A Guide To Technical Support For Companies
Which type of IT support package?
If you are a small to medium sized company and are about to invest in, or already have a number of computers, or small network, then at some point you will require technical support. It is a fact, that many companies do not bother to obtain technical support until the need arises. Without doubt, this is a false economy. Prevention is better than cure! When systems are left without maintenance, and without a support plan in place, it is only a matter of time before the system will fail. The longer that the system is down, potentially the more money it will cost your business. There is also the risk of lost data, which in some cases can be irreplaceable. So, contracted or not, all businesses need IT support.
Contracted or non-contracted support
Whether or not you choose contracted IT support rather depends on the specific requirements of your system/business. Good techinical support comes at a price, the faster the response time, and the more knowledgable and efficient the support team, usually, the higher the price. It may be that your IT setup is minimal and does not require more than this level of support. There are lots of technical support companies who offer one off repairs for either a fixed price or an hourly rate. The problem with this type of service can be time and money. If you do not have contracted support, then you may be left waiting much longer before help arrives. Plus if you are not contracted, you will probably pay the highest hourly rate. Also, it is worth remembering that if the support company is not familiar with your particular setup, it may take them longer to resolve the issue. At ITVET we dedicate each client their own IT support engineer. By doing this we ensure that our clients needs are taken care of in the fastest and most efficient way, and with a personal touch which is sadly lacking with most support companies.
Which Type Of Contract
There is no doubt that contracted technical support offers the best level of service. There are many different types to of contract to choose from, so it is worth taking some time to consider the options carefully. At ITVET we carry out a full audit of your existing systems and tailor a contract to suit.
Most IT support companies will offer contracts with SLA’s (Service Level Agreements). The SLA will define how the contract between you and the support company will work. Most SLA’s will offer a two, four or eight hour response time. As you probably realise, the faster the response, the more you will pay. It pays to find the right balance here, there is no point choosing a two hour response time unless you really need it. Likewise, it’s no good choosing an Eight hour response time and then hope that the support company respond in one hour! So choose the response time which best suits your needs. There are usually three levels within an SLA. ‘First Level Support’ First level support, as the name suggests, is the first response you receive from the IT support company once you report an issue. This will normally be a trained advisor, who will make a fact finding call to the person who reported the issue. In many cases, a good trained advisor can, with the help of the IT support contact, often resolve the issue there and then. ‘Second Level Support’ The second level of support is carried out by a qualified engineer remotely, unless it was determined during the first level response that a site visit would be necessary. Around 80% of support issues can now be resolved by remote support. At ITVET we have a system in place which offers fast secure access to our clients systems, using 256 bit encryption. ‘Third Level Support’ The third level of support is a site visit by a certified engineer. As stated above, at ITVET we assign our clients their own dedicated engineer. This means that they are familiar with the clients building, and the layout of their systems. This reduces the time spent asking directions to the coms room etc.
Most IT support companies will offer a pro-active service as part of any support package. This means that they will send out an engineer to inspect your systems, and carry out routine maintenance. Such as, downloading and installing the latest service packs or updates for your software. These visits are usually by the half day, and either quarterly or monthly. Whilst pro-active site visits can be quite expensive, they will reduce the amount of downtime for your system. However, if your network or number of systems is very small, you may decide that it is not worth having pro-active site visits. If so, you may choose to take out contracted support without pro-active site visits. With this option you will have guaranteed response times, and you should receive a cheaper hourly rate when compared to the companies normal tariff. One thing to remember though, if your systems breakdown more than the average amount, your support company may insist on the commencement of regular pro-active visits. It may be possible to ask the support provider to carry out ‘one off’ pro-active visits, although these would normally be charged at a slightly higher rate than when under contract.
Another type of contract worth considering for small companies, is a ‘standby’ or as we call it a ‘Lite’ contract. If you have a very small number of machines and cannot budget for a full contract, this may be the best option for you. You pay the support company a small annual subscription, and in return they offer you a guaranteed response time (which can be as fast as one hour). All work they carry out will be chargeable, and usually more expensive than that of a full contract. Do remember though, that as with most contracts, the support company will usually need to carry out an audit on your systems first. This will normally be included in the cost of any premium.
Many companies, including our own, can offer a contract credit scheme. This is where you simply purchase a number of support incidents in advance, at a lower rate than if you were using an ‘on-demand’ system. Once the credits have been used up, you then purchase more. This is not a bad system, although you may find yourself not calling out the support company to try and preserve your credits. This can then lead to other issues developing because the initial issue was not dealt with promptly.
And finally, the ‘No Contract’ option. Having no contract speaks for itself really, with no SLA in place you are at the mercy of day to day supply and demand of the IT support sector. It may be that you can find a reliable company who will deal with your problems as and when the need arises. But as reliable as any company may be, all companies will give priority to their contracted customers first. Plus even fair trade companies like ourselves charge more for non-contracted support calls. There are clients who choose to not have contracted support, which simply leave all support issues until their system has a critical failiure, and then decide to seek a support contract. This is a false economy as most support companies like ourselves carry out an extensive site audit prior to the contract commencement. All of the extra costs in repairing the existing faults and bringing the maintenance up to date, will usually be factored in to any quotation.
IT Support Overview
Try to think of your business IT as you would a car. It is a fact that for a car to be safe and reliable it needs regular servicing and maintenance. Your business sytems are exactly the same, offer it some TLC and it will respond with the minimum of downtimes and the quickest of response times. At ITVET we believe in what we do with a passion, and we are dedicated to 100% customer satisfaction. This is not sales jargon, and certainly not something we say lightly. We believe our customers are always right, and that is the only way a forward thinking business in todays marketplace can afford to be.