The Right IT Stuff:
Finding and Working with the Best Information
Technology Services Partner for Your Small Business
by Ilene Rosoff
Do you often feel stuck in the computer abyss when it comes to managing
your company's needs for web or information technology services? Businesses
with fewer than 50 or 60 employees often find themselves struggling to keep
pace with their basic web and computer support services and miss out on effective
small business IT solutions.
Without the guidance of an information technology services provider, small
businesses can end up wasting time and money on computer support services
because they aren't in touch with the best technology tools and practices
for small business IT solutions. Even zero-employee companies can benefit
immensely from a computer support services partner who shows them how to standardize
their practices, save money with the right hardware or software and develop
Putting Out Fires - Who Needs Dedicated Computer Support
The approach often taken by small organizations when it comes to information
technology services is one of putting out fires. No one has time to update
the website, the network is cobbled together with wiring strung across the
floor, and you're not sure when the last backup really ran. Then, a hard drive
starts going click-click. You call that guy you occasionally use for computer
support services, "Joe-I-Fix-Anything-PCs," to get the computer booting. That's
when to your horror you discover that the tape in the drive since last Tuesday
wasn't really backing up and the click-click is the sickening sound of your
QuickBooks data being eaten by the dying hard drive.
There is a Better Way: A Solutions Partner for Web and
Information Technology Services
It isn't that "Joe" can't spot you some quick computer support services
and get you up and running again. It's the point that the "bargain" hard drive
failed without warning, your data wasn't backed up and you didn't even have
a centralized data management practice to begin with. Wouldn't it have been
great to avoid all the headaches by using best-practice guidelines for business
management and making informed purchase decisions? That's where a good small
business IT solutions provider comes in, not only to avoid disaster but to
save money. For example QuickBooks could be integrated with your shipping
and credit card processing which saves three employees 30 hours a week in
order fulfillment. Then you might implement a web solution for online orders
which integrates with QuickBooks. A good information technology services partner
makes computer support services a value proposition.
Small Business IT Solutions - Hiring a Partner
So what's the best way to find a great web or information technology services
partner to work with and then get the most out of that relationship?
- Look for a company that specializes in small business IT solutions
Computer support services companies that specialize in small business will
be more in tune to your particular needs and challenges. They will understand
budgetary constraints for computer support services and the need to use
resources very efficiently. Because technology developers and manufacturers
are now seeing a large and relatively untapped market of small business
customers, there are some terrific tools emerging for small organizations.
A technology partner focused on small business IT solutions and information
technology services will help your company grow and succeed.
- Do you need a local information technology services partner?
Not necessarily. If the goal here is to find a provider of information technology
services to help you manage your website, make purchase decisions and facilitate
projects, it doesn't have to be local. With sophisticated remote tools and
web-based collaboration, many problems and projects can be addressed remotely.
The key is to find a good fit. For onsite service such as network installation
or hardware swaps, a good solutions partner can identify and schedule local
computer support services as needed or works with a nationwide network experts
for repairs, rollouts or other onsite computer support service. If the company
isn't local, ask what provisions it has in place for onsite service.
- Personalized computer support services
One of the stigmas attached to the tech industry and a common complaint
about providers of computer support services is lack of personalization.
A good provider of information technology services wants to get to know
you, your processes and your employees. The staff should ask questions about
what your company does and who the key contacts are to gain a feel for your
organization's culture. Likewise, access to the provider's staff and resources
is equally important. The relationship is going to be much more effective
when that company has a mandate for personalized service and an open door
- Due diligence
Think of hiring a solutions partner for information technology services
like you would hiring someone for your staff. Look for a company that is
seeking a long-term partnership. Ask for references. Then find out how long
the company has been in business, who you will have access to for a problem
or project and how the provider charges for its computer support services.
- Cohesive approach and good facilitation
The partner that you select should want to take a cohesive approach to understanding
your business or organization and help you come up with a customized plan
for your technology and web needs, be it a long-range strategy or a specific
project. The difference between "Joe-I-Fix-Anything-PCs" and a provider
of complete information technology services and solutions is someone who
can do a good discovery about your organization and its goals, facilitate
the project and help bring together providers for the components outside
their expertise. Also, a one-stop shop can provide you with benefits. Keeping
your hardware and software purchases, web and computer support services
together can provide you economies of scale combined with the convenience
of single point of support and access to someone who knows your business.
How to Get the Most Out of the Relationship
- Identify key problems, goals and areas to improve efficiency
Once you partner with a provider of information technology services and
solutions, the first and most important step is an analysis of problems.
The more you can communicate about your company, current practices and areas
to improve, the more effective your solutions partner can be in coming up
with a computer support services plan designed to keep things running smoothly,
maximize your assets and move your organization forward.
- Set up best practices
Typically the biggest challenge small organizations face in being successful
is getting out of their own way, seeing the big picture and making the changes
necessary for improvements to happen. A good small business IT solutions
partner can help you set up best practices to get most out of your investment
in information technology services. However, making sure those practices
are implemented and followed rests squarely on your shoulders, not on those
of your computer support services provider.
- Avoid costly mistakes - Don't make impulse purchases
Whereas large companies tend to have a formal evaluation and approval process
in place for making technology purchases, many smaller organizations make
impulse purchases. Let the company you've hired for information technology
services do its job and provide you its expertise on purchases. If the company
resells hardware and software at competitive rates, purchasing from it can
be worthwhile. You'll have a single point of purchase for computer support
services, and the company can recommend hardware and software from manufacturers
it has partnerships with and expertise on as well. All of that translates
to added benefit to you.
- Choose managed information technology services designed for business
Small organizations have a tendency to operate off the cuff, looking for
freebies or grabbing cheap services not really designed for business. This
approach to information technology services can come back to bite you. If
you want to grow your business, approach your needs for computer support
services like a bigger organization would. If your IT partner makes recommendations
on computer support services that you think you can find cheaper elsewhere,
take a hard look at what you are getting and how it can really benefit your
business. Once you weigh all the benefits, you may find the value to your
business growth and offerings far outweighs the cost.
- Can I still do it myself?
Working with a good provider of information technology services doesn't
mean you can't do anything yourself. In fact, a reputable and innovative
IT company should educate you on how to better manage your technology needs
and investments. There are still a lot of day-to-day tasks you can and should
do within your organization, depending on your skill level, time and desire.
The point is to keep your computer support services partner in the loop
and use their expertise and input on major technology decisions.
So, what's in it for you? By partnering with a provider of information technology
services, you'll find a more thought out, comprehensive approach to small
business IT solutions that can increase efficiency, save you money, generate
revenue, and help your business succeed.
Ilene Rosoff is the president and founder of The Launch Pad, a 15-year-old
Florida-based technology services company specializing in cost-effective small
business IT consulting and Web solutions for local and national clients with
zero to sixty employees. Ilene Rosoff is a published author and speaker. The
Launch Pad helps small businesses grow and succeed with technology and on
the web. Ilene is a published author and speaks throughout Florida to small
businesses, schools and non-profits on best practices for using information
technology solutions in their organizations. Visit www.launchpadonline.com
to request a technology or Web assessment for your organization or for a proposal
for web or information technology services.
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