You’re a business owner. You’ve built your company from the ground up - or are at least the one responsible for holding it all together. You didn’t get this far without a firm grasp of your business’ goals and finances. So, it makes sense that you look for the most cost-efficient options when it comes to your outsourced support. Whether it’s your internet provider or your janitor supply guy - money matters.
Unsurprisingly, one of the most common questions business owners ask us is “What do you charge for your services?”. This question is always asked by someone who has never had to pay a professional for IT support - internal or external. They’re also typically surprised by the answer. If they don't have a firm grasp on what their company needs in relation to IT support, it's hard to put a value on those needs. After all, when your technology works, it's easy to believe it will continue working without issue. This isn’t the case as systems require constant, behind the scenes monitoring and maintenance to ensure they stay up and running (and secure).
The better question is really “What will I get for my money?”. The difference in cost is directly related to the quality of it. Businesses who are used to visiting the Geek Squad or Jim’s Computer Repair for IT support may get their computer wiped of viruses at a low cost, but they are, frankly, unprepared to learn that these services are nothing but a bucket of water on a burning building: unsustainable and basically useless.
Any managed service provider, or outsourced IT support, will bring a hose to the firefight and put the flames out - but only the best MSPs can protect that building from ever catching fire.
Except the building is your business’ data and the fire is, well, all disasters - natural and human alike.
That metaphor may have gotten away from me, but the point remains: reactive IT support (like what computer repair shops provide) is always going to be more unpredictable and nerve-wracking than proactive IT support. You can, and should, plan for disasters in your business instead of only reacting to them when they occur. IT support needs to be comprehensive and disaster preventing - not barely holding itself together.
Unfortunately, our industry is not well-moderated. Anyone can tell you that they provide outsourced IT services, and they can give you any level of service they see fit. In this industry, it’s just as important to be wary of exceptionally cheap services as it is of exceptionally expensive ones. You pay for what you get, here, so be sure you know what you’re getting.
The Hidden Costs
Poor Customer Service One of the biggest complaints we hear from prospective clients about their IT support is poor customer service. They are unresponsive, never answer their phones, and don’t follow up. Maybe they don’t have the manpower to put in the effort, or maybe they just don’t care. Unfortunately, this is impossible to know before you sign a contract with a company. In fact, you likely won’t know until you’re months into your agreement. The only way to be sure this isn’t the case when researching your local IT support choices is to ask for testimonials and references. The MSP should hand these over readily, and it’s a giant red flag if they don’t.
Nickel and Dime Hourly Work Pretty much every outsourced IT company has an hourly rate. This isn’t inherently bad, but you should be sure to ask what the hourly rate is used for. Some companies use this hourly rate for any and all work, or they’ll sell you something called “block time” which is essentially the same thing. This always works in favor of the IT company instead of their client’s. This block time is often used for things other than the time spent directly on your issue. The technician may use hours of this time to research your problem and educate himself on your dime. They could be doing anything with this time, really - and it inherently provides the IT company a free-for-all with your cash. Instead, look for a managed service provider that uses the all-inclusive model. Pay one, unchanging monthly fee for any and all work done for your business. You will pay more for this model, but you’ll also get your money’s worth instead of being kept wondering.
Band-Aid Solutions Patchwork solutions work great--until they don’t and start costing you dozens of thousands. It’s best to avoid the crises altogether, but cheap IT companies prefer to turn your network into an imitation of Frankenstein’s monster instead of doing things the right way. It’s easier and it’s cheaper, but it’s also dangerous and, frankly, stupid. With real IT experts looking over your technology needs, you won’t have a mess of a network. You’ll have finely tuned and fully functional systems that seldom need repairing.
Natural and Human Disasters One thing you never want in your business is unpredictability. But, disasters happen and you need to be prepared to recover. While recovery for natural disasters like floods and fire comes with standard insurance, the same cannot be said for human disasters. Disgruntled employees, uneducated employees, or even straight-up hacking can all ruin the business you built. Viruses like Ransomware don’t download themselves, after all. They must be facilitated by a human. Clicking on a phishing link takes less than a second, and it can devastate any company - no matter its size. This should be the most important topic of discussion when interviewing an IT support company. It’s called Disaster Recovery, and if the IT company doesn’t have a concise, understandable, easily implemented recovery plan? Run (don’t walk) straight out of that meeting.
Today, business and technology are intertwined. You can’t have one without the other, and those who cut corners on IT by hiring cheap and inexperienced professionals aren’t protecting the most fundamental parts of their business. At the end of the day, it’s cheaper to prevent than to replace. Even the smallest of IT problems can snowball into an expensive nightmare that threatens your company’s very existence. So, next time you start looking for an outsourced IT company, ask the right questions and make a fully informed decision.