff if you can, or what their fees are, of course, and how accessible and available people are if there’s a problem. You might wanna ask where your data is stored, if it’s outsourced somewhere else, and who does the backups and what kind of security they have at protecting your data and even visiting their firm and their facility is, these are all things you can be asking an IT firm. When you eventually find one, when you’re evaluating it, how do you find one? Well, I got the answer for you because the answer’s pretty simple.
You don’t hire an IT firm off of a billboard on the expressway and you don’t hire an IT firm based on a unsolicited email that you received, or some marketing campaign. You don’t do that. These people provide such a critical service for your business. They provide all of the, I mean, my God, it’s your data for your company. I’m sure there are plenty of good firms that are out there that do that, that’s fine. That’s their marketing approach. But man, when people ask me how do I find an IT firm? I’m like, you, you gotta get a referral. You got to… you gotta get referenced in from somebody that you know. So, when you’re at your next meeting of your industry, an association conference or your chamber of commerce, or if you know anybody else that’s running… every business uses IT services, every business does.
So you need to ask, you should ask around half a dozen people, maybe more, who do you use and are you happy with them? And what do you use them for? Trust me when I tell you, you’re gonna get a lot of a lot of different answers, because people are pretty outspoken when it comes to their IT firms. I mean, they love ’em or they hate ’em. So they’ll be pretty upfront with you. But just know that like the best resources, the best place to find an IT firm is via a reference from somebody that you know, period. Because those are the ones that are living and breeding and eating the dog food. They’re the ones that are existing with their existing IT firm. So they’re the ones that are gonna tell you the truth whether they like ’em and if they’re reliable on what they think or not.
You don’t wanna rely on something that doesn’t come from a personal observation. So you really wanna do that. Now, once you get that recommendation, you can ask some of the questions that I mentioned before. And you can certainly visit them. You can get other references as well. But get references from people you know. Choose other businesses or business owners. The other thing to bear in mind is, things have changed a lot since, I started out in the business. You don’t have to be… it doesn’t have to be a local IT firm. It’s not necessarily that people have to actually come on premise, although sometimes that might be something you need if you have a lot of hardware on premise, like servers, printers or wiring and whatever that needs to be looked at.
So that’s fair enough. It can be somebody that’s, that’s not local. You can keep that in mind. Most of my clients tend to hire somebody local for that reason, because they do like people to come out to their building or their offices and look at their setup. The other thing to also keep in mind is that they’re IT firms and they’re a managed services firm, and there’s a difference. Okay? A managed services firm takes all of your data and your applications and hosts it for you. And they provide the security and they provide your access to it and they provide the data backups and they generally put their stuff, sometimes they put it on their own servers if they’re big enough. But some of the biggest players out there, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, this is where, the data’s stored and so a managed service provider will take responsibility for everything and even provides you with some support remotely.
A lot of IT firms, like a lot of friends of mine that run IT firms locally, they have partnerships with managed service providers. So they contract with the business. They’re the face, they’re the ones that provide the support. They’re the ones that will come on site and fix stuff and rewire and check your printers and whatever. But then whatever data that you’ve got, they arrange to have it hosted by a managed services firm, somewhere else. Some of these firms, the IT firms, they do it themselves. They have their own spot on Amazon web services where they host their client’s stuff, but they’re usually just an intermediary between the client and whoever’s hosting the client’s data, but they take ownership of everything and provide the services and the support around that.
The other thing also, so you know, is when you differentiate, an IT service firm… there’s IT service firms and then there’s software service. So if you’re using a popular software application, your IT service firm probably isn’t capable of providing support for that application. You need to also be working with a software vendor, your vendor or a partner that’s officially with that. Like, we sell software and we’re a partner, we’re a Microsoft partner. So the Microsoft products that we sell, we’re certified in. So, we don’t do anything with the IT infrastructure company, but when it comes to the application that we sold our client, we service that. So there’s a few moving parts when you’re dealing with IT firms. You’ve got your software, your managed service provider that’s literally hosting your data.
You’ve got the IT firm itself who’s providing support for your data, as well as managing any type of problems or issues and break fixes and things like that. And then you’ve got your software support and service firm who is providing those kinds of services for the specific software application that you have. In the end though, when it comes to that IT firm in the middle, you need to find them through a reference. What I’m telling you, you gotta get referred by someone you trust. That is my advice. So how do you find an IT firm? Talk to people who are using and get some recommendations from them and then start testing them out. And then you can ask ’em some of the questions that I provided at the top of this segment. Okay? Hope you found this information helpful this week, and I hope that answered your question. By all means, respond back with any questions that you have to me and I’ll be more than happy to help you and guide you along the way. My name is Gene Marks. You’ve been listening to another episode of the Hartford Small Biz Ahead podcast. If you need any more advice or tips or help in running your business, you can visit us at SmallBizAhead.com or SBA.TheHartford.com. So thanks for listening and we’ll see what we again next week. Take care.
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