Top 3 Characteristics of Excellent IT Service Providers
I’m what you call an “IT professional.” According to popular opinion, this probably means I spend my days in a dark closet full of servers, and I’m simply better at googling stuff than your average computer user. But in actual fact, there’s a lot more to a good IT pro. I got my start early on, and have always been interested in all things tech, but I started doing IT professionally by helping local businesses upgrade from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. That was a long time ago! Back then when I managed email it was with CompuServe, and later AOL. When I installed software for my clients it was usually from an 8-inch stack of floppy disks. Hardware upgrades involved being comfortable taking apart PCs with no YouTube to watch other people do it step by step. And staying up to date with the latest tech happenings meant subscribing to several print magazines. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then! Today’s IT professional has a lot more resources at hand, but also has a much wider range of issues to be proficient in.
Why does this really matter?
Engaging a good IT partner will save you a lot of time and money, allowing you to do what you do best without having to keep wasting time on figuring out how to fix your email, or reconnect to that printer that always goes offline. But more importantly, a good IT partner can eliminate inefficiencies in your processes and systems, get you migrated to modern tools, and make the process smooth. An IT professional stays up to date on new technology so you don’t have to!
Many small or startup companies don’t necessarily have the budget to hire a full, in-house team as an IT department, and this is where Managed IT services are really helpful and cost efficient. Even if you do have one or two people working in IT for your organization, it’s still a great idea to have a Managed IT Service company that can provide uphill support for your team. I’m going to go with the assumption that you understand you need an IT partner for your business (no matter what size your organization is), so in this blog post I want to give you some advice about what to look for in a managed IT services partner, and how to get the most out of your partnership.
The most important part of an IT professional is the word “professional.” Yes, I know your nephew is “really good at computers” and that it’s cheaper in the short term to ask someone to “help out,” but in the same way you wouldn’t want an amateur lawyer to take on your lawsuit, or you wouldn’t choose someone who’s “really interested in cancer” over an oncologist, you shouldn’t risk the security and efficiency of your company to someone who “dabbles with computers.” When choosing an IT partner, here are some qualities you should be looking for:
Provides Cross-Platform Support
While 90% of all personal computers are running some version of Windows, many companies also have Macs on their network—often for marketing or creative design departments, or as laptops for employees who travel—or even Linux devices in the way of web servers or firewalls. A good IT professional is comfortable handling all of those cases, or at the very least knows where to get the right help in those areas. Many computer savvy people know their way around Windows, and possibly know enough to be dangerous in the Control Panel, or maybe even in the registry, but when it comes to providing support for your business you need an IT partner that knows how to manage servers, whether Windows Server 2003 through 2016, or an Ubuntu web server in Azure. You need an IT partner that can configure your workstations, whether Mac or PC, and get them working smoothly with each other. Be very cautious of anybody who is locked into one system or another. A die-hard Mac fan may give you a dozen reasons to convince you why you need to convert all your workstations to iMacs, but it may not be in the best interest of company considering QuickBooks requires Windows, and a slew of other things that need to be thought through in a situation like this. A long-time Android user may insist on only using Android phones in the company to save money, but not consider the security implications that could mean, or possibly risk losing sensitive information. Make sure your IT professional is comfortable across all platforms, to be able to use the right tool for the right job.
Something that should throw up major warning flags for you is if the IT professional you’re partnering with isn’t keeping up with current tech news and trends, and is scared to move into the future. If you’re IT pro is still using Windows 7 or worse, Windows Vista or XP, and is complaining about “this newfangled” Windows 10, that’s a warning sign. You need an IT partner that is excited about the announcements coming out of Redmond, Cupertino, and Mountain View, and is figuring how those new products coming from Microsoft, Apple, and Google can help you and your business the best. Your IT partner should be experimenting with the beta releases of new software to iron out bugs and anticipate issues so that you don’t have to! And an easy indicator right now is how comfortable your IT partner is with cloud technology. The writing’s been on the wall for some time now, and it’s quite clear that ‘The Cloud’ is where everything is going; Microsoft’s Azure, Amazon’s AWS, Apple’s iCloud to name just a few of the current cloud platforms. A real IT professional is ahead of the game and already implementing cloud and hybrid on premise/cloud solutions.
Uses Industry Standard Tools
Granted, this is a short list and by no means comprehensive, but lastly, the other big ticket item you should be looking for in an IT professional is whether they’re using industry standard tools. Yes, it’s possible to get a cheap no-name email service, and a low-budget IT partner will gladly get you set up on one. But what happens when your email goes down in a critical time and the email server has a “figure it out on your own” tech support policy? Instead, your email, your website, your security, your document storage, your antivirus, your network, your Wi-Fi etc. should all be taken care of by certified professionals using industry-standard tools… and they should be aware of what is the industry standard. Certification is important because it shows that the IT partner you’re working with really knows what they’re talking about, and are not just clicking around to figure it out. But industry standard tools—like Exchange, SharePoint, Office 365, Adobe Acrobat Pro, Intuit QuickBooks, etc.—are important because they have a proven track record, quality support, and the software is robust. Enterprise grade isn’t just consumer grade with a higher price tag, it’s high quality hardware and software that has the features designed for business use cases rather than consumer. For example, Windows 10 Enterprise has built remote support and virtualization features that Windows 10 Home doesn’t. An Enterprise SSD (solid state hard drive) may not seem any faster than its consumer grade equivalent, but it’s purposely over-provisioned to prevent catastrophic failure of your data. Enterprise routers may seem like they’re doing the same job as a router you can pick up at Best Buy, but they also do malware detection and have intelligent logging and routing systems in place. Although, these features might not be something you’ll realize you need right away, a good IT pro you that can trust will get you set up with the right tools. Even though it might be tempting to jump on free tools and services to save money, the truth is that you often get what you pay for. You need solid solutions that work out of the box, not workarounds.
In my next blog, I’ll continue this subject by talking about how to get the most out of your IT help. If you have an IT partner that doesn’t seem to be nailing these qualities I listed, by all means, give me a call!