By Roger Stevenson, Services Director, Redstone

Reports suggest that IT downtime is costing the UK up to £2billion per year, with 127 million working hours wasted due to IT related disruptions. From availability issues, frozen databases to user error, there are countless reasons why employees are forced to down tools when IT problems occur.

Since IT impacts every part of a business, downtime wastes valuable staff time and inevitably causes frustrations. But worse, it can also dent a company’s reputation if they are unable to meet a customer deadline due to an unforeseen technical hitch.

The long-term ongoing costs of IT support and services can be a huge financial burden on an organisation and a huge time drain on employees and IT staff who could be putting their valuable working hours to better use elsewhere.

Outsourcing the responsibility for IT can make real sense for any business struggling to support this function internally. All day-to-day IT functions such as basic administration tasks, desk top management, fixing or replacing faulty equipment or even setting up a new employee can be outsourced to an external IT support services provider.

An IT services provider will offer mature support processes and procedures and will be continuously benchmarked against industry best practice. They will also be able to scale up and down (including one-off large scale projects) and have access to a pool of suitably qualified and experienced technicians able to support any end user business requirements. Businesses can also take advantage of the support services provider’s existing relationships with manufacturers and distributors gaining access to expertise and even economies of scale previously beyond reach. Moving to a fully managed service model allows a business to focus on strategic planning and the delivery of strategic IT objectives that support business growth and success.

Whatever a business’s requirements, choosing the right IT partner to support your business is essential and there are a number of key points to consider when selecting a provider:

1. Many organisations will outsource their IT support to keep pace with rapidly evolving technology and its increasing complexity. Check out a provider’s credentials and ensure that it has industry recognised accreditations and certifications (ISO standards) for both staff and the company.
2. Scrutinise the Service Level Agreement (SLA) you sign to ensure that all your needs are covered within the terms of the agreement and that you are happy with the response time you have been offered.
3. Make sure your service provider has a strong financial position to ensure it has the capability to support the contracted baseline service over the term of the contract and also any project activity that requires upfront investment.
4. Ensure the provider has a proven track record of delivering the scope of services you require with a good reputation in the marketplace. Ask for references and follow them up.
5. Ask the potential provider if they are able to scope bespoke client specific support models and the agility to work with you as your business requirements change.
6. Always take a look at a provider’s pricing model as competitive pricing that offers good value will be better than simply going for the cheapest.
7. Does the service provider offer off site account management (with a direct route into the key decision makers) and allow access to its full service catalogue to support any future developments or requirements you may have?
8. Does it offer innovative delivery models and processes to ensure that the service is enhanced during the lifetime of the support contract?
9. Examine its reporting capabilities to ensure you receive accurate reporting on the contractual metrics/KPIs and also find out if it will include any in-depth analysis (e.g. details on recurring incidents and service requests).
10. When you start working with an IT services provider, you need their integration into your organisation to be seamless. The provider should take the time to appreciate the needs of your business and the critical role it will fulfil.

Choosing the right IT services provider to take care your businesses needs can be a time consuming process, but getting it right relieves the massive headache of ensuring your business has a fast and responsive IT support service in place. Whatever your IT support needs are, the cost of any IT disruption to your business should not be underestimated.

Can you afford to put your business’s reputation on the line?