Last week we discussed the three options a business has when looking for computer support, briefly mentioning the five options available when outsourcing to a competent consultant. Today we are going to dig into the five types of outsourced IT help.
1. Vendor Support:
This is the telephone support provided by the big software and hardware vendors, including Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, Apple and many others. For those that have tried getting technical support from one of these guys or a big box store, you know how frustrating it is.
Most of the vendors don’t provide support for free, and if they do, it is typically very limited (i.e. only via email or web response forms). For those that are lucky enough to actually connect with the support group, you’ll end up traversing a maze of phone options before speaking to a real human being, who is typically a customer service representative with no technical abilities. More often than not, they are located in another country, and are likely difficult to understand. Every time you call, you speak with a different person with no knowledge of your business and what you are trying to achieve.
If you can overcome that first hurdle, you’ll quickly run into a huge source of aggravation or finger pointing. If the issue isn’t proven to be directly related to their hardware or software, they aren’t going to help you solve the problem. Maybe the cable isn’t connected correctly. Maybe your firewall isn’t setup properly. If your issue is even partially related to another piece of software or hardware, you’re on your own.
2. Computer support phone lines:
Like a prepaid cell phone, for a set fee you’ll get a toll-free number to use for 24/7 IT support. On the surface it sounds like a great deal, but it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.
For the home user with simple software problems and questions, this is an excellent option. However, do you really want to take a junior level technicians advice for your mission critical data? Also, there are times when an issue needs to be reviewed on-site. These services are best when delivering basic computer support, not troubleshooting server problems, assisting with data recovery, or providing proactive maintenance.
3. The just getting started or part-time IT technician
Typically, this is a person who left a job in a corporate IT department, was fired, or was a victim of downsizing. Whatever the reason, they’ve decided to start their own business with the dream of making piles of money providing IT support to local businesses.
For the most part, they will try to do an excellent job for your company. He/she means well, will often work on the cheap, and even be referred to you by a colleague.
Even though they have every intention of providing you with outstanding service, you need to consider a few things before you hire them to maintain your computer network. Since most of these guys work from home, there is no back office staff to handle your requests. When you call, you’ll get:
- A spouse, friend or someone else who will take the message
- No answer or voicemail – just ringing
- The technician on his mobile phone – usually at another client site, in his car, or taking care of some bit of personal business
The major issues with this type of outsourced IT support is response time and availability. When you have a major network crisis, you need to know that you can get in touch with your IT support consultant and get a call back or a response immediately. What happens if your IT consultant leaves town for a week or has to go to the hospital? What if two of his clients experience a major network issue at the same time? These scenarios frequently happen with computer support technicians who have yet to establish best practices and support systems in their businesses. If they are supporting your network on a part-time basis, you can expect that your emergency is going to take a backseat to their full-time employer.
4. “Major Player” IT support companies:
This outsourced IT provider is the antithesis of the one-man-band. They have many technicians, multiple locations and a back-office support crew. Some are global organizations. These first-rate IT support companies can be trusted to do an excellent job for you.
Then what’s the issue? Pricing, scheduling, availability. In most cases, these organizations are so busy servicing their large, profitable clients, they may not give the SMB the service, support and responsiveness that you are looking for. If you lead a large business, with a large IT budget, you’ll do great with this type of company. But, if you’re a SMB with a conservative IT budget, this is not likely to be the best option for you.
5. Independently owned computer consulting firms:
You are probably thinking, “Aaron, of course you’re going to recommend this option! This is what you do!”, but please let me explain myself before you dismiss my advice.
I’ve been in this industry for a long time and I have a considerable amount of experience working with other computer support consultants. I’ve seen the horror stories first hand, hearing the complaints that business owners have with all of their IT service vendors. Based on that experience and the feedback from others like you, I believe the best option for the small business is an independently-owned IT consulting firm that is locally owned and operated.
Who you choose to support your network should be large enough to provide some sort of back office support and deliver the response times you need, but small enough to provide a personal service and add value to your business. They must be able to deliver consistent and professional IT support services.