Unfortunately, the IT consulting industry (along with many others) has its own share of incompetent or unethical people who will try to take advantage of trusting business owners who simply do not have the ability to determine whether or not they know what they are doing. Sometimes this is out of greed for your money; more often it’s simply because they don’t have the skills and competency to do the job right but won’t tell you that up front because they want to make the sale.
Misleading information, unqualified technicians, poor management, terrible customer service; we’ve seen it all, and we know they exist in abundance because we have had a number of customers come to us to clean up the disasters they have caused.
Automotive repair shops, electricians, plumbers, lawyers, realtors, dentists, doctors, accountants, etc., are heavily regulated to protect the consumer from receiving substandard work or getting ripped off. However, the computer industry is still highly unregulated and there are few laws in existence to protect the consumer – which is why it’s so important for you to really research the company or person you are considering, to make sure they have the experience to set up, migrate and support your network to the cloud.
Anyone who can hang out a shingle can promote themselves as a “cloud expert.” Even if they are honestly trying to do a good job for you, their inexperience can cost you dearly in your network’s speed and performance or in lost or corrupt data files. To that end, here are 12 questions you should ask your IT person before letting them migrate your network to the cloud:
Critical Questions to Ask Your IT Company or Computer Consultant BEFORE Letting Them Move Your Network To The Cloud (Or Touch Your Network!)
Question: How many clients have you provided cloud services for to date and can you provide references?
Answer: You don’t want someone practicing on your network. At a minimum, make sure they have been using the service they promote and have more than one customer using that service that you can talk to.
Question: How quickly do they guarantee to have a technician working on an outage or other problem?
Answer: Anyone you pay to support your network should give you a written SLA (service level agreement) that outlines exactly how IT issues get resolved and in what time frame. I would also request that they reveal what their average resolution time has been with current clients over the last three to six months.
They should also answer their phones live from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and provide you with an emergency after-hours number you may call if a problem arises, including on weekends.
If you cannot access your network because the Internet is down or due to some other problem, you can’t be waiting around for hours for someone to call you back OR (more importantly) start working on resolving the issue. Make sure you get this in writing; often cheaper or less experienced consultants won’t have this or will try and convince you it’s not important or that they can’t do this. Don’t buy that excuse! They are in the business of providing IT support, so they should have some guarantees or standards around this they share with you.
Question: What’s your plan for transitioning our network to the cloud to minimize problems and downtime?
Answer: We run a simultaneous cloud environment during the transition and don’t “turn off” the old network until everyone is 100% confident that everything has been transitioned and is working effortlessly. You don’t want someone to switch overnight without setting up a test environment first. Question: 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 as arrogant and make you feel stupid for asking simple questions?
Answer: Our technicians are trained to have the “heart of a teacher” and will take time to answer your questions and explain everything in simple terms. Our clients all enjoy the rule of the only ‘bad’ question is the one not asked
Question: Where will your data be stored?
Answer: You should receive full documentation about where your data is, how it’s being secured and backed up and how you could get access to it if necessary WITHOUT going through your provider. Essentially, you don’t want your cloud provider to be able to hold your data (and your company) hostage.
Question: How will your data be secured and backed up?
Answer: If they tell you that your data will be stored in their own co-lo in the back of their office, what happens if THEY get destroyed by a fire, flood or other disaster? What are they doing to secure the office and access? Are they backing it up somewhere else? Make sure they are SAS 70 certified and have a failover plan in place to ensure continuous service in the event that their location goes down. If they are building on another platform, you still want to find out where your data is and how it’s being backed up.
Question: Do they have adequate errors-and-omissions insurance as well as workers’ compensation insurance to protect YOU?
Answer: 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 that 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 multimillion-dollar lawsuits from customers for the bad behavior of their technicians. In some cases, their techs were accessing, copying and distributing personal information they gained access to on customers’ PCs and laptops brought in for repairs. In other cases, they lost clients’ laptops (and subsequently all the data on them) and tried to cover it up. Bottom line: Make sure the company you are hiring has proper insurance to protect YOU.
Question: Is it standard procedure for them to provide you with written network documentation detailing what software licenses you own, your critical passwords, user information, hardware inventory, etc., or are they the only person with the “keys to the kingdom”?
Answer: All clients receive this in written and electronic form at no additional cost. We 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 (and we can help to make sure you don’t suffer ANY ill effects). This is downright unethical and dangerous to your organization, so don’t tolerate it!
Question: Do they have other technicians on staff who are familiar with your network in case your regular technician goes on vacation or gets sick?
Answer: Yes, and since we keep detailed network documentation (basically a blueprint of your computer network) and updates on every client’s account, any of our technicians can pick up where another left off.
Question: Is their help desk US-based or outsourced to an overseas company or third party?
Answer: We provide our own in-house help desk and make sure 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 an important step in keeping your data secure.
Question: Are they familiar with (and can they support) your unique line-of-business applications?
Answer: We own the problems with all line-of-business applications for our clients. That doesn’t mean we can fix faulty software – but we WILL be the liaison between you and your vendor to resolve problems you are having and make sure these applications work smoothly for you instead of pointing fingers and putting you in the middle.
Question: 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”?
Answer: We feel WE should own the problem for our clients so they don’t have to try and resolve any of these issues on their own – that’s just plain old good service and something many computer guys won’t do.