For all the problems technology solves, there are still times when the software and equipment that power our lives and livelihoods feel more like burdens than enablers.
Your tech problems are sometimes mundane incidents — an employee’s Excel spreadsheet is frozen, or there’s a spinning beach ball of death where your cursor used to be. Sometimes, however, the problem is far more severe — email servers are down, or intruders have accessed proprietary data.
In the best-case scenario, you lose the time and focus it took to solve the issue. In the worst cases, you lose a lot more.
And when businesses are trying to grow, they often can’t afford — or don’t want — to invest in building and sustaining their own IT department. For many companies in this situation, third-party IT firms are the ideal solution.
Business today requires expanding your technology capabilities as you grow — which can lead to increasing IT-related challenges.
A trusted tech partner allows a small business to solve those headaches without draining its budget on an in-house IT department. A great partner can monitor your network and workstations remotely and continuously, taking care of potential issues before they escalate into productivity-halting problems. And when problems do occur, you have a resource with true expertise — no more relying on that one tech-savvy employee moonlighting as your IT help desk.
And that’s great news for any small business, but it’s especially useful for the ones looking to grow rapidly. Having a tech partner you can count on means not worrying that your systems will fail when a wave of new customers hits or product shipment orders skyrocket. It’s a great confidence booster that lets you focus on your business.
Then, of course, there’s the issue of finding the right partner for your business’s needs.
That’s an important decision because the wrong partner comes with all sorts of additional problems — if a partner company isn’t listening to your company’s needs, it probably isn’t designing solutions that fit your team’s workflow. Or it may not be responsive when needed for on-site assistance. Maybe it doesn’t have a good help desk (or any help desk at all), meaning minor but frequent IT issues aren’t resolved.
1. Make sure your goals come first.
Look for a partner firm that understands its job isn’t to provide technology for technology’s sake — it’s to help you accomplish your business objectives. This means understanding your company’s current and future needs. Your IT partner needs to understand your business’s goals and be able to discuss them with you comfortably.
2. Only get what you need.
Find a company that’s not going to oversell you, especially in terms of on-site hardware. So much today can be accomplished with secure cloud or hybrid solutions that require less upfront investment. Again, what are your business needs, and how can those needs be met capably and cost-effectively? Your technology partner should be able to explain which of its services make the most sense for you and your budget.
3. Ask for clarification.
Make sure the company is willing to take the time to explain its proposal in a way you can understand. You’re not a tech expert (that’s why you’re outsourcing), so you shouldn’t be made to feel dumb for asking questions. No good partner will ever talk down to you or try to hide behind jargon in place of straightforward answers.
4. Pay for security.
Data hacking and cybersecurity breaches are everyday occurrences. Not only is it important for your business to have best practices in place for data security and backup, but it’s also something that you can market as a differentiator to clients and prospects to increase trust. Ensure your IT partner is offering comprehensive security, and take advantage of that — it’s worth the investment.
Your tech partner defines what your company’s IT looks like, so choosing one you can trust is crucial. The wrong partner will only add to the frustration and inefficiency you’re paying them to eliminate. The right one, however, will create a company technology system that’s secure, resilient, and suitable for your needs so you can get back to business.
(This article was written by Adam Levy, owner of Magnet Solutions Group, and originally appeared in the SCORE Small Business Success blog.)