The saying goes 'you don't know what you don't know'. It's a simple saying but it's very true, especially so for IT. You shouldn't have to be an IT expert to be able to run a business. You outsource your IT, but how do you know you've chosen the right people?
It can be damaging to think all is well because your IT isn't making noise or causing obvious problems. Below the surface all bad things could be happening that will cause bigger issues down the line. There might also be improvements that could be made to get your IT working even better.
We have put together 11 key questions you can ask your IT provider to make sure they are the right fit for your business.
Do you offer strategic IT planning?
This is an area that many Managed Services Providers (MSPs) struggle in. They don't meet with their clients regularly and they don't take the time to understand how a client's business works. Only then can an MSP start to offer strategic IT planning.
Why is strategic IT planning important? Firstly IT planning can increase the productivity of your business. There are lots of technology solutions out there. Not all of them would fit your business. You might be using perfectly adequate technology that means you get the job done. But that doesn't mean it can't be improved.
The second advantage is no more surprising bills. If you work closely with an MSP they can help you signpost key technology upgrades you will need in the future. If you know that your business grows at a certain rate, you'll need a new server in 3 years then you can start to plan for that cost 3 years in advance.
Will you proactively warn me about cyber threats or potential issues?
Every 14 seconds a business will be victim to a ransomware attack. That is how much ransomware is out there. If your business gets infected then you risk losing all of your data and that can mean the end of the business.
How many times has your provider warned you about cyber threats? Are they giving you advice on how to avoid becoming infected? Are they proactively monitoring your systems and telling you when there are problems or do you have to call them first?
How often will you patch our PC's and servers?
Patches are important updates that need installing to make improvements or fix flaws. Many of these patches are vital security updates. If the patches are not installed then there will be security vulnerabilities in your systems.
Do you know if your IT provider is installing patches regularly so you are not put at risk by the security gaps they fix? Do you know which machines in your business are getting patched and how often it is happening?
Do they tell you about outdated systems that will become a business risk?
In January 2020 the Windows 7 operating system will reach end of life. That means Microsoft will no longer support it and that includes stopping security updates. This is common across similar products. Continuing to use these systems after the support period ends means you become vulnerable to new security flaws that are discovered.
Does your provider let you know about upcoming system end of life? How much warning do they give you? Do you get enough time to plan for any updates and costs?
Will you advise me on how to get the most out of my IT budget?
Technology plays a massive part in most businesses. There are countless tools or solutions that can improve your productivity. Equally, there are many solutions or products that can help backup and secure your data.
Does your IT provider help you understand how to make the most of your technology spend? Do they give you different options and help you weigh up the pros and cons behind them? Just because you pay a company a monthly fee doesn't mean your IT spend ends there. Are you getting advice on how to get the best value out of your IT spend?
What data should we be backing up?
Businesses are full of data but some data is more critical than others. While you should still backup all your data that might not be cost-effective for your business. So which data should your business backup?
Out of that data, what is critical to your business? What would you need to recover as quickly as possible if your systems went down? How often does your data need to be backed up? Data backup and recovery is not cheap so you will need to understand how much data to back up and how quickly you need that data recovered.
Will you tell me about new services that will improve the security of my business?
Because the level of cyber threats has become so advanced and so regular new security solutions are being created all the time. Has your IT provider spoken to you about Multi Factor Authentication or data encryption?
There are lots of different ways your business and your data can be furthered secured. Is your IT provider keeping you informed? Do they have connections with the leading vendors? That helps to keep them at the forefront of new solutions.
What is our backup success rate?
You may be thinking your data is being backed up every day. That was the service you are paying for, but backups can fail for a host of reasons. Do you know how often your back up fails? Does your IT provider let you know if there are issues with your backup or do they just try to fix them and move on (that's if they even know the problems exist)?
Do you get evidence of how often your data is backed up? Are you told how often that backup is successful? Or have they even spoken to you about backing up your data?
Do you offer transparency and reporting?
Just because you entrust your IT over to a provider doesn't mean you don't want to know what is happening with it. Are you given monthly reporting on all areas of your network? Are you able to see where your monthly fee is going?
It's important to have a transparent IT provider who doesn't hide behind lots of tech talk. That allows you to hold them accountable. It will also give you a better understanding of your IT as a whole and give you the information make strategic adjustments to IT processes where needed, identify trouble areas on the network, and be continually improving.
How do you monitor your performance?
Feedback is essential for improvement. Are you given a platform to give feedback on the performance of your IT provider? Is that open to all parts of your business? You will find it is quite often the members of your team that deal day to day with your IT support provider who has a better idea of the service you are receiving.
Are they allowed to register there feedback and opinions? If you can give feedback is that ever discussed with you? Are you ever given explanations if you leave negative feedback?
Do you know about my industry regulations?
Does your IT provider understand the regulations that your business has to follow? Can they advise you on how your technology needs to operate to abide by these regulations?
Are they aware of broader regulations that affect all businesses, such as GDPR? Do you have discussions around how your technology can help you follow these regulations?
Technology is too important to any business to be ignored. So even though you outsource your IT, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't know what is happening with it. If anything was to go wrong it is your business that will feel the brunt of it.
Yes, of course, you want to have a trusted MSP looking after your IT. But unless you ask the questions above you will have no idea if your IT provider can be trusted. Don't assume that just because there are no visible issues with your IT that all is well. Technology is too important to your business not to be aware of what is happening with it.