You may have read our recent posts about our study into some of the IT challenges facing SMEs. Our findings revealed that a third of SME bosses plan to increase their investment in IT in the next 12 months, relinquishing their attempts to manage this themselves and giving them more time for tending to core business.
If you’re considering following suit and outsourcing, here are some of the questions you should be asking before you do so.
1. Does the provider have experience serving a small business in my industry?
Outsourcing to a supplier who has previous experience of working with small businesses will have major benefits for your business. They will understand your needs and will be able to support you as your organisation expands. Also, if a provider has experience in your industry, that level of knowledge will make a real difference.
2. Can I count on them to be around in the long term?
Make sure you ask about the supplier’s business history, as well as its current clients. You want to be confident that your business is in safe hands and that they’ll be around for as long as you need them. Remember, this is a partnership and you should know as much about them as you would with any other organisation you choose to partner with.
3. What security measures will the supplier take to ensure my data and business is protected?
This is probably the most important technical question to ask. Giving those outside your business access to important data can seem daunting and you need to know that security will be air tight.
If the supplier can’t answer this question to your satisfaction then you should think twice about pursuing a partnership with them. Other things you should consider include:
• Will data transferred via the internet be encrypted?
• Does the provider have a certified secure network?
• What security measures are in place to protect current networks and what will be installed on yours?
• What procedures does the supplier have in place to handle security breaches?
• How will data or financial losses related to a security breach be rectified?
4. What kind of customer support can I expect?
Things can go wrong, and when they do, you need to know that your provider will be there to support your business. To ensure that your technology problems are resolved quickly, look for service providers that offer 24/7 support. Also, ask whether they have a variety of different customer support channels you can use to contact them. It is important to have access to your technology supplier in your hour of need.
5. How difficult is it to move my data to a different provider or to an in-house system?
You don’t want to feel trapped if things go wrong so it is important to be able to move providers if you choose to. Ask any potential provider about the minimum length contract you can sign and how easy it would be to change providers should you need to.
Some providers offer monthly contracts, while others may require an annual contract, offering discounts as a benefit for committing long term. If you ever want to switch providers, you need to know that you can take the data with you.
Is your business planning to invest more in IT in the next 12 months? What are your reasons for doing so?