How I.T. Support Works
You’re probably highly reliant on your IT systems, you need them to be running smoothly in order to carry out the work you need to do on a daily basis. As your business has grown you’ve bought new computers, added printers and scanners, maybe even purchased a server. You’ve now got a bit of a conundrum; you haven’t got the time to be the ‘go to’ person for the IT in the business and you certainly can’t afford a full-time IT Manager.
Related: Why Outsource I.T. Support?
You’re aware of the alternative. You can outsource your IT Support to an IT Company or Managed Service Provider. It’s a fixed cost each month and it’s a weight off your mind. But how does it actually work, what should you expect and how much is it likely to cost?
Reactive or Proactive Support?
MSP’s basically work the same way. You’ll hear a lot about proactive vs. reactive support and how one provider is different, or offers something unique. We’ll come on later to what ACTUALLY makes the difference between providers but don’t believe the hype when it comes to the rest it’s largely, erm how to put this politely….. bulls*** fabrication!
The way ‘reactive support’ works is outlined below. It’s also commonly known as break/fix. What happens is this:
Something goes wrong
You call a helpdesk and describe the problem
The helpdesk responds and provides either remote or onsite support
The issue is diagnosed
Issue is fixed
You get on with your day
Now a lot of providers are claiming this is the ‘old’ method and that proactive support is completely different, revolutionary and amazing. It’s very clever; using various bits of software and hardware the MSP monitors your systems and fixes potential problems BEFORE things break. Amazing eh!?
So, when you go on holiday your system will be ready with a new, super strength password already set-up and digitally implanted in your brain because the MSP has read your mind, knew you’d forgot your old password in the whirl of tequila and flamenco that was your week in Marbella and has been ‘proactive’.
Proactive support is great, we’ve examples of when monitoring systems have spotted problems early and fixes have been put in place with little or no downtime, potential disaster is averted. However, the MSP needs to be big enough to have invested in the solutions to start with, needs to have enough suitably trained staff to programme the hardware and software correctly and interpret the information that they spit out, and have the resources to carry out the pre-emptive fix.
No proactive system, no matter how good, will eradicate the need for reactive support. A large proportion of the issues that we encounter originate with user error – machines cannot read minds (yet!) so reactive support is here to stay, no matter how MSP’s package it.
The proactive approach is expanded upon by some providers with offers of strategic planning meetings, consultancy and all sorts of other peripheral services. Before being seduced by these ‘extras’ consider if they are what you want, or if they are going to take up time without adding value.
So if all MSP’s deliver largely the same service, in broadly the same way, then how do you decide who to choose as your IT Support provider?
The simple, biggest differentiation between MSP’s. The people who deliver the support. You can be pretty sure that technically they’ll be up to scratch – MSP’s don’t employ people who know nothing about computers. It’s the ‘soft’ skills that make the difference, things like communication skills, organisation skills, and common sense.
Related: Why Managers Need I.T. Support?
Is bigger better? Very good question and one that’s impossible to answer. A one or two man band will get to know your business and it’s systems really well, you’ll be one of a small number of customers so you’ll have a nice, personal relationship and you’ll speak directly to the top technician when you call. Of course, that’s if you can get hold of them rather than the generic call answering service that they use. And they’ll fix you problem quickly – provided that the problem falls within the scope of knowledge they have, which as there are only two of them is limited, and no other customer happens to have a higher priority issue. Going back to the proactive elements of the support they’re unlikely to have the equipment, skills or time to provide a proper package of maintenance and monitoring – this can cause major problems if, for instance, they miss a software patch.
At the other end of the scale there are the big boys. These are essentially call centres with scripts and checklists. Getting through to someone with actual technical knowledge can be a challenge and as for someone knowing who you are and what you do, just forget it.
In between sit people like us. 10 technical staff, a wide range of knowledge, with a small enough customer base to have a personal relationship and understanding of your business, but big enough to ensure you can get through to someone. Small enough to care, big enough to cope (we’re trying it out as a tagline, what do you think?) But we’re not perfect; we have higher overheads so we might well be more expensive than the micro-MSP. Even with a larger headcount we still get busy and sometimes things don’t get fixed as quickly as you (or we) would like – holidays, sickness and paternity leave impact greatly as they probably do on your small business.
So who do you choose?
Whoever fits you best. Talk to a few providers, of varied sizes, and work out what’s the most crucial elements FOR YOU. Accept that, as with everything in life, there are compromises to be made and decide which one’s your willing to make. You’re heading into a long-term relationship and you’re trusting the company you choose with systems that are absolutely vital to your business. We’d recommend you visit your shortlist and meet the actual people you’ll be talking to. We’d also say whatever you do don’t choose purely on price – the lowest price and the best value for money ARE NOT the same thing.
Your IT provide flexible, affordable IT Support solutions for businesses of any size. For a free, no-obligation conversation about the solutions that we offer please give us a call on 0115 7980704 or email email@example.com and we’d be delighted to meet with you.