A Guide To Technical Support For Companies
Which type of IT support package?
Credit based contracts (pay as you go): A credit based contract is where you pay for a number of service hours up front, when the hours run out you simply top up. The more you are prepared to pay the less you should pay per hour. These types of contracts can work quite well, especially for companies who have in house IT, and just require cover for sickness or holidays etc. This type of contract can leave you vulnerable if the support company go bust, or do not deliver, as they have your money. You should be quite sure of any IT company before you let them loose on your systems, but even more so before you part with any money up front.
Pro-active contracts: A purely pro-active contract means that you pay to have your systems serviced and maintained during regular, scheduled site visits. Should any issues arise that need extra visits by an engineer, they are charged for at a reduced rate. At ITVET we like to offer our customers a wide range of support services, we have found that purely “pro-active” support contracts can work really well. Properly maintained systems are far less likely to break down, plus by using preventative maintenance, your systems downtime is greatly reduced, or even stopped altogether.
Ad-Hoc support: The lowest level of support, the call them when you need them option. It is an easy path to choose, on the surface it may well seem cheaper, and after all, there are no monthly charges, no lengthy contracts. The problem here is that there are no guarantees how long or how much? Even if you find a decent company to call out when you need them, there is no guarantee how they will be fixed when you next call them. It is clear that they will give priority to their contracted customers, and then if you are desperate you may well end up calling a company from cold. This could be costly, both in terms of the charges and to what standard of engineer you are sent. On top of this they may charge a call out fee. Having said all this, there are situations when ad-hoc support is the best option, like for companies with very few machines.
Ok apart from variations of the same, the above pretty much covers most types of IT support contract. Let’s move on to service level agreements. A service level agreement is the pre-determined time that the support company is allowed to take to affect a repair. There are three stages of a service call. The first stage is the response time, the way that some companies work, this can be a bit ambiguous. The response time is the time it takes the support company to contact the client after the initial support call is logged. The reason it is ambiguous is because they only have to get one of their staff to call the client by telephone, and in many cases that is classed as a response, even if it is just a receptionist to acknowledge the call. At ITVET we only class the “response” as the time it takes us to implement the first stage of the service level agreement. This is when one of our trained serviced desk personnel contact the client to firstly fact find, and to try and resolve the issue, which in many cases they do. Response times can vary greatly, our own response times are usually within one hour, in fact most our contracted service agreements provide one hour response times as standard.
The second stage is the “start fix time” either remotely or on-site, this is the time that it takes from the initial response time to commence fixing the problem. At ITVET, if the first stage does not resolve the issue, the service desk personnel assess if the situation requires a “remote” or “on-site” visit by an engineer. This is why the standard of training our service desk staff receives is so important; we pride our self in having some of the best front line support staff in the business. So once the service desk personnel decide that the call needs to be escalated to “stage two” the call is then passed to a qualified engineer, once the engineer starts to resolve the issue that is when the “fix time” is deemed to have started. “Start fix” times can vary greatly; our own service levels are “Two” “Four” or “Eight” hours. Eight hours may not sound like a long time, but when you consider that it is only the time it takes to commence the repair, and it is eight “working” hours (One day), it does not sound quite so great. Although it is incredibly rare for any of our clients to wait the full time allowed (in fact we do not believe any have), if it is the agreed time in the contract then there is a likelihood that you will be waiting a whole day before the repair is even started.
The third and final stage is the time it takes to fix the problem. Again it is usual to have “Two” “Four” and “Eight” hour fix times. Two hour fix times are usually reserved for critical systems, probably less than 20% of our clients have a two hour fix time, and then it is usually just for servers. Plus two hour fix times can be quite expensive, so make sure you really need then before deciding. As this may seem very confusing, below is a breakdown of the most common service level agreements (these are not ours, but are industry specific)
Response Start Fix Fix Time (hours)
2 8 8 (maximum two days and two hours)
1 4 4 (maximum one day and one hour)
1 2 2 (maximum five hours)
There are loads of variations to the above, these are just to give an idea of what is the norm. You may be asking at this point what happens if the support company do not meet their service level agreements? Good question. Some support companies offer “service credits” in return for breaking the terms of the service level agreements, you have to read the small print in the contract very carefully though as “service credits” are often not quite what they are cracked up to be. You may find that the amount of credit offered only relates to the “extra” time needed to affect the repair. Although at ITVET we have never been in breech of our service level agreements (no really, we are not being smug, we really have never exceeded the allowed time), our contracts clearly state that should we take longer than the permitted time to carry out a repair, then we will not charge the client for that repair and we will refund the amount of money we would have charged to effect the repair. There are times when a service company may not be able to carry out a repair within the given time through no fault of their own. For example, if a part needs replacing and it is not in stock at a third party supplier.