Five Blocks of Best Practice IT Support
PC Methods offers a five block support offering for our IT clients. Not all clients choose to take advantage of all five blocks, but they are there if you want the best possible combination of value and service. The blocks are: Project Work, Centralized Services, Network Administration, Virtual CIO, and Support. These are the product offerings that clients should look for when selecting the best possible IT business partner.
Two of the five blocks are common to most IT support providers. They are Centralized Services (comprised of monitoring, patch management, anti-viral/malware, backup and disaster recovery and cloud services) and Support (comprised of remote helpdesk, onsite services and how-to-do questions). Let’s take them one at a time.
- In Centralized Services, monitoring means remote monitoring of your computer for anything that might put that computer at high risk of infection and/or shutdown. Patch management involves the ever increasing number of available “patches” for existing problems with already existing software. The need to keep the patches up to date is critical for most business software packages. Anti-viral/malware is pretty self-explanatory, do you really want your business computer infected with a Trojan, a Worm or Malware? There is a great need to keep upgrading the anti-viral/malware, even if it means dumping your old anti-viral/malware and getting a new, better anti-viral/malware. The viruses and malware DO keep getting more and more sophisticated, numerous and specifically targeted. You cannot protect a 2013 computer with 2008 anti-viral/malware, no matter how up to date your definitions are. Back up, cloud preferred, and disaster recovery speak for themselves. A serious rule of thumb is the fact that however long your back up took, that is how long the recovery will probably take if you have an already existing Managed Services Plan. Without an existing MSP your disaster recovery could take many more times as long because the IT support provider has to come in cold and figure out your miraculously cheap back up system before they can do anything with it. In an already existing MSP the IT support provider handles the back up, it is their approved back up program, they have experience with it and can implement immediate disaster recovery. Cloud services, such as virtual servers and virtual computers with older compatibilities, are becoming increasingly popular.
- The next common box is Support. This involves the IT Support provider providing a helpdesk at their facility which you can call with your questions. The IT Support provider provides your company with onsite technology support and service. The IT Support provider also agrees to provide answers to your company’s how to do questions, generally while onsite. These two boxes are the common boxes that every IT Support provider will have in their arsenal to provide your company with the best support possible.
- Now let’s talk about the two boxes that are NOT common to every IT Support provider. The first box is called Virtual CIO. The IT Support provider contracts with you to help you keep on top of your company’s technology SWOT, not just the upfront costs of the hardware and software, but also the hidden costs of upgrades, patches, replacing old or non-functioning or obsolete equipment causing employee downtime. It is Virtual CIO’s goal to help your company optimize your profit by making the best use of your IT budget. It is their job to point out to your company what hardware and software packages are not living up to their costs and to give you options to upgrade them or replace them as cost effectively as possible. That is the bottom line…the cost effectiveness of your company’s technology…helping you get the most productivity with the least expense. You don't just want to minimize costs, or get the latest possible technology no matter the cost. You want to pick the optimum combination of technology (hardware, software, service) which will result in the best bottom line over the targetted period of time.
- The second unusual box is the Network Administration box. The IT Support provider contracts with your company to provide the necessary training for your employees to achieve maximum efficiency with the technology. The need to clearly establish “Best Practices” is essential, especially as the number of workstations grows beyond four or five. This is proactive technology management and it can save your company thousands of dollars per year. Do you really want to pay that employee to sit there and figure out a new or upgraded program or computer? That is very expensive. It is the function of Network Administration to minimize these costs by providing things like a network map, computer inventory, passwords lists, ISP information sheet, etc.
- The fifth box is project management. During the course of a year, there will typically be some kind of project work needed. Our policy is to do a design specification which may or may not be a chargeable service depending on the project, and then a project quote which is usually a fixed price deal with a carefully laid out scope of work (i.e. what the customer receives). Larger projects will also have a timetable and a project plan. The aim in all this is to keep projects well understood and reduce the number of surprises that can occur.