For many small companies, managing technology comes last on the to-do list. Many rely on family and friends for tech support. The main trend we see for small businesses is to use as little IT support as possible. For your tech backbone to function well it needs steady small business IT support. Finding the right IT support services can save money over the long run. Web-based services, mobile computing, and virtualization provide flexibility and cost savings that make it easier for entrepreneurs to get the tech support they need.
Do you need tech support?
The time might come when tech growing pains can interfere with basic business functions. Nobody wants to learn the hard way, for instance, that the lack of a backup strategy has led to a wipe-out of client records. The breaking point at which you need professional tech support depends on your company. A five-person start-up might need nothing more than occasional tune-ups, or yearly guidance to draw up a long-term tech blueprint. If you have close to 100 computer users on the payroll, you are probably looking for a full-time technician.
Where to look for tech support?
Word-of-mouth networking is a start. Just ask clients and vendors with tech needs similar to your own about who they use for IT support. Searching for “tech support” on local-reviews services like Yelp.com can help. If you tend to have a lot of gear from a certain brand, check the maker’s website for local partners or resellers that might also offer small business IT support services.
What to look for?
Seek a professional who observes your operations and asks questions about how your business works overall, not just the technologies it uses. Your IT person should pay special attention to data security and backup. Some important questions comprise:
- Where is your small business’ email hosted?
- What operating systems, software, antivirus tools, desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones do your personnel use?
Preferably, the IT professional you choose should provide a three- or five-year plan that takes your budgeting and forecasting into account. A monthly or quarterly check-in is a good idea. An IT pro should translate geek-speak into a user-friendly language you understand. The most expensive products are not always the best option.
Make sure the consultant looks for tools that fit the size and type of your business. If your family runs an antique shop, your accounting data might fit precisely on a secure USB key that you take home nightly. If you are in charge of an investment firm or medical office, instead, your data must have extra layers of protection to comply with privacy regulations and other laws.
What to avoid?
When the consultant speaks in buzzwords and acronyms, be ready to let that person go if they won’t explain. Stay away from fly-by-night, crisis-based services that try to sell you the tech flavor of the month. They are not equipped to look at your operations as a whole for the long term. Be careful of consultants who present a specific technology or a single brand as the only solution. It is fine to favour a brand that works for you, but no individual manufacturer makes the best of everything.
If one insists that you need to wipe your hard drives and throw out most of the equipment you own, get a second opinion. If you are determined to use something that your IT support person refuses to consider like equipping your sales team with smartphones, the professional had better explain why it is not in your best interest.
Lastly, if you already have a full-time IT staffer but they are reluctant to explain what it is that they are “managing” all day, you can bet they are struggling to look busy. They are afraid to lose their job. Maybe it’s time to outsource to a part-timer.