Hiring any IT vendor is tough. You place your bets, roll the dice — and hope the company you hire delivers on their promises. But that risk is multiplied when you invest in an All-in-One (AIO) IT Partner. This partner, who has their hands in almost every aspect of your company’s technological infrastructure, touches everything from your network and hardware to your cloud to your technological roadmap. And once you give your provider ownership over multiple tech stacks, it’s often difficult to change partners. Without proper handover, “firing” an IT vendor is like plucking out the middle row in a house of cards — everything topples over at once.
You can prevent these kinds of company-wide disruptions by hiring the right company right from the get-go. Of course, that’s easier when you know what to expect from an AIO partner. The questions below will help you interview potential candidates and get the information you need, before all the chips are down.
What Are Your Security Procedures?
When you invest in an AIO IT Partner, you’re betting on their security practices in a big way. Lax security can leave your business vulnerable to data breaches, leaks and intruders. Cyber threats like these already cost businesses around $3 trillion a year, a number that’s expected to double by 2021.
That’s why you want to know exactly what your AIO partner is doing to keep your business safe. A good provider offers frequent patches and updates, as well as regular security audits and comprehensive reporting. They should be able to walk you through their standard response procedure for emergency events such as a ransomware attack. They should have your back through thick and thin.
Do You Offer On-Site Service?
It’s not always easy to describe IT problems over the phone. You want an IT partner who is willing to visit your workplace — particularly if you have hosted equipment on the premises.
On-site visits don’t necessarily need to happen all that frequently; these days, a great deal of problem solving can happen remotely. But knowing you have that option will help you rest easier next time you run into a technology head-scratcher.
Do You Offer Planning and Consulting?
A true partner sticks with you through the years. Likewise, an AIO provider should have more to offer than just rudimentary services for the here and now. Partners should help your business plan for its technological future as well.
That means they work with you to design a plan for future integration. They offer suggestions to keep your technology competitive. They can advise you how to streamline IT processes to make work more efficient and secure. And they know the next up-and-coming innovations on the scene. Basically, they’re a partner, not a vendor.
How Do You Stay Up to Date on the Latest Technology?
Speaking of innovations, how do you know that an AIO partner has really got their finger on the pulse? In today’s fast-paced world, the distance between technological innovator and industry dinosaur is ever-shrinking. Thought leaders come and go seemingly in the blink of an eye.
It may not be enough to quiz potential providers on the latest technological buzzwords. Like a great pop star, a tech company should be able to reinvent itself. At Taylored, we have been at this for over 35 years. We’ve seen the industry transition from the first 28K modems to huge clouds capable of storing terabytes of information, and we still pride ourselves on bringing our clients top-tier technological solutions and cutting-edge products like Fluidmesh Networks, Unified Communications solutions and ultra high-definition security cameras.
What Kind of Reporting Mechanisms Do You Have in Place?
How does your managed services provider offer insight into the daily operation of your networks and systems? How do they report that information to you?
As a CIO, business owner or tech manager, it’s important that you stay up to date on all aspects of your business’ operation. And that means receiving both high-level and in-depth reports — and being able to discuss the results and what they mean for your business.
Will You Work with Other Vendors?
Let’s be real: No provider, no matter how large, is the answer to all your needs. A good provider is just as happy to work with additional IT vendors as they are to offer you the services themselves.
On the flip side, many AIO IT providers rely on external partnerships with manufacturers and technicians to offer services they can’t provide in-house. The key word here is “partnership,” though. A good AIO IT company will be forthcoming about their partnerships so that they can promote those services and products. Beware of any company that seems to be subcontracting their core competencies — it’s a bad sign for that business’ longevity.
Who Will Be Assigned to My Account?
When you commit to a single provider partnership, you should get some extra perks for your commitment. Each AIO partner with Taylored is assigned a Virtual CIO: One account manager you can turn to any time you have a question, no matter what it is.
A good provider gives you a number to call for issues large and small. And your concerns are answered by a real human with whom you’ve formed a lasting relationship. That way, you get treated like the individual you are, not just the next call in the queue.
How Busy Are the Managers Assigned to My Account?
Other problems can arise when your account manager is overworked. This is especially true if you’re running a small business, without the leverage needed to get attention from overbooked account contacts.
Ask your provider to commit to a response timeframe in the service level agreement, so that you can guarantee your questions won’t get lost in the shuffle. And pay close attention to your first interactions with account managers and sales team members. If it takes a long time for emails to be returned or for contracts to come through, it’s a sure sign that you’re not being treated like a priority.
How Frequently Do You Perform Backups?
Backups are your first defense against accidental deletions, hacks and malware. Any provider you go with should be regularly backing up server data so that you have recourse in case the unthinkable occurs.
In fact, not only should your managed services provider be regularly backing up your data, they should also frequently be verifying backups — essentially testing that backups are still working — and restoring the data to root out file corruption. Ideally, providers should be verifying backups weekly, or monthly at the very least. That way, you know your data will be there when you need it the most.
How Will You Help Me Achieve My Company’s Financial Goals?
Money talks — and when it comes to your business’ IT services, it speaks volumes. Hiring an AIO partner is a way to reduce technology costs by rolling multiple services into one contract. Partners know this, and so they should be able to speak to their role in your business’ cost reduction plan.
The partners that earn your business should be the ones who can quote cost savings in their billing model. They should back up their value with case studies and client testimonials that speak to their actual ability to save your business money while offering you high-level technology services.
Essentially, an AIO IT partner is the full package, capable of handling any technology request while keeping your business objectives, financial goals and long-term plans in mind. You can learn more about AIO partners and their role in the technological world by downloading our eBook “Hiring an All-in-One IT Partner.”
An IT provider who has your best interests in mind? Now that’s a safe bet!