It's important you ensure there is a clear, written IT support contract between your business and its IT support supplier.
This will ensure both parties understand exactly who is responsible for what, giving you something to hold the supplier accountable for in the event of problems.
Your IT support costs should be also be laid out clearly in the support contract.
IT support contract inclusions
Most IT support contracts include a full list of services, hardware and software which are supported. This might include cloud computing services, PCs and servers, tablets, smartphones, network equipment (like cabling and routers), your website or email systems.
It should also be clear to what level each item is supported. Generally, your IT support contract will show a response time for each item. This is the maximum time you should wait for help after alerting your support company to a problem.
However, an IT support contract that covers every aspect of your IT to the same high level may be prohibitively expensive. As a result, it's often best to skew your contract towards the most important pieces of kit and software. Deciding what your IT support contract should cover and to what level is a balancing act. If a system failure is likely to bring your business to a halt, you may need to pay for immediate response.
For instance, you might want key pieces of equipment, like your server, to be covered by a one-hour response. But as individual devices rarely go wrong you could support these on a pay-as-you-go basis or rely on manufacturer warranty.
How do you get IT support?
Your IT support contract should explain how to request help when you need it. Most IT support companies use online chat or email coupled with a 'ticket' system.
Don't let this put you off. These systems help them manage support requests fairly, and most good IT support companies will jump straight on to any critical issues.
In fact, you'll probably want your IT support contract to provide 24/7 coverage for key items like your website. Be aware that some support companies only log support requests out of hours, waiting until they reopen for business to actually fix the issue.
All the information about support levels and response times should be in a service level agreement, or SLA. This is an important part of your IT support contract which guarantees you a certain level of service.
IT support contract costs
IT support contracts generally run for a fixed period of time. There's usually a minimum term – a year is common – followed by a rolling contract.
In any case, your IT support contract should clearly state how you can end it. Pay close attention to any penalty clauses and notice periods and make sure you renew your contract before it runs out.
Charges for IT support are often determined by the number of devices being covered. A typical IT support contract could cost as little as £10-£20 per device, per month with an additional charge of around £150 per month to cover your server.
Check whether unused time rolls over from month to month, and when it expires.
Some contracts may charge on a pay-as-you-go basis. These are usually good for businesses with minimal IT support requirements. You could pay anything from £50 an hour for help – and more for on-site visits.
Finally, although many support companies will have a standard IT support contract, most will tailor the contract to fit your requirements.