21 Questions You Should Ask Your Computer Consultant Before Hiring Them To Support Your Network
Q1: Do they answer their phones live or do you always have to leave a voice mail and wait for someone to call you back?
Any reputable computer consultant will answer their phones live from at least 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and give all clients an emergency after hours number they may call if a problem arises, including weekends. Why? Because many CEOs and executives work outside normal hours and find it to be the most productive time they have. If they cannot access their computer network AND can’t get hold of anyone to help them, it’s incredibly frustrating.
Q2: Do they have a written, guaranteed response time to your calls?
Your computer consultant must guarantee to have a technician working on your problem within a certain timeframe after you call. If they can’t guarantee a certain response time, then be prepared to work on their timeframe and not yours when problem does arise. A written guaranteed response time should be standard in every service agreement you sign.
Q3: Do they take the time to explain what they are doing and answer your questions in terms that you can understand (not geek-speak), or do they come across arrogant and make you feel stupid for asking simple questions?
Good technicians are trained to have the ‘heart of a teacher’ and will take time to answer your questions and explain everything in simple terms.
Q4: Do they consistently (and proactively) offer new ways to improve your network’s performance, or do they wait until you have a problem to make recommendations?
Your computer consultant should routinely conduct quarterly review meetings with you to look for new ways to help improve their operations, lower costs, increase efficiencies and resolve any problems that may be arising. Their goal should be to help you be more profitable, efficient and competitive with these meetings.
Q5: Do they provide detailed invoices that clearly explain what you are paying for?
Do you hate it when your computer service company sends you a bill and you have no idea what work was done? This is completely unacceptable behavior. You should demand that your computer consultant provide you with detailed invoices that show what work was done, why and when so you never have to guess what you are paying for.
Q6: Do they have adequate errors and omissions insurance as well as workers compensation insurance to protect YOU?
Here’s something to consider: if THEY cause a problem with your network that causes you to be down for hours or days or to lose data, who’s responsible? Here’s another question to consider: if one of their technicians gets hurt at your office, who’s paying? In this litigious society we live in, you better make darn sure whomever you hire is adequately insured with both errors and omissions insurance AND workers compensation – and don’t be shy about asking to see their latest insurance policies!
True Story: A few years ago Geek Squad was slapped with multi-million dollar lawsuits from customers for bad behavior of their technicians. In some cases, their techs where accessing, copying and distributing personal information they gained access to on customers PCs and laptops brought in for repairs. In other cases they lost a client’s laptop (and subsequently all the data on it) and tried to cover it up. Bottom line, make sure the company you are hiring has proper insurance to protect YOU.
Q7: Do they provide you with written project plans for all major work?
All projects should be clearly defined, outlined and documented in a step by step format. This will ensure everyone understands who is responsible for every step of the project.
Maintenance Of Your Network:
Q8: Do they insist on remotely monitoring your network 24-7-356 to keep critical security settings, virus definitions and security patches up-to-date and PREVENT problems from turning into downtime, viruses, lost data and other issues?
A remote network monitoring system watches over your network to constantly look for developing problems, security issues and other problems so your computer consultant can address them BEFORE they turn into bigger problems and network downtime.
Q9: Do they provide you with reports that shows all the updates, security patches, and status of every machine on your network so you know for SURE your systems have been secured and updated?
Demand a detailed weekly report that shows an overall health score of your network and the updates to your antivirus, security settings, patches and other important network checks (like hard drive space, backups, speed and performance, etc.). Even if you don’t read through the report every week, it’s important to know that this is happening.
Q10: Is it standard procedure for them to provide you with written, network documentation detailing what software licenses you own, critical passwords, user information, hardware inventory, etc., or are they the only person with the “keys to the kingdom?”
Every business should have this in written and electronic form at no additional cost. Your computer consultant should also perform a quarterly update on this material and make sure certain key people from your organization have this information and know how to use it, giving you complete control over your network.
