If you rely on technology to keep your business running, securing the right IT support for your requirements is crucial. A good external provider will offer a bespoke, remote off site solution at a fraction of the cost of employing permanent on-premise staff. This should be designed to meet your exact business needs.

A business’s IT needs will differ according to various factors, including the nature of your business – whether you are a brand new company with a requirement for assistance with occasional problems, or a business that requires support across several areas.

For the most efficient support, it is worth researching firms which use the latest technology, and have highly skilled ‘multi vendor-certified’ engineers who will be on hand to securely solve problems over the internet using remote diagnostics, without stepping foot in your office. This will save you time, money and inconvenience. For more complex issues, which can’t be dealt with remotely, you should expect for them to have an ‘on call’ facility where they can visit your premises and resolve your problem quickly and efficiently.

For smaller businesses, as a guideline, and in general terms a reputable business IT provider should be able to offer you support with: supply and maintenance of hardware and software; 24-hour remote monitoring of your IT systems; networking; online (Cloud Computing) solutions; IT security (firewalls; anti-virus; spyware protection and spam filtering); remote working advice and solutions; data backup; disaster recovery and business contingency planning; a helpdesk manned by experienced engineers and; end user support.

In terms of procuring IT services for a larger business, generally you should be looking for a provider who can supply all of the above in the context of a scalable IT solution designed to meet the high demands of the busy corporate environment.

Additional considerations for larger organisations include: software licensing solutions; office system desktop deployment; telephony and messaging solutions; the provision for secure offsite data backup within a data centre; storage solutions; cloud based solutions for remote working; portals and content management and; information worker solutions.

Viruses, Spyware and Hacking

It is vital that your outsourced IT support company, works with you to maintain system integrity and security to ensure no risk is presented through viruses, spyware, hacking or incorrect access to data etc. Ensure you have a service level agreement with them so you know likely response times in the event of things going wrong.

Recent research which showed that one in three small businesses are running on illegal software, exposing them to the risk of spyware, viruses and even prosecution. We found that many small business owners are not fully aware of the complexities of licensing, moreover many are unaware of the risks of pirate software, often at the hands of unscrupulous IT consultants.

The findings were taken from our survey of 1000 SMEs nationally, which revealed that 36% of firms are running on pirate software, often unknowingly, and an alarming 55% of businesses are not aware that pirated software can contain viruses, spyware and malware that could put vital company data, financial information and employee or customer details at risk. We found equally worrying the fact that 89% of businesses do not check that licenses are authentic when purchasing software.

In a large number of firms there are timebombs waiting to go off. This is largely due to ignorance or bad IT advice. In many cases, it is not necessarily a case of purchasing pirated software, but is a case of software being incorrectly licensed which makes it illegal. Anybody can set up an IT company and offer advice but unfortunately a small number of rogue “consultants” are in existence who are providing the wrong advice in order to maximise profits at the expensive of small businesses.

Disaster Recovery

According to the Contingency Planning Research and Strategic Research Corporation, 43% of companies experiencing disasters never re?open, and 29% close within two years. The risk of fire, flood, theft and system failures make disaster recovery a critical part of business planning. Downtime costs money, and most of us would cease to function without our IT systems and data. You should look for an IT provider who can guide you with your contingency planning, providing a business disaster recovery programme designed to get you back up and running in hours, not days.

Working with you to ensure all your business needs are met, they should: carry out a full risk assessment to identify threats; categorise critical assets, assessing their vulnerability and prioritