The growth of managed services for IT has created competition amongst IT firms across Maryland, contributing to the development of the I-270 Technology Corridor between Washington DC and Frederick MD. Beyond managed services, it is usual to find an IT support company offering a range of specialist services, previously only available from enterprise-class providers asking for a Fortune-500 price tag.
This has all changed!
Managed services providers will not only manage your network and IT infrastructure, but will provide you with expertise and the products to leverage the Cloud, install wireless Internet over campus–sized property, as well as help you optimize your telecommunications by swapping out your traditional phones for a Voice over IP (VoIP) system which will reduce costs and ease administration.
So what should you be looking for in an IT services company?
Here are some of the major things to watch out for and to ask your potential partner:
Local Offices and Staff
You want a company which is capable of serving your needs, and while a lot of work can be carried out remotely, you will need staff on your site from time to time. This is inevitable, so look for a provider who has offices and staff within Maryland itself and ideally not more than 70 miles from your location (this is about the furthest range for an engineer to commute).
Staff Availability, Training and Experience
There should be a suitable number of staff working out of the company. This is because if they have too much work on, then getting to you may be problematic, especially if there is an emergency.
Staff training and experience are important, because you want to ensure that only the most skilled engineers are being deployed to work on your network and infrastructure. Other questions to ask your prospective provider are staff turnover, average age of engineers, how long they have been employed by the provider and where else did they gain training and experience, e.g. Microsoft.
When you obtain quotes and proposals in for work, ensure you are comparing like-for-like with the numbers. It is easy to quote cheaply for any level of work by relaxing service standards, however, if you are relying on your IT provider to maintain and ensure high availability of your network and IT assets, you really cannot afford to be a Scrooge here.
That said, pricing ought to be competitive and you should be able to negotiate a customized package which suits your budget and your needs.
Service Offerings & Partners
Any established IT Service Company will be able to offer a range of service offerings beyond the straight-forward network management services. Typically, a mature and well-established company will be a Microsoft and Cisco partner, as well as partner with security specialists, e.g. Sophos, and provide virtualization and Cloud services, preferably operating their own data center. They should be certified in the use of these products too, and have extensive experience in planning and implementing solutions, both hardware and software.
Fundamentally, prepare yourself to ask questions of your short-list of IT managed service providers, and arm yourself with the knowledge to understand the answers. If you are not satyisfied with the answers you get, then move on as this is a competitive niche.
Jane Wrythe is a freelance writer and blogger based in Frederick MD – she is currently writing for Swift Systems, a major local IT Managed Services provider.