Finally ready to relieve yourself of the IT woes that burn time and create headaches for you? Smart move! No doubt you have done your homework and already know why outsourcing this stress is nothing but upside for you and your business. (But if you’re still not sure outsourcing your IT is right for you, check out our latest blog post and see if the signs are there that it is time for a new IT service solution!) So now it’s time to talk tech with a few different managed service providers (the industry term for outsourced small business IT service) to determine what the best solution is for your specific business needs. As you do for any meeting, you want to be prepared. So we have put together this list of potential questions that the folks you are interviewing will want to know. (Side Note: if the potential firm isn’t asking these questions, that is a pretty good sign that they aren’t the right fit because they aren’t really doing their homework. Just our two cents!) Not only will you impress with your knowledgeable and readily available answers, but more importantly you will also save time by making sure that the meeting is productive and informative for both parties. 1.What does your business do? Well, duh. If they don’t ask this question (or already know the answer!) then feel free to head out for an early lunch. 2.What are your long terms growth plans? Maybe you don’t know exactly, but part of the value of partnering with someone for your small business IT is that they can help you think strategically about both short and long-term needs. For example, if you are going gangbusters and think you will double or triple in size in the next 2-5 years, talk to your IT firm about this. Growth is awesome, but if you forget to also grow the IT infrastructure supporting it, it could set you back. In fact, failing to plan for growth is the #1 IT mistake that small businesses make. 3.What are you looking for generally when it comes to your IT support? Remember that this is an interview so this is the time to really lay out your expectations of an outsourced partner. Realistically, what are your expectations for response time? Do you require 24/7 support? Better to put these cards on the table at the outset and avoid forming a partnership with a company that just isn’t the right fit, and that goes both ways. 4.What are you doing to support your IT currently? So you’ve talked big picture already. But now you need to start to get into the details. This one shouldn’t be too hard to answer though, by going through your existing support model. Maybe right now “support” means Googling the problem or texting your cousin’s next-door neighbor with a 911 , or maybe you are already working with an MSP and just aren’t happy. Whatever the case, lay it out there so they can truly evaluate your needs and also perhaps provide some insight for you into the “you don’t know what you don’t know” IT functions – those things that are critical but live in the background. These tend to get ignored if your IT support person is not truly an IT expert, has limited availability or is just overwhelmed with the daily emergencies of non-working computers, printers, or Wi-Fi connections. 5.What made you reach out to us? No tricks, just a question! If you got this company’s name from someone else, go ahead and let them know. If nothing else it will prompt some pleasant chit-chat. Remember that if you end up hiring them you are essentially hiring a staff member (the IT guy down the hall…who just happens to not be down the hall), so you want to like interacting with them as much as assure yourself that they have the solutions that you need. 6.What are your pain points? Is your email always going down and no one knows why? Does the idea of data loss keep you up at night? Or maybe you have mostly remote staff and need a plan to support them? Maybe you are just sick of not being treated like a priority. This is partly where this meeting prep will be most useful because the more specific you can be on what your IT headaches are, the more productive the discussion will be. It will also give you the opportunity to determine if this firm really has what you need, based on how they indicate that they can resolve your particular pain points. 7.If you worked with or currently work with another provider, what is it that they are or are not doing that prompted you to shop around? Don’t be put on the defensive by this – this isn’t the potential partner trying to get dirt or gossip on a competitor. They don’t want to know that Tech A is always late, or Tech B doesn’t know what he’s doing. Honestly, they really don’t care. They want to know fundamentally why you are unhappy because they need to determine if they have the expertise, and solutions that WILL work for you. Managing your respective expectations will be critical to a successful partnership. 8.How is your deal structured? Hmmm…it may or may not get to this on your first date, but if one of the reasons you are shopping around is because you feel like you are getting nickel-and-dimed by your current provider, then say so. The majority of managed service providers (like Corsica Tech) are providing services at fixed monthly costs so…problem solved! 9.How many people are part of your team? Yes, you should know this. 10.How many work sites do you support? Maybe a trick question, maybe not. You will get brownie points for knowing your stuff if you mention here any employees who work remotely. While it may be out of their kitchen, they likely will also need support so they count as a site of their own. 11.How many computers/laptops/devices do you support? This isn’t necessarily the same as the number of users – if you are also supporting employees’ smartphones, tablets, etc. then include those details. 12.How many servers do you have? If you don’t know, it’s one detail you can find out prior to the meeting. If you end up talking about pricing it will be one less variable in the way of getting to the cost. 13.How is your email system set up? Do you have a separate email server? Email is universal so unless your business operates from beneath a rock, email is your staff’s primary means of communication both internally and externally. As such it is a critical business tool and a priority to review with any company that would potentially support it. They may even have helpful suggestions on a cloud-based email solution such as MS Office 365. 14.Do you use any line of business applications? Chances are you have at least one industry-specific application that you use to run your small business, and that you utilize their help line or onsite support for questions or issues. But chances are even better that once you partner with an IT firm, those questions will be directed to that support person first. So any IT service provider should want to be aware of any and all applications, ensure that your support plans are in place, and be able to troubleshoot with the service team for that app, when required. While the above list is certainly not going to be an exact reflection of your unique discussions with any IT firm or firms that you meet with, it is a solid guide that provides a good baseline for what you can reasonably expect to be reviewed. To that end, following it will help you be better prepared to have a smart and productive conversation as you make the important decision on who to partner with to manage your small business IT service. Because if a firm isn’t asking these types of questions, then they aren’t asking the right questions to be able to provide real solutions for your business. Corsica Tech’s managed service program provides an affordable, reliable solution for businesses, allowing you to focus on your core business and not the IT solutions that power it. For a fixed monthly fee, Corsica Tech will monitor, manage and maintain your IT systems, ensuring that your network is running at peak efficiency. If your goal is to relieve yourself of constant IT headaches, then Corsica Tech is your solution. It’s like having that go-to IT professional down the hall – only better For more information or to schedule a free IT assessment, contact Corsica at 877-367-9348 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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