As a small business you may lack the IT skills necessary to build your own IT infrastructure, but this doesn’t make your business any less reliant on it. If this is the case, selecting the right IT partner is a crucial decision that may have significant repercussions for your business. Here’s a checklist on some of the key considerations a small business should have in mind when selecting an IT partner.
1. How much support do you want or need?
The answer to this very much depends on the kinds of skills you have internally. A business which works with a lot of IT in its day to day function – advertising / marketing agency, media company, web design – might be able to look after its own IT. In this case you might opt for an IT partner which offers all the technology you need at the lowest possible price and who can offer support only when absolutely required. Businesses without internal resources to oversee IT will undoubtedly need to consider a partner with a more complete range of service and support options, including on-site maintenance and support. Taking this a step-further, you might want to ask the question “Do I Need My Own IT?” It may make sense, for smaller companies in particular, to consider IT As A Service (ITaaS) where a partner is paid to run and maintain IT infrastructure on their behalf.
2. How deep are your pockets?
This is another issue which will have a major bearing on your approach to delivering IT. Cashflow is always one of the major pain points for small businesses, and there are a number of options which can minimise the initial up-front capital expenditure required to deliver IT. Leasing is one option, and another is the ITaaS route, whereby customers simply pay a monthly fee for IT services rather than have a single large outlay. If cashflow is healthy – or if your business feels more comfortable with some kind of on-premise IT – then you may want to consider a more traditional IT partner.
3. Trust the experts
Ultimately, you want to know that your IT partner has a deep knowledge of the technology they are delivering. As much as possible, look for partners who have certifications in the relevant technology you are looking to deploy – this will be a sure fire sign that they have the technical competency to make sure your implementation is a success. This is particularly true if your business absolutely depends on a particular critical application. You might be a law firm for whom secure document transfer is an absolutely critical process, or an estate agents for whom email is vital. Finding certified experts in those particular areas may be one way of guaranteeing your IT partner has the right skills to suit your business. This may mean working with several ‘best-of-breed’ partners.
4. Is your partner in it for the long-haul?
In these times of economic uncertainty, stability is everything, particularly when selecting an IT partner. While it may not be feasible or even desirable to work only with large IT resellers, it is worth considering the risks associated with choosing a very small IT supplier. While it is not impossible for another IT provider to pick up the reins and look after IT which has been deployed by another company, it certainly is not ideal. If those IT systems are business critical ones then the ramifications of finding yourself without support because your provider has gone bust could be severe. Ideally you want to strike the right balance between being an important customer to your provider and potentially being the only customer!