Your IT Services Provider

6 Essential Questions to Ask Your IT Services Provider Before Signing

When you’re looking to bring an outside party into your business, it’s essential that you know you can trust them. Just like hiring any new team member, no matter how good they look on paper, an IT service provider needs to be interviewed before you sign them on. It’s the best chance you have to get a proper feel for their team and processes and decide if they’re a good fit for your small or medium-sized business (SME) before you make a costly mistake. So, what sort of questions help determine whether a potential provider is right for you? Read on to find out what to ask and which responses to look out for.

1.) How Seriously Do You Take Compliance?

Imagine sailing into uncharted territory without a map or compass. That’s the risk you take by choosing an IT provider who isn’t compliant with, or knowledgeable about, relevant industry regulations. Depending on your business sector, you might need to adhere to data security standards like GDPR or HIPAA. Regulations can seem like a bureaucratic hurdle, but they’re vital for protecting your business and your customers’ data. A non-compliance-focused IT service provider could leave your SME vulnerable to hefty fines and reputational damage.

Green Flag Response: “Incredibly! We stay up-to-date with relevant regulations across a variety of sectors and can provide you with detailed documentation confirming our own compliance with industry standards.”

Red Flag Response: Stares blankly when you ask about compliance, or mumbles something along the lines of “Well, we haven’t had any issues so far…”

2.) Can Your IT Support Scale Up (and Down) with My Business?

Just as an elastic band stretches and shrinks to accommodate objects of varying sizes without breaking, your IT infrastructure needs to be adaptable. Whether you’re upsizing in Dundee, matching the ebbs and flows of Fife’s seasonal demands, or trying to stay ahead of a pivot in Perth’s market, as your SME evolves, your IT needs will too. Your chosen IT provider must be able to seamlessly scale their services to handle your expanding requirements without causing delays.

In the initial stages of excitement, it’s easy to focus on immediate needs. However, neglecting scalability in favour of short-sighted solutions can lead to a situation where your IT services become a bottleneck, hindering your growth potential instead of expanding it.

Green Flag Response: “We offer flexible service packages that can be easily scaled up or down as your business needs change. We’ll work with you to assess your future requirements and develop a scalable IT strategy to suit.”

Red Flag Response: “We offer a one-size-fits-all package.” A rigid, off-the-shelf service is unlikely to cater to your evolving business needs in the long term.

3.) What Do Your Support Hours Look Like?

Technology doesn’t take a break, and neither should your IT support. If a critical system failure occurs on a Saturday afternoon and your IT provider is unreachable until Monday morning, where does that leave you? Certainly not with happy customers.

Focusing solely on cost, some SMEs might be tempted to choose a provider with limited support hours. However, reliable and responsive IT support is crucial for minimising downtime and ensuring smooth business operations.

Green Flag Response: “We offer 24/7/365 support, with dedicated technicians available to address your issues anytime, day or night.”

Red Flag Response: “We offer support during regular business hours only.”

4.) How Do You Handle Data Security?

In an increasingly digital world, your customer data is like gold. A breach can be devastating, damaging your reputation and costing you dearly. Not all SME owners fully comprehend the gravity of cyber threats. Many mistakenly believe that their business is too small to be a target. However, cyber criminals are equal-opportunity offenders, and even small businesses are vulnerable. The expertise of your IT service provider plays a vital role in safeguarding your data.

Green Flag Response: “We prioritise data security with robust security measures like firewalls, data encryption, and regular vulnerability assessments. We also offer security awareness training for your employees to reduce the risk of human error.”

Red Flag Response: “We have some basic security measures in place but haven’t had any problems yet.”

5.) Can You Provide References?

Okay, they’ve got a flashy website, attractive service offerings, and the team really seem to know their stuff. Don’t just take their word for it, though! Talking to existing clients of your potential IT services provider is a fantastic way to gain insight into the experiences similar SMEs have had working with them.

We know, it can feel awkward to ask for references. However, reputable IT service providers in Dundee, Fife, or Perth will be happy to connect you with satisfied clients who can vouch for their service quality.

Green Flag Response: “Absolutely! We’d be happy to provide you with references from businesses similar to yours in the local area. You can also check out some client testimonials on our website.”

Red Flag Response: “We don’t usually provide references…” or “Our clients prefer to remain confidential.” This could be a red flag that they lack satisfied customers or have something to hide.

6.) Can You Explain This?

If there’s anything at all in your service level agreement (SLA) that you don’t fully understand – or, for that matter, if you’re unsure about anything that has or hasn’t been discussed thus far – ask them to explain it. Don’t be afraid of sounding like a toddler; “why?” is your new best friend.

This line of questioning is also a good indication of what your communications will be like in the future: straightforward and supportive, or frustrating and unhelpful. As an SME owner, you deserve a partner who can help you understand the tools, systems, and processes they’re implementing. They need to be willing and able to go over it many times, in as many different ways as it takes, to leave you informed and confident.

Even if you understand all the contract terms, it’s still absolutely worth asking, “How will we communicate?”. Clear communication is the cornerstone of any successful relationship, including the one with your IT service provider. You need to understand the technical issues impacting your business, and they need to know your specific needs and priorities.

Green Flag Response: “We believe in clear and transparent communication. We’ll provide regular reports on system health, explain technical issues in layman’s terms, and are always available to answer your questions.”

Red Flag Response: “We’ll send you technical reports, but you might need an IT degree to understand them.” They might not say this directly, but if you can’t get clear explanations out of a potential partner now, you’re unlikely to further down the line.

Ask More of Potential IT Service Providers

By asking these six essential questions, SME owners in Dundee, Fife, or Perth can navigate the IT services landscape with confidence. Remember, choosing the right IT partner is an investment in your business’s future. Don’t settle for anything less than a provider who understands your needs, prioritises security, and can scale with your growth. With the right IT support on board, your business can sail smoothly towards success, leaving the IT quicksand far behind.

Partner With 1Office: The IT Support Partner Trusted by Businesses in Dundee, Fife, Perth, and Beyond

Based in Dundee, we’ve been empowering local businesses with tailored tech solutions for over 25 years. Companies across Scotland rely on our family business for fast, friendly, and effective support for all of their technology needs. For some expert insight into exactly how our IT support could elevate your business operations, get in touch with one of our consultants today.