In 2023, it goes without saying that having a robust, reliable IT infrastructure is an essential part of maintaining and growing your business. Every single business in the world relies on IT, from cutting-edge robotics and AI to the credit card machine at your local deli.
But not all businesses have the expertise or resources to manage their own IT infrastructure – and that’s where outsourced IT providers come in. Outsourcing IT services can help businesses focus on their core competencies while leaving the technology management to the experts.
However, finding the right IT provider can be a daunting task, and – considering how important it is to have dependable IT service for your business in 2023 – it’s a job that requires a good amount of critical thinking and evaluation.
Have no fear! While it can be difficult to find the right IT provider for your business, it’s far from impossible. There are plenty of good IT providers out there – you just have to know how to separate a good IT provider from some kid with a laptop.
In this article, we’ll help you ask the right questions to ask when evaluating a possible outsourced IT provider for your business.
1. What are Your Core IT Services?
The first question you should ask when evaluating an outsourced IT provider is about their core IT services. This single question can save you a ton of time when trying to find an IT partner for your business, as it might immediately disqualify a provider from consideration.
IT service providers often offer a wide range of services, from network management to cybersecurity to software development. Knowing their core services will immediately help you understand if they even provide the services you’re looking for – or maybe they don’t specialize in a critical area for your business.
Either way, you need a partner that is an expert at whatever thing you need for your business.
Some follow-up questions include: what do they specialize in? What do they do most often? And how does that expertise synergize with your business needs?
2. What Are Your Credentials?
Considering the tremendous value of IT to businesses in the year 2023, it’s absolutely crucial to evaluate an IT provider’s credentials and make sure your company’s entire digital operation is in safe hands.
Size your IT provider up like a butcher inspecting a cut of flank for quality. ALWAYS ask for their certifications and experience as outsourced IT providers. Verify their credentials and check their references.
Any IT provider worth their salt should have a proven track record in delivering IT services – reach out to former clients! It’s worth taking the time to contact them to get a more objective view.
3. What is Your Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
An SLA defines the level of service an IT provider offers and outlines the responsibilities of both parties. It’s a contract, plain and simple, that governs the relationship.
It’s absolutely, completely, 100% essential to understand the terms of the SLA before signing anything. Go over it with a fine-tooth comb, then have your lawyer go over it with a finer-tooth comb, too.
A good IT provider will be amenable and work with you to establish an SLA that works for both of you. Clarify that with them while you interview.
Some small things – always ask about their response time, uptime guarantees, and penalties for not meeting SLA terms.
4. What is Your Approach to Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity threats are only increasing – how many privacy breaches have we seen in the last few years from companies as big as LinkedIn and Yahoo? Simply put, you pretty much have to have cybersecurity in 2023.
When talking to a potential provider, always ask about their approach to cybersecurity in general. Ask about their general security policies, incident response plans, and disaster recovery procedures. Ensure that they have the necessary measures in place to protect your business from cybersecurity threats.
5. What is Your Communication Process?
Communication is key to the success of any business relationship. Ask about their communication process, including their communication channels and frequency.
A good IT provider should have an open line of communication and be responsive to your queries and concerns. You need to know that your business’ operations are protected even if there’s an emergency – and that means being able to contact your provider in times of need.
6. What is Your Scalability?
Businesses grow and evolve, and, considering you’re reading this article, you probably want to grow and evolve, too. As your business grows, your IT needs will shift and grow, too (duh, you think), so make sure you grill your IT provider about their ability to handle more load as you get bigger.
Make sure you ask questions about scalability that are specific and precise to your company. Otherwise, you open the door for them to, well, maybe not tell the full truth about their capabilities. Any real IT provider will be able to provide specific ways they can help you grow.
7. What is Your Pricing Model?
Cost is – obviously – a crucial factor when evaluating an IT provider. Many businesses, especially small businesses, operate on a razor’s edge, balancing their costs and revenue perfectly. IT is no exception to this model.
When interviewing, again, be as specific as possible in your questions about their pricing model, including their pricing structure and any hidden fees. Ensure that their pricing aligns with your budget and that you have a clear understanding of the costs involved.
Push back where needed. You have to balance the needs of your business with the cold financial realities of IT providers.
8. What is Your Onboarding Process?
The onboarding process sets the foundation for a successful business relationship. How will you transfer ownership of your IT infrastructure over without breaking anything?
Ask about their onboarding process, including their implementation plan, timelines, and training. Ensure that their onboarding process aligns with your business’s requirements.
9. What is Your Customer Support Process?
Technical issues can occur at any time, and it’s essential to have a reliable customer support process in place. Though we covered this earlier, it’s important to reiterate.
Ask about their customer support process, including their support channels and response times. You need to be able to be in contact with your IT provider, in case of an emergency or IT-related disaster.
10. What is Your Exit Strategy?
It’s crucial to have an exit strategy in place in case things don’t work out in any walk of life and getting an IT provider right is no different. This is just business – don’t make it personal. Discussing an exit strategy for both parties ensures less risk for both of you.
In particular, it’s worth asking about your data retrieval – how do you get your stuff back? – as well as seeing if there are any termination fees or hidden fees associated with ending your relationship.
These are only a few of the (more important) questions you could ask your IT provider. You could really get as granular or as general as you’d like.
It’s important that, at the end of the day, you feel safe and protected as you select a company to handle what is basically your whole operation these days (yes, your digital infrastructure is that important). Don’t be shy – ask any and every question that could be relevant to your business and your needs.