Updated: Sep 14, 2020
In this day and age, technology is a key component of any business. If you're like any small to medium-sized business owner, chances are the majority of your IT needs are outsourced to an IT service provider. The degree of service provided varies based on your needs and they could include:
Technical Support - these are the folks you can call if your computer isn't working, or you have a one-time issue
Technical Projects - you call upon these specialists to deliver new solutions or to upgrade an existing technical function
The market for IT service providers is wide and varied. So how do you know you're getting what you pay for? These are some of the signs to look for to help you identify if it's time to re-evaluate your IT Service Provider:
1. Delayed support and services, repeatedly missed deadlines
Do you call and wait for a long time before someone answers the call? After the call is answered and your issue is logged, is it a long time before the issue is resolved? Do you wait months and months before a project is completed?
These could be indicators that your service provider is not adequately resourced to support your business, or there are time management issues within the firm that need to be addressed.
2. Reoccurring issues
Do you have to keep contacting your provider for the same issue over and over, even if every time you call, the issue is resolved quickly?
Reoccurring issues not only waste your time having to keep calling back for the same issue repeatedly, but it could be a bigger indicator that your provider does not have the adequate technical knowledge to do a deep dive to find the root cause. Or, they do not have the technical resources to commit the time required for a root-cause analysis. Worse, they do not care to truly improve your environment because more calls likely equals more of your dollars.
3. Over promised but under delivered
Do you get the feeling that when you became a client your provider sold you the rainbow and then some? Now that you've paid your bills for awhile, that relationship has dwindled?
They may have initially busted their butts in getting new hardware sold to you and installed but now it seems they can't even return a phone call?
Any service provider that has a tendency to love-bomb you at the beginning, hard sell you a stack of equipment on the premise of "standardization", and then gives you the cold shoulder is not a relationship you want to keep investing into.
4. Reactive and not proactive
Do you feel like the only time you receive contact from your provider is when you call them about an issue? Potentially an issue they should have notified you about instead of the other way around? Did you lose data to a security breach but found out later it could've have been mitigated by a properly managed security patching schedule?
Reactive support shows a lack of foresight and strategy and a general lack of concern for your business.
5. Problematic data recovery
Security is a multi-layered defense system. No matter how secure, a small percentage of customers always gets hit.
The important thing after a data breach or compromise is how quickly can your data and business operations be recovered. Two metrics called RTO (Recovery Time Objective) and RPO (Recovery Point Objective) identify how quickly you can recover your data, and how much data you potentially stand to lose.
The recovery is dependent on the scale of your business but most small businesses should be backed up and running within the hour. As a factual example, in an enterprise environment of approximately 2,800 staff, when a ransomware attack occurred, the file servers were back online within an hour.
If your service provider has trouble answering the questions regarding your data RTO and RPO, it could be a sign that your data is at risk.
6. A lot of hardware
Are you getting sold a lot of hardware right off the get-go? While this in itself is not a red flag, depending on the reason your service provider gives you, purchasing a bunch of hardware could be an indicator that they're only in it to make a quick buck.
Objectively look at the reasons given to you on why the new gear is necessary. For example, here are some valid reasons to upgrade. If the only reason for recommending an upgrade is that the service provider is a partner vendor, this should make you pause and ask more questions.
7. Inadequate documentation
If you ask for documentation on your IT environment, is it provided to you? Do you receive excuses as to why it can't be provided?
Just because you pay someone to look after your technology needs doesn't mean they own the document to your environment. As a customer, you should be allowed to see the current state of your environment, and that includes documentation for your network, infrastructure, username and passwords.
If you ask your IT service provider for a copy of all this data and they make excuses and delay, you should be reasonably concerned.
8. They do it for you rather than teach you how to do it yourself
A true partnership is empowering. When a service provider withholds information it's a sign of fear, which is a sign of an immature business. They are afraid if you knew how to do it yourself, you won't need them anymore.
As a business owner you may not care to learn the ins and outs of IT. After all, that's why you pay other people to do it. But should you choose to inquire and learn, but find the service provider can't or won't explain something to you, it may be a sign to re-evaluate.
9. Substandard workmanship
Have you ever done a renovation and found the contractor left all the garbage in your home without cleaning it up? How much would you recommend that contractor?
Depending on the service you paid for, from time to time you may have a technician come on-site and perform physical work on your equipment. What state do they leave your office in? If they worked in your server room, are all the cables neatly managed? Is all your equipment properly labelled? Are there zip-tie ends and plastic bag left lying around?
A professional business is professional regardless of how they interact with you. But it is particularly important if they are physically in your office and touching your equipment. How much care and attention they show to your office and your equipment is a great indicator of how much care they have in their work in general. A service provider willing to leave your equipment in disarray or who couldn't be bothered to clean up after themselves isn't worthy of the care you put into your business, or your money.
10. Recommendations couldn't be explained in plain language
One of the key skills a professional service provider needs to have is the ability to communicate. That includes the abi