Side Note: You should NEVER allow an IT person to have that much control over you and your company. If you get the sneaking suspicion that your current IT person is keeping this under their control as a means of job security, get rid of them. This is downright unethical and dangerous to your organization, so don’t tolerate it!
Q11: Do they have other technicians on staff who are familiar with your network in case your regular technician goes on vacation or gets sick?
Since they are keeping detailed network documentation and updates on your account, any of their technicians must be able to pick up where another one has left off.
Q12: When they offer an “all-inclusive” support plan, is it TRULY all-inclusive, or are their “gotchas” hidden in the fine print?
One of the more popular service plans offered by consulting firms today is an “all-inclusive” or “all-you-can-eat” managed services plan. These are actually a good thing because they’ll save you a lot of money in the long run – HOWEVER, make sure you REALLY understand what is and isn’t included. Some things to consider are:
- Is phone/e-mail help desk included, or extra?
- What about network upgrades, moves, or adding/removing users?
- Is hardware and/or software included?
- What about 3rd party software support? (We recommend that this IS included).
- What are the costs/consequences of early cancellation?
- What if you aren’t happy with their services? Do they offer a money-back guarantee?
- If the hardware and software is included, what happens if you cancel the contract?
- Is offsite backups included? To what degree?
- If you have a major disaster, is restoring your network included or extra?
- What about onsite support calls? Or support to remote offices?
- Are home PCs used to access the company’s network after hours included or extra?
- What about vendor management? Will they be your “one throat to choke”?
Backups And Disaster Recovery:
Q13: Do they INSIST on monitoring an offsite as well as an onsite backup, or are they letting you rely on outdated tape backups?
I would never allow any business these days to use tape backups because they are incredibly unreliable. It is old technology that is prone to failure without warning.
Q14: Do they INSIST on doing periodical test restores of your backups to make sure the data is not corrupt and could be restored in the event of a disaster?
Your computer consultant should perform a regularly scheduled “fire drill” and perform a test restore from backup to make sure your data CAN be recovered in the event of an emergency. After all, the WORST time to “test” a backup is when you desperately need it.
Q15: Do they insist on backing up your network BEFORE performing any type of project or upgrade?
This is a simple precaution in case a hardware failure or software glitch causes a major problem.
Q16: If you were to experience a major disaster, do they have a written plan for how your data could be restored FAST and/or enable you to work from a remote location?
At minimum, you should have a simple disaster recovery plan for your data and network. I would also encourage you to do a full disaster recovery plan for your office, but at a minimum, your computer network will be covered should something happen.
Technical Expertise And Support:
Q17: Is their help-desk US based or outsourced to an overseas company or third party?
An in-house help desk helps to ensure the folks helping you are friendly and helpful. We consider this one of the most important aspects of customer service, plus we feel it’s important to keeping your data secure.
Q18: Do their technicians maintain current vendor certifications and participate in on-going training – or are they learning on your dime?
Any technician working on your network should be up to date on the vendor certifications on your network (i.e. Microsoft, HP, Citrix, etc.). Our experience is that the vast majority of technicians out there these days are woefully undertrained.
Q19: Do their technicians arrive on time and dress professionally?
Any technicians working on your network is a part of your staff while they are there. Are the technicians you’re used to dealing with true professionals that you would be proud to have in your office? Do they dress professionally and show up on time?
Q20: Are they familiar with (and can they support) your unique line of business applications?
Any computer consultant should own the problems with all of your line of business applications. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they can fix faulty software – but they SHOULD be the liaison between you and your vendor to resolve problems you are having and make sure these applications work smoothly for you.
Q21: When something goes wrong with your Internet service, phone systems, printers or other IT services, do they own the problem or do they say “that’s not our problem to fix?”
Your computer consultant should own the problem so that you don’t have to try and resolve any of these issues on your own – that’s just plain old good service and something many computer guys won’t do.