take charge of your careerIf you’re planning to outsource your IT support to a company like Probrand, then you’ll be weighing up the costs involved, as well as the reputation of the provider. This is to be expected, of course, but you also need to look at what the supplier will provide and what their obligations are. You’ll have an agreement with the company that you engage, and so here’s what you need to look at before you sign anything.

The agreement may be in the form of a contract, or it may be in a service level agreement (SLA), but you should expect to see the following in it.

The response and resolution timescales

Response and resolution are two different beasts, so don’t confuse them. The response time is the time taken to acknowledge your call or request and the resolution time is the time taken to resolve the problem.

Many IT support companies endeavour to respond within an hour, and to resolve the problem within eight hours.

The support tiers

A lot of IT support companies have three support tiers – first line, second line and third line. This keeps things moving smoothly – if it’s a trivial problem, someone on the first line can prescribe the “turn it off and on again” panacea. This frees up the second tier to look more deeply at more complicated issues, which in turn frees up the third tier techies to deal with the really challenging stuff.

Having a few tiers points to good organisation, but do consider if they have enough staff members to populate each tier effectively.

What your package includes

Most outsourced IT support services don’t charge by the hour anymore, they offer managed services – a bundle of services that cost a set fee each month. Often, these bundles include helpdesk and remote support, email management, virus scanning and protection, back-ups and so forth. You need to look at what routine tasks your provider will do each month, too.

What it doesn’t include

Many support companies have some exclusions from their offerings – you need to know what they are. Very often exclusions include IT problems due to floods, theft, power outages and other unusual or extreme events. Your support will often pitch in to help in these circumstances, but you may pay by the hour and they won’t be bound by their usual response and resolution times. At the very least, your IT support can advise you on contingency plans for extreme circumstances.

The excess charges

There will be some tasks or circumstances, such as the ones described above, which are subject to excess charges. You may also have to pay extra if the work is performed out of office hours, so do be aware of the schedule.

The provider’s hours of operation

You may not keep the same hours as your support provider, so make sure there’s not too much of a discrepancy. If you start at 8.00am and your IT company doesn’t start until 10.00am, you may be without help for two hours. If you can get by with this and the support team is otherwise ideal, then go ahead. If not, you may need to choose another provider.

Remember that your support contract is there to protect both you and the provider, so do take the time to read and understand it – it always pays in the long run.