10 things you should always ask your IT Service Provider

June 1, 2012 MaryAnne Rode

Lately I have been writing more and more about IT service providers and choosing the right one. It occurred to me that some guidelines for what to ask any prospective IT provider may be helpful.  As your company’s dependency on technology grows, your need for IT support grows along with it.

Listed below are ten questions you should always ask any prospective IT provider before signing up with them:

  1. Who provides your support?  Is it in-house or outsourced?   This is important to know as a consumer in terms of response time, familiarity of your issues and general comfort that your support issues will be dealt with in a timely manner.
  2. How often do you come on-site?    You will want to know if the provider tends to do on-site or remote management of your systems so that you can plan for either physical visits or inaccessibility to your systems at certain times.
  3. How many clients do you currently support?   This question will give you an indication of a few things.  The first is the ratio of staff to clients.  The second is how well established a provider is in the field.
  4. What types of software and hardware have you worked with?    This is a critical piece of information in terms of knowing whether a provider can truly support your IT needs.  If they have worked with the software and hardware that you use on a regular basis, their support and management of your systems will be that much stronger.
  5. What’s included in your service offering?    It is always important to know what you are getting for your money.  Make sure that if you are comparing providers that you are comparing apples to apples.
  6. How long will it take to get up and running with your services?    If there is going to be a long implementation period you would want to know that and prepare for that.
  7. How often will I get billed?    For planning purposes and a general understanding of how their billing works, this is important to know.
  8. If I want to stop using your services, how much notice do I need to give?    Any time you are entering into a contract with a provider, it is important to know what the contract terms are and how you would get released from the contract if you needed to.
  9. How safe is my data?    With so much focus on security these days, it is critical to understand how someone who has access to all your data is going to keep that safe and secure.
  10. Do you know my business and industry?     As mentioned previously, IT providers are plentiful and what really distinguishes the best ones is whether they are familiar with your business.  By understanding your business and the tools that you rely on (hardware/software) as well as industry terminology, an IT service provider can truly be a valuable resource.