Understanding service plans from computer support companies can be difficult if you’re not a technical person. Confusion can lead to reluctance to sign on the dotted line or even to purchase a block of hours, but failing to plan ahead can mean scrambling for help when there’s no time to think through the pros and cons. Seventy-five percent of small business owners say a computer crash is more disruptive than having an employee out on sick leave, and 86% say office productivity takes a hit when technical systems are malfunctioning or down entirely (Brother Small Business Survey).
Finding the best solution for your technology needs generally involves scheduling an initial consultation, which is often free, reviewing recommendations and plans from the network support company, and selecting a monthly service time or block time purchase. Here are some things to consider during the review process:
- Monthly Plans vs. Block Time Contracts: Monthly plans offer a set number of service hours, including onsite and phone support and are perfect for ongoing maintenance; with a professional monitoring your network, issues can be discovered and corrected before you even know about them. Block time is usually used for one-time projects and consultations or for businesses that need regular IT services but are not ready for monthly plans. Block hours are pre-paid and include onsite and phone support.
- Types of Plans: Network service plans are usually priced depending on the number of company users and/or the number of hours of service per month. The activities that are included may vary depending on the computer company’s recommendations for your business. Be sure you understand what comes with your service plan and what would require an additional charge. Questions to ask include:
- How many users are supported?
- How many servers are supported?
- How many office locations are supported?
- What will be monitored (workstations, laptops, tablets, phones)?
- Are other network devices supported (printers, firewalls, routers, NAS, SAN, managed switch, network security appliances)?
- Is proactive maintenance included and if so, how much?
- Are security audits performed, and if so, how often?
- How often are backups performed?
- How many maintenance hours are onsite, and how many are remote?
- What hours is non-emergency technical support available, both onsite and remote?
- How will trouble tickets be managed? Are they submitted online or via phone? What is the timeframe for response?
- What is the charge for extra hours?
- What other services are available?
- Flexibility: A service plan that is customized to your organization’s needs is ideal; for example, some technology companies combine remote and onsite network support to fit your company’s needs and budget.
- Technician Expertise: Microsoft Certified Partner companies are experts at managing Microsoft Windows networks. Choosing a company that has complied with MCP certification requirements helps ensure that the technicians are qualified and that the company is established and committed to the world of technology.
- Other Services: Even if your budget restricts you from signing up for a service plan that covers more than basic security needs, it will be useful if the network support provider can grow with your business. Having an outside technical team that really understands your business and its needs will be extremely valuable as the business evolves. Ask about consulting services such as strategic technology planning, technical asset tracking and management, guidance on technology purchases, and documentation and training.
- Emergency Service: Of course, for your peace of mind, you’ll want to ensure that network technicians will be on call for emergencies.
Choosing a computer and network service plan is an important part of supporting your company’s development. Optimizing technology to maximize productivity and protect the organization’s reputation with customers as well as the business community helps you focus on new opportunities with confidence.