IT failure – something every business dreads. That’s not surprising when last year it was reported that every major IT failure can affect an average of 776,000 people and cost an employer £410,000 for each technology problem they face.
Of course those figures include massive corporations, but demonstrate the high relative cost and inconvenience of an IT failure to businesses.
A smoothly running IT system is a key part of your business, but unless your business is an IT specialist, it is unlikely that you have the expertise to fix it if it fails.
So what can be done to prevent IT failure?
Many companies adopt one of two ad-hoc approaches when something goes wrong:
- An IT engineer is called out and eventually arrives to try and repair a system he knows little about. His work takes a while as he has to familiarise himself with the infrastructure and his hourly rate is high. Not cost effective.
- The distributors and manufacturers of the products they purchased are called for vendor support. They give priority response within a specified time, and unlimited product knowledge. However, unfortunately they expect a high level of technical understanding at the end of the phone to carry out testing and apply provided fixes. Inconvenient and time consuming.
Paying for technology support on an ad-hoc basis can be expensive and unpredictable. If there’s a major system failure then the costs can be significant.
It is estimated that half of all failures are avoidable, so it is clear that something can be done to prevent IT failures happening in the first place.
Appointing an IT company to look after your business’ infrastructure
There are usually 2 types of contract available for businesses – IT support or IT maintenance. Both are a bit like insurance in that they give you the peace of mind that, in the event of an IT problem an IT company will be there to fix it.
A fee is paid to the IT company, either monthly or annually. A good company will ensure it understands your business requirements, and the IT systems and infrastructure you have in place.
What’s the difference between a support contract and a maintenance contract?
In essence a support contract involves you paying the provider to resolve IT related problems as and when they arise; either remotely at the end of a phone, or through a site visit. A good IT company will have experts in many different products and offer broad knowledge and in-depth understanding.
Although it offers more than the ad-hoc approaches, a support contract is still fairly reactive in nature and the level of service depends on the contract level you’re paying for.
A maintenance contract is more proactive. Basically encompassing 2 areas – hardware and software. It involves the physical repair of equipment such as PCs, laptops, mobile devices and servers, plus the monitoring of software; repairing, updating or changing to keep your server running smoothly.
Tasks are conducted to ensure the IT system is maintained so it performs well, in addition to the service provided by a support contract. This allows potential problems and security threats to be eliminated before they become a major problem.
Being more proactive has other benefits too:
- Well maintained equipment is likely to last longer and develop fewer problems
- Keeping the system running smoothly ensures the business runs efficiently and minimises the risk of losing customers and reputation
- Knowing your information is backed up and can be recovered
- Having an expert on hand should problems arise
- Your system having the capacity to adapt and grow with your business.
Both contract types also refer to any vendor contracts in place to utilise the product specific support and unlimited product knowledge.
Should my business have an IT contract?
Consider these 3 questions.
- Could your business manage without your IT systems?
- How much would your business lose if your IT system failed?
- Would you be able to resolve a major IT problem quickly?
Question 2 might be unquantifiable, but if you answered ‘no’ to questions 1 and 3 then it is likely that you need an IT contract.
Having decided that an IT contract would be useful, you need to consider what you need and who you should engage to do it.
To help decide the level of support you need for your IT system, ask yourself:
- Which areas of your IT Infrastructure will need covering?
• Physical hardware; Servers, PCs, Laptops, Tablets, Printers etc.
• IT Infrastructure; cabling, routers & switches
• IT Infrastructure; cabling, routers & switches
- If a component failed or a device was irreparable would you want your IT provider to cover replacement costs?
- The days and hours of the day you will need cover.
- Whether you need only remote support or onsite as well. Remember not all IT tasks can be carried out at a distance.
- Does your business want just support or do you need a level of maintenance?
- If maintenance is required, what level will suit your business?
- What is your budget for IT support?
Once you’ve answered your questions you’ll be in a position to discuss your needs with potential suppliers.
Selecting the right IT support company and package will allow you to focus your business on the core skills that will drive your business forward. With your business effectively taking on board a ready-made IT department it’s important to give it as much consideration as if you were recruiting new employees.
Ask some questions and do some research. Do they have enough years of experience, depth of knowledge and relationships with vendors to fulfil the role? And what about their other clients – are they satisfied with the service they get?
To discuss your IT support needs please call the Direct Voice and Data team on free phone 0800 84 999 84 or click IT Services for more info.