Let's face it: if you're a small business owner, the likelihood of being able to afford a full time IT professional is slim.
Most of us don't have the work to keep a full-time IT employee busy either, so employing a support company to help as and when you need it is the best option.
But with thousands of companies out there, all offering similar services, how do you decide which to go for?
Here, are five key things to look for when choosing IT support.
1. Have they done this before?
Anyone can set up a website and sell IT support, but claims online won't ever give you the full picture.
Ask prospective suppliers about their experience. Get client testimonials. Then see if they can explain what they've done for other clients, and what they'll do for you.
It can be an idea to research the company's employees via LinkedIn. Do they really have the skills they claim?
2. Do they speak your language?
You need to find an IT support company you can understand. It's important you know what they're doing for you.
A classic trick is for IT companies to use unnecessary jargon. This can make their work seem more complicated than it is – and it often means the company in question is trying to blind you with science.
The best IT support providers will be happy to spend time ensuring you understand the complexities and capabilities of the IT systems you're using.
3. Are they there when you need them?
Reliability is essential when it comes to IT support. If something happens to your software (or to your hardware), it can damage your business – especially if you have projects to finish or deadlines to meet.
In situations like this, it's vital you can get hold of your support company quickly. You must know who to contact — and they should give you a realistic timescale of when things will be fixed.
4. Do they suggest relevant improvements?
If an IT support company is charging you to look after your IT, they should be suggesting ways in which you can use it better.
They should be thinking about new software that might be more appropriate, cloud services that could make you more efficient — and anything else that could give you a competitive advantage.
5. Do they have your businesses best interests at heart?
We can't all be IT experts, so we rely heavily on information from IT professionals.
Your IT support company should be able to work within your budget. But at the same time, they should be looking for ways to help you improve the efficiency of your IT hardware and software.
Be wary of companies suggesting you install the newest technology all the time. Most savvy IT professionals know that prices tend to drop once a new product has been around for a little while.
Slightly older pieces of hardware and software have also often had significant bugs ironed out. A support company with your business in mind will find the most cost-effective solution for your needs.
Copyright © 2015 Barry Lowe, Managing Director of San-iT, a North-West based company offering IT support services to SMEs across Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds.