Many small and midsize businesses (commonly referred to as SMBs) rely heavily on information technology for every facet of their day-to-day functions .  Powerful, inexpensive computers and high speed Internet connectivity have transformed the way modern businesses run, enabling them to connect with clients in every corner of the world, and deliver goods and services in minutes instead of days.

Because of their enormous reliance on technology, companies that experience downtime of their IT infrastructure can incur significant losses to both productivity and profits.  In situations where a company does not have its own IT department to mitigate computer failures or perform routine maintenance, obtaining an IT service plan from an outsourced IT provider can be invaluable.

A lot of companies offer IT support, but only a few are really worth the investment. IT service plans may include ‘exclusions’ on some types of computer support .  Some providers are very forthcoming about these exclusions up front, while others are much less so.  It is always a necessity to read the fine print to check for any hidden expenses or restrictions that you may have to deal with later.

To make sure you get the right contracts for your company, consider these things when planning to hire the services of an IT company:

The Response Time

Your computer equipment may be top-notch and very well maintained – but as with all electronic devices, things can go wrong without warning.  And as Murphy’s Law points out, a failure seems to occur when you least expect it, and at the most inopportune time.

Your IT support contract must be able to provide your company emergency services in such cases without any significant delays.  This cannot be over-emphasized, and you must make sure that you ask for their response times in writing before hiring them.  Also, be sure that any additional charges for emergency services are clearly stated in the contract.

The Service Level

Good support services should not only provide emergency support or perform regular maintenance to hardware and software, but should go a step beyond routine repairs to build a long-lasting relationship with your business.  The service plan should ideally have training sessions for your staff to help them use their computers more efficiently and correctly.  Or, phone support should be included to answer quick questions or address concerns that don’t necessarily require an on-site visit.

Experience of the Company

You may think that companies that provide subpar technical support or have terrible response time won’t stand a chance of surviving.  However, like auto mechanics, dentists, or any other professional service provider, there can be a significant number of bad apples in the bunch.  It is always a good idea to ask for client references when shipping for an IT service provider.

If you are a larger business, perhaps with multiple locations, you may want to avoid hiring a one-man shop .  Though in some cases the individual can be very experienced and responsive, it is difficult to maintain good response time and availability when there is only one person running the show.

It would be wise for you to opt for well-established companies that have earned reputation in the market.  They may offer their services for a comparatively higher price, but it will be worth it.

The Cost

Never pick a plan simply based on the flat fee.  It may seem very affordable to you at first, but there may be a lot of exclusions which drastically affect the effectiveness of the services offered.  Always remember, any downtime you may experience will cost your business money – so investing in a plan that offers you swift services to get your systems up and running again is money well-spent.

Unless a company is large enough to afford its own IT department to look after every need of the organization, outsourcing an IT support company is perhaps the best investment you could make to help your business to succeed and grow.  But, do make sure that you are getting all of your company’s needs met with your support contract.

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