Out of the Box Solutions Blog

7 Critical Factors to Consider When Choosing IT Solutions

7CriticalFactors

If your job is running a business, it’s pretty likely that making time to fully compare and understand every piece of business technology just isn’t in the cards. Even if you are pretty comfortable around computers and networking equipment, there are a lot of solutions out there, each with a big list of pros and cons. Finding exactly what you need can be challenging, time consuming, and cost you a lot of time and money if it doesn’t quite fit in with what you already have in place.

When shopping around for the right IT solutions for your organization, it’s important to consider these seven critical factors and make sure you have clear answers so you know exactly what you are getting yourself into.

What will it take to maintain it?

This is one of the biggest oversights that we see happen all of the time. A business purchases a brand new piece of equipment or some fancy software to help streamline operations, but they forget to take into consideration the upkeep costs.

Let’s use a common example – a car. When purchasing a car, you know you need to be aware of other costs associated with the purchase. You know every few thousand miles you’ll need to give it an oil change, check the breaks, and rotate the tires. Every year you need to get it inspected. You need to purchase fuel depending on how often you drive it. You need to have it insured. Suddenly the $20,000 Chevy Cruz feels more like a Corvette Z06 to your wallet.

Of course, if you don’t properly maintain your car, it will seriously reduce its life expectancy and bigger, more expensive issues will crop up.

The same goes for your IT. From virtually anything on your network ranging from servers to printers, your equipment needs to be properly maintained and serviced, and the maintenance doesn’t hit nearly as hard as an actual problem.

Ask your solution provider if they factor in maintenance and upkeep so it’s covered in your IT budget. For software, are there updates? Who’s responsible for testing and applying these updates? Who’s responsible for monitoring equipment to detect early warning signs of failure?

How we handle this:

Out of the Box Solutions takes a proactive approach to maintain your IT investment. We can monitor and maintain all of your computers, servers, and backups to ensure they run as smoothly as possible and the latest updates are installed. We don’t attribute our success to how many computers we work on, but how effective your IT actually is for your business.

Will it scale?

Speaking of success, what happens when you need to add a new employee to your roster? What about the next five, ten, or fifty employees? While not every IT solution can be scaled up indefinitely, it’s important to factor in your expected growth, and be ready for unexpected growth as well. If a remarkably good quarter drives you to add several new positions to the company, having to rethink and rebuild your entire network to accommodate is going to quickly chew through your profits.

While scaling might incorporate some costs, it’s important to have an idea of what that will look like per user, and how much growth your current solution can sustain.

How we handle this:

We truly hope you see growth, because as you grow, we grow with you. We want your IT to be a profit center and improve productivity. When we map out your network, we point out bottlenecks that might need to be addressed before adding new users into the mix.  We’re also able to give you an idea of what each new user will cost, and at what point in your growth you’ll need to rethink your solutions so they can be budgeted out.

Is there anything I can consolidate?

If so, it’s pretty likely your current IT provider didn’t see the full picture of your operations, or they were more in the business of selling you hardware than actually managing your IT. Many businesses need multiple applications running in tandem for their day-to-day business. This might include a Microsoft Exchange email server, a line-of-business application, a data storage/management solution, etc. Many solutions like this don’t need their own dedicated server to run, although they may have been proposed to you that way. Sometimes it might even save a little money in the short term to simply buy and install a new server for a new solution as opposed to upgrading the existing hardware to handle both tasks, but in the long run, consolidating your servers through virtualization can save your business on electricity costs, management costs, and overall support bills.

How we handle this:

Simple, if you are running multiple underutilized servers, we work with you to consolidate them. Depending on the situation, we might recommend it sooner rather than later, or we may suggest consolidating them during your next upgrade to budget for it, based on how effective the result is for you.

How quickly can I recover from an unexpected disaster?

Disasters come in many different forms, from hardware failures to natural disasters. If your office experiences a flood and the majority of your equipment is damaged, the main point of focus needs to be getting back on track as quickly as possible to prevent revenue loss. This might be a more extreme, less common type of disaster, but rapid recovery is imperative no matter the cause of the downtime.

The speed of your recovery depends primarily on how well prepared you are for a disaster. Is your data backed up? Is the backup recent? What type of storage media is the backup on – can it be restored quickly or is it a labor intensive process? Does your backup require specific hardware or can you get back on your feet with temporary equipment while a permanent solution is being implemented? There are a lot of factors to plan for in your business continuity plan.

How we handle this:

A major outage quickly becomes expensive, so we understand that speed is a major factor. We only recommend backup solutions that fully comply with your business continuity plan. Our backup solution utilizes several technologies that allow rapid restore times that aren’t dependent on specific hardware. In fact, if your server fails, the backup solution is able to take its place temporarily. In the event the backup device is lost in the disaster, a new one can be commissioned from the data center and overnighted to your office or temporary location.

Is my data protected from theft?

Ten years ago, keeping your data all in one place was relatively simple. Today, employees are using smartphones, tablets, and laptops to get their work done, and it’s increasing the perimeter of your IT footprint. You want IT support that understands this modern paradigm and can keep you in control of the security of your data.

How we handle this:

Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for data management, there are various policies and solutions to control data and access. From BYOD policies and device management to secure VPN solutions that let your users securely access files and applications from anywhere without carrying your data around.

We can also recommend security solutions that protect your data from dangerous threats and outside intrusions like viruses, malware, ransomware, and hackers. Most importantly, we manage and maintain these solutions to ensure they are consistently doing their job and protecting your assets.

What happens when my staff needs support or training?

New solutions require proper onboarding, training, and support. In order to see the value of a technology investment, your staff needs to know how to take advantage of it. Does your solutions provider simply handle the implementation and leave you with the user manual, or do they work with you and your team until you are comfortable? What happens when it breaks? What are the costs of support?

How we handle this:

Our professional technicians aren’t simply focused on the technology aspects of the solutions, but the user experience. We understand that a piece of hardware or software is pointless if it doesn’t serve a greater objective or make your job easier, and we’re dedicated to that end result.

We also don’t leave you high and dry after the solution is in place. Your staff is able to reach out to our helpdesk for technical support, and you can utilize your dedicated account manager as a virtual CIO for managing the lifecycle, budget, and growth of your IT.

What is your SLA (Service Level Agreement)?

Have you ever had to call your cable company or Internet Service Provider to come to your home and fix your Internet, and they tell you they will be there sometime next Thursday between the hours of 10am and 4pm? We hate that too. If your current computer provider treats you the same way and not like a priority, they are potentially costing you a lot of lost time, productivity, and revenue.

We work with you to set clear expectations for response times for the various types of issues you face, ranging from non-critical, critical, and emergency support. There aren’t any hidden loopholes or surprises – we take your business very seriously and consider downtime an emergency.

If you are tired of feeling like you aren’t a priority by your current IT provider, we encourage you to give us a call at 800-750-4OBS (4627) and let us give you an example of what Out of the Box Solutions can do for your business.

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