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Here Are Some Things To Consider Before Switching IT Providers

Aug 24, 2008
Perhaps you're training a new staff member or changing over to a new vendor? Are you making a change in your IT solution which could mean risks for your business? Ask yourself why. Even more than most other departments, understanding what is required to maintain your technology systems and support is info that is not often shared and documented even less frequently.

Years of experience in service and in similar situations can illustrate the secret to keeping Internet Technology services operating smoothly.

Consider these top ten factors before making a switch in the IT department:

1) Understand what you currently have. Begin with an inventory of your software and hardware. Or, even better, perhaps you can persuade your current Internet Technology person to do the documentation with you; everything from network devices to operating systems and software applications.

2) Know Who's Who. Maintain an updated list of business relationships which are functioning well, including vendors. Navigating new changes on the IT network is a bad time to start fielding suprises. Document all service vendors, such as phone, data services, website and email hosting company, and any other managed service provider. Keep current service agreement documents updated and accessible. You'll need a thorough understanding of the services they provide to the company. What is the normal response time for a customer service call? This type of information is important.

3) Backup, backup. As datbase backups are among the most mission-critical technology tasks to maintain, one could easily ask a dozen questions about this area by itself. How are we backed up? How often do we update it? What software do we use? On which hardware? Who does the verification of the backup? When? Are laptop computers included in this? When was the last time we tested everything?

4) Passwords. The one person who has all the passwords left the company over a month ago. You'll need to know all the company passwords as well, for both hardware and software at the business. Even more, you'll need to understand who has what access to where via all these passwords, and where the password records are kept. When changing an IT support solution, you'll need to change all the passwords over again.

5) Documents and disks. All the software and hardware configuration and install disks must be cataloged and kept in a cental area once collected. The license keys associated with these products will also be needed, along with the day, price and place of the purchases - for every copy of every application running on the network. This is a necessity not only for network troubleshoots, but even the trouble which one may face if its Internet Technology system was faced with an audit by the BSA (Business Software Alliance). If this info is absent, the company may someday be stuck paying fines along with the cost of replacement.

6) Scheduled maintenance. Just as one keeps an auto tuned for optimal performance, so one needs regular maintenance of the Internet Technology systems. This helps for both smooth functioning and to keep them from greater breakdowns. You'll need to understand exactly which tasks are being performed, along with who and when. Keeping a checklist by week, day, and month are of the essence, especially during a time of transition.

7) Inspection by the experts. A second pair of eyes on your network is often a great idea. By having a neutral expert such as an outside firm or person looking over your technology infrastructure, you ensure that your investments are protected and a consultant could even spot troubles before they even begin. Often at a cost of under a couple hundred bucks, this could work out to be a big savings of downtime, legal expenses, recovery efforts or maintainence fees.

8) Security. Often when speaking about security, we here buzzwords about virus, spam and hacker threats. But these external forms of danger are actually only half of the danger - IT systems are more often hacked from within. To gain assuredness of your company's defense through and through, keep a record of all security products and prodedures used. This includes the rules of use by the staff.

9) Is yours an industry-compliant system?

10) Where is the key data, such as finance, customers, legal documents all stored, and who can access it?
About the Author
Nick Pegley is VP of Marketing at All Covered Inc, the only nationwide information technology (IT) services company focused solely on enabling the success of small businesses. Serving thousands of organizations across every major industry, the company helps clients achieve their business objectives.
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