Are you so busy trying to increase your bottom line that you haven’t paid enough attention to your support resources? If yes, then you are not the only one.
In small businesses with a small group of people or one person taking care of multiple roles, the necessity of using the appropriate resources for support, such as IT, often gets overlooked. Sadly, this is also sometimes true for big businesses, even those that have an IT department. It is important to understand that IT service providers (whether internal or outsourced) can make or break your business.
High-functioning IT is essential to business success because it increases the efficiency of all parts of the business and streamlines operations considerably. The definition of IT service management is “applying technical and business expertise to help organizations create, manage, optimize, and access relevant information and business processes”.
If you are using outsourced IT services, you need to be careful about finding the right IT service provider that can take care of your business needs.
What do you need?
How would you find the right IT service provider if you don’t know your business needs? To identify your needs, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your business project-based or is it initiative-based?
- Do you need an on-going IT service, or would a consultative service suffice?
- Do you need both (i.e., an on-going IT service as well as specialized consultative service on a project basis)?
For any third-party professional services support, be it marketing, legal, accounting, or in this case IT services, choosing the right vendor requires you to identify where you need help the most. Depending on your goals and the results you are seeking, you will need to separate non-strategic partners from your strategic partners. Once you have answered these questions and determined your needs, you can invite the most qualified candidates to the table for the start of the interview process.
Why do you need it?
You have to explain why you need the services you do to your IT service provider and gauge their capabilities.
When you interview your short-listed providers, you need to tell them what business processes you expect them to incorporate for your venture to grow. If you have goals that you hope to achieve by working with your service providers, your prospective vendor needs to understand them.
To do this, have an in-depth discussion with your prospective IT service providers and key team members so that both parties develop a mutual understanding of the scope of work involved in the projects at hand. This way your team will be able to benefit from the expertise of the service provider and you will be able to gauge whether their skill set will be a good fit for your company.
Who provides it?
There are many types of service providers. Some provide cloud computing services while others focus on data center operations. The best thing about using these service providers is that you can turn capital expenditure, which can go up to $2,000 per square foot for large data centers, into monthly operational expenses.
While I am providing you an overview of the main services you can source, keep in mind that some service providers can offer you hybrid networks. This means that your provider may be able to offer you services across the following different categories.
Dedicated hosting providers
These providers offer a hosting configuration in which a server can be dedicated for a single purpose such as a website or it can be dedicated to one entire organization. Also, referred to as a dedicated server, it can be set up externally or in-house.
Shared hosting providers
As opposed to dedicated hosting, with shared hosting the server is a host to multiple organizations.Often available for a few dollars a month, shared hosting means that you share server space with hundreds of other users. This means that your website is sharing disk space, processor speed, bandwidth, and memory with many other websites. This setup works best for start-ups.
Managed hosting providers
Usually, managed hosting accounts have fewer clients on each server. Also known as application-level management, everything from programming to the physical server is designed to support a single application such as Word Press is available under this model. Though more expensive than shared hosting, this model provides better speed, security, reliability, and uptime.
Telecom cloud providers
These are telecommunication companies that have shifted the bulk of their business from offering landline services to providing cloud computing resources. Some examples are At&T, China Telecom, Telus, and T-Mobile. Telecom cloud providers offer a mix of services including voice minutes, bots, traditional networking, and communication services, along with cloud computing solutions.
Software As A Service providers offer third party hosts applications, which makes them available to customers over the internet. For small businesses, it means that they do not need to install and run applications, such as Office365 in their own data centers or even on their own computers. The expense of software licensing, installation, and support as well as the cost of hardware acquisition, its provision, and maintenance, is eliminated. Furthermore, this model offers flexible payments, scalable usage, automatic updates, and accessibility.
Infrastructure As A Service is a model that provides virtualized computing resources. A third-party provider hosts infrastructure components such as storage, software, servers, and hardware on behalf of its users. Applications and tasks such as resiliency planning, system maintenance, and backup can also be handled by IAAS providers.
Hardware and software tools that are usually needed for application development are offered by Platform As A Service Providers. By hosting hardware and software on its own infrastructure, PAAS providers free users from the necessity of installing in-house hardware or software as well as developing or running a new application. However, PAAS providers do not replace a business’s entire infrastructure. They only provide key services such as Java development and application hosting.
Technological upgrades can be complex and daunting for those not in the IT business. A layman can easily get lost in the terminology and the latest buzzwords. Finding the best service provider according to your needs and budget is crucial because you often end up signing multi-year contracts with them. So, if your choice is not the right fit for you, you may be stuck with the same provider for years!
The benefit of having an IT service provider that is compatible with your needs ranges from being able to leverage the economies of scale that service providers enjoy to being able to employ services of dedicated specialists.
Other than the type of services your IT provider is offering, there are many other factors to consider. To choose the right partnership, you need to see whether there are cultural alignment and mutual understanding. The experience level, reputation, track record, and referrals are all important considerations when choosing your IT service provider.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when choosing your IT service provider. Identifying your needs and matching them to the services offered is as crucial for decision making as is your budget, cultural alignment, and comfort level between your team and your vendor. By keeping these considerations in mind, you should be able to find the IT service provider that is the most compatible for your company.