computer support personScheduling onsite computer support can make a business owner or IT manager feel vulnerable. After all, you’ll be trusting outsiders with their company’s technology – likely a very important aspect of your business, if not the core of it. Small businesses use computers for everything from accounting to webinars. But according to SMB Group 2014, 27% of small businesses have no IT support.

It’s best not to wait for a nerve-racking emergency that necessitates a search for outside IT support in the midst of downtime that is costing your company money every minute. You can find the right provider now, while things are (relatively) calm. Here are five items to assess when looking for an onsite computer support company:

  • Knowledge: You can get some idea of the knowledge level of the technician from chatting on the phone, but be aware that diagnosing your technical problem remotely may or may not be possible. Just as a patient’s complaint about a stomachache can mean many possibilities to a physician, finding the cause of a computer problem may require the technician to systematically rule out other potential contributors first.

Technical knowledge can also be tough to evaluate if it’s not your area of expertise, but you can see if the tech support company you’re considering is a Microsoft Certified Partner (MCP). This designation is only available to companies that have met high quality standards as defined by Microsoft. Becoming an MCP indicates the ability to provide a wide range of technical services, as well as a commitment to excellence in the field on the part of the computer support company.

  • Experience: Just as in other specialties, becoming an expert requires experience and leads to faster problem-solving, as well as higher-quality recommendations based on an understanding of how various aspects of technology interact and affect one another. Keep in mind that a MCP has shown that they can support a variety of IT services, including implementation, maintenance and support, and consulting. Find out how long the company has been in business and how much experience the team shares. It’s helpful if they also have experience in your industry or in a related vertical.
  • Availability: Look for a locally-owned and -operated company with several technicians on staff. You may not need immediate assistance every time you call, but when you do have an emergency, it’s important that they have time for you. Availability concerns can make it difficult to do business with a one-person company, especially if your business is heavily dependent on technology for revenue generation (such as a restaurant with online ordering) or efficiency (such as a medical office).
  • Attitude: Techies have a reputation for poor social skills, but there are plenty of tech professionals who are friendly and patient, and having them as a part of your ancillary team will make life much easier. Having computer support from technicians who are committed to supporting your business by resolving technical issues quickly and making sound recommendations is most important, but you have to be able to communicate with them.
  • Competitive Rates: Charges for onsite IT support vary widely and by locale. Get a general idea of what is standard for your area and then do some comparison shopping. Rather than just looking for the lowest rate, which can be more costly in the long run, look for transparent pricing that is competitive for your city or town and offers the best value for your budget.

When you’re looking for onsite computer support, you’re really looking for a partner who can offer guidance through the ever-changing world of technology and what it can do to build your business. Finding the right combination of knowledge, experience, availability, and attitude at value-packed rates will help you leverage technology for the benefit of your organization.