There's a plethora of IT suppliers who'll want your business. You need to be sure the one you choose for your company fits your requirements and is able to provide the service you need, when you need it
Find a local IT supplier?
Although your IT supplier will be able to perform many tasks without having to visit your premises, the chances are that you'll want them to visit occasionally. So, although proximity shouldn't be your top priority, it does help if your IT supplier is nearby.
Most IT suppliers target businesses within an hour's drive of their offices, so look within this radius first when listing possible suppliers. Some bigger companies have engineers on the road so they can get to you quickly - that's useful if there's ever a problem with your IT systems.
Your IT supplier requirements
If you're starting from scratch, list the number of desktop computers, laptops and tablets you think you will require and any specific software you will need. You should also think about any additional hardware you might want, such as printers or accessories for tablets.
How do you want to work? Do you want to offer your staff the chance to work from home? What about the telephone system? Think about the benefits of unified messaging and voice over internet protocol (VoIP). Do your employees need smartphones or are you happy for them to use their own devices?
You don't need to get too technical here, as a good IT supplier will offer advice to help you work out what fits your requirements. However, it's important you have an idea of what you're looking for. This gives you a framework against which to judge potential IT suppliers.
You should also consider what level of service you require, especially if you'll also be relying on your IT supplier for ongoing IT support.
Is telephone and online support enough, or do you want engineers to attend your premises to resolve issues? On-site support costs more on a monthly basis, but you could save over time as call outs can be expensive if you're on a 'telephone support only' contract.
Do you want one IT supplier?
It might make things easier further down the line if you can find one supplier who is able to deal with all aspects of IT within your business.
For instance, if you require a reliable telephone system, dependable broadband and a solid data backup system on top of your IT support, it will probably be more cost effective and cause you less heartache down the line to find one supplier to cover all these areas.
Some companies specialise purely in support. Others offer a mix of skills, with engineers qualified in a range of areas, like cloud computing and telecoms.
Think carefully about where your business is going and what you are likely to need now and in the future. Your IT supplier should have the flexibility and expertise to grow as you do.
Ask IT suppliers the right questions
Once you have a list of IT suppliers to approach, be ready with your questions. All good IT support companies should carry genuine accreditations from relevant bodies.
If your business uses Microsoft software or your IT supplier is proposing you should, look for a Microsoft Partner and ask which area they hold competency in. Microsoft competencies range from hosting and virtualisation to desktop and volume licensing and platforms such as Office 365.
If you think an IT supplier's accreditations may not be legitimate, contact the accrediting body directly.
Get references too. Make sure every IT supplier on your shortlist puts you in touch with companies that are of a similar size to yours. Be sure to pick the phone up and speak to them - don't take the supplier's word at face value.
Always make sure you are completely satisfied with your choice of IT supplier before signing any contract or agreement. If you have doubts, ask the IT supplier to work on a monthly basis. This allows you to build up trust before you commit for longer.