What to expect from an IT Support Contract – Like an insurance, knowing that you have a competent support contractor to call on in times of need gives a certain amount of peace of mind. But you have to carefully choose the company and the level of support required and then take your responsibilities seriously the support contract may not cover everything!

Assess your IT infrastructure

Find what you have

If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to draw up an inventory of your equipment and the software that’s running on it. If you aren’t sure of the specification of the machines then running a small freeware application such as Belarc Advisor on each machine will provide you with a complete list of hardware and software. Don’t forget to include your peripherals like printers and scanners and any network components such as hubs, switches, routers etc.

Draft a requirements specification

This needn’t be a mammoth document! Don’t be overly concerned about being technical. Make sure that it includes an overview of your organisation and IT. List of the equipment you want covered. What you expect the contract to cover and your expected response times.

Find an IT Support Company

Use your networks and contacts to ask for recommendations. Whilst you could use the Yellow Pages to find certain services, in the same way that you might choose a builder or plumber, you’ll probably be better off by basing your search on word-of-mouth or published sources.

Send out your requirements
It helps for you to see them face-to-face. Just like any interview if you don’t get on then it’s probably not good to get into what is essentially a business relationship. When they’re on site, see if you can judge their attitude, perhaps mention a specific problem you’re having and see how they react. Ask them for references of organisations they currently support.

Confidentiality
If the contractor is to have access to your data, directly or remotely, then you might wish to consider drawing up a confidentiality agreement with them.

Assess their quotes and contract conditions
Compare the quotations that you get back – again you can tell how keen a company is by how quickly they respond with a quote and how accurately it reflects your needs. Check carefully the conditions of the contract. Bear in mind that the cheapest might not be the best! Make sure you understand how the charging system works – different contractors have different schemes and you might need to do some calculations based on average use over a year to work out how they stack up.

Responsibilities
Just because you have a support contract doesn’t mean you do not have to take care of the basic administrative tasks – indeed, most contractors will expect you to carry out a number of activities on a regular basis.

Appoint a contact person
Have one person who is the main contact with the support company. They will normally be the staff member who has responsibility for the IT in the organisation and is most familiar with the systems, hardware and software. In this way you build up a relationship with the support company.

Log all support issues
A simple fault logging system will help keep track of what problems the organisation is having. This not only helps build up a picture of the IT issues and problems but also helps with resolving issues in the future. Your support company may also provide you with their own log sheet which they will ask you to sign. You should keep these safely for your records.

Summary
However large or small your organisation is, and however much IT equipment you have, at some time something is probably going to go wrong. Having a good support company at the end of the phone can make it considerably less stressful for the IT administrator and for the rest of the staff.

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