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When it comes to IT, you probably don’t even know what you don’t know.

IT support isn’t just about addressing problems as they arise. Your IT support partner should be proactive, identifying the known unknowns – the factors you just can’t predict on your own – and handling issues before they can disrupt the smooth running of your business.

In these FAQs, we’ll suggest some key questions you should ask a potential partner. It’s not just about getting expert support. It’s about finding someone you can work with in the long term – building a relationship based on trust and communication.

The answer to this one always depends on the scale and nature of the problem, but your IT partner should be able to give a rough timeline based on severity. You need to ask: how long will it take them to respond to the issue in the first place? When can they usually send someone out to fix it?

Once you’ve established the basics, run through a few potential scenarios. How long should it take them to get you logged in again if you lose access to your software? Suppose there’s a ransomware attack – how long to get your business back up and running?

It’s also helpful to get a good idea of their typical approach. Maybe they have set procedures in place, so that they can identify and deal with issues as they arise – or even before. Or maybe they just wing it. Ask them to tell you about the worst issue they ever encountered. How did they deal with it? Were they proactive or reactive?

You can tell a lot about your potential IT partner by how they respond to problems. Skill and professionalism are crucial, but so is a cool head in a crisis.

In business, downtime is fatal.

You’re bound to have seen this happen, whether as a business owner or an employee. The internet goes down. Suddenly, half the team can’t access the software they need. They get stressed, and the stress starts to spread until everybody loses focus. The office breaks out in turmoil. There’s a queue at the coffee machine. The team’s been given an unofficial break, and their concentration has gone out of the window.

Getting the internet back up and running doesn’t put an end to the chaos – or not right away, anyway. People finish up their conversations, reboot their systems and try to get their minds back on the job. Just 15 minutes without internet access can end up as a full 90 minutes of lost work.

Your proposed IT support partner should be able to work with you to keep downtime at a minimum. Ask them: will they carry out checks and processes to identify and head off issues before they can disrupt workflow? Will they make sure they carry out most maintenance and system updates outside office hours? How can they help you maintain productivity during essential interventions?

This is a really good question, but it’s often overlooked. It’s important to know about the people you’ll be relying on every day.

How will your potential support partner assign your account manager? Does each of them have expertise in a specific sector? Is it a question of matching you to the right personality? Or will you just end up with the person with the most availability at the time?

Will you have a particular contact person? What happens if they’re away? Who’ll be carrying out your strategic reviews and building your technology roadmap? If you have a complaint, who’s there to listen?

Asking these questions is a great way to get a sense of your day-to-day compatibility with your potential partner. It’ll also give you an idea of how well their individual people will work with the members of your team.

Of course, you don’t have to learn every detail of how to build and maintain an IT infrastructure. If you could do that, you wouldn’t need IT support! Asking this question will test how well your potential partner can communicate with you.

Can they outline a complex technical process in a way you can actually understand? Do they speak English, or do they speak techie? Do they get annoyed if you ask a lot of questions? Do they keep telling you that you don’t need to know the technical details? 

Your IT support partners may be the experts, but that doesn’t mean only they get to be informed. A good long-term relationship needs transparent communication. And they should be able to tell you everything you need to know to understand a particular issue.

As your business evolves and grows, you’ll add new staff members, change or refine the services you offer; perhaps even move to new premises or open an office in a new place. Change is ongoing, and it’s essential to success.

Think back to this time last year. Your business probably looks quite different now to how it did then. So your potential IT support partner needs to be ready and willing to deal with change. They should have a clear idea of what information they need from you, and how they will adapt their services to your situation.

After all, you’re not just looking for another supplier. This is a collaborative process, and part of their role is to keep you in step with the latest developments. New software, a faster network, improved security – everything your business needs as you move forward. How can they do that if they don’t keep track of how many people are in your team, or how you deliver your services?

Your ideal partner will be proactive in moving with the changes that will happen in your business. You might want to organise regular catch-ups so you’re both up to date.

Ready to start your journey to success?