A Guide To Technical Support For Companies
Which type of IT support package?
Contracted IT support should keep your systems fit and healthy: Well yes, providing the contract includes pro-active maintenance, this should include regular “remote” and “on-site” visits. Pro-active maintenance keeps your Server and Network fit and healthy, often preventing problems before they have occurred. A pro-active visit includes Server and Network administration and maintenance, downloading and applying updates and patches and making sure all of the machines on the Network are running at their optimum levels. At ITVET, we feel so strongly about the benefit of pro-active that we offer contracted pro-active support contracts on their own. On the rare occasion that a company on a “pro-active” contract has a support issue, we offer a reactive support service, in nearly all cases this works out cheaper. Plus there is little or no system downtime! Find that hard to believe? Why not have a “Free Trial” and see for yourself**
Once you sign up for contracted IT support it is impossible to cancel: No, that should not be the case, most good IT support companies will offer “get out” clauses, providing the client gives written notice of the intention to cancel. Notice is not normally needed in cases where the support company is in breech of the contracts terms. At ITVET, although we do offer 90 day cancellation periods as standard, our contracts are aimed at providing clients with written expectations of the excellent support services we provide, we would never try to force a client to stay locked in to a contract for a service they did not require (no client has ever asked to terminate a contract)
IT support contracts are inflexible: They should not be! At ITVET we work slightly different to most IT support companies, although we have a range of contracted services, we tailor our services around our clients needs. We hate the expression “ah no, sorry” Unusually in this day and age of corporate mergers and arms length trading, we still believe the customer is king, and providing it is at all possible the answer will be “Yes” “now, what’s the question?”
Ok, so it is clear that all companies should pay for proper IT support, what maybe not so clear is which type of support and how much should it cost? A good IT support company will be able to advise you of the correct level of support for your company, they should do this by speaking to you to find out exactly what you use the systems for, and how important those systems are for the operation of the business. If you are in the process of negotiating a new IT support contract, beware of companies who do not bother to find this information out, as it is virtually impossible to quote a fair price without it. Do remember at this point that the age of the hardware is an important factor in both the level of service and the cost. Some companies may even refuse to support very old hardware or operating systems.
There are so many styles of IT support contracts that it is hard to list them all, but below is a list of the most common types.
Fully managed: This is the cream of the crop, and the most expensive, with a fully managed contract in place, you should be able to just sit back, relax and let your support company deal with anything IT on your behalf. In fact, if they are good at what they do, it should almost be like a Stealth operation, seamless, almost invisible. If you like, they should be like your perfect employee, never late, never off sick, and brilliant at their job. With a fully managed plan, you will normally pay a monthly fee which covers all of your equipment for breakdowns and maintenance. The best managed service will include “pro-active” visit, these are quite expensive but as outlined above, can be invaluable. Pro-active visits can be made remotely or on-site, needless to say the on-site visits are more expensive and are far more effective. The average contract would have quarterly site visits, and monthly remote visits. To be clear, remote visits are where an IT support engineer uses remote access to inspect and maintain your systems.
Fully managed contracts can also include the purchase of the equipment too, depending on the overall cost, these deals can be attractive, as they allow you to spread the whole cost over three or four years. It also means that you know exactly how much the bill will be for your IT needs. At the end of the term the support company simply renew the equipment, and you start all over again. Included in nearly all contracts should be a service level agreement. This is the time it takes for the company to respond and fix an issue; you can read more about service level agreements below.
Standard support contract: A standard contract will cover all breakdowns, maintenance and administration. It is a no frills solution, but can work very well depending on your specific needs. The downside to a standard contract is you do not normally get pro-active site visits, although most support companies will include remote site visits. This can sometimes allow for systems to throw up more problems as the systems are not maintained to such a high level as with a fully managed option. During the life of any contract there are normally reviews carried out by the support company, if there are too many calls logged due to the lack of maintenance, they may demand that pro-active site visits are commenced to keep the system in better shape.
Subscription based contracts: A subscription based contract means that you pay a retainer fee each year to guarantee a certain level of service. This should provide you with a lower hourly rate and a service level agreement. Some companies will also include a monthly remote site visit to carry out maintenance. These types of contracts can work quite well, but even with a reduced hourly rate, if your systems are not maintained well, you may still end up paying more in the long run. If you start a contract like this and find that you are logging many calls, it may be worth talking to the support company and ask them about upgrading to a higher contract where the service calls are included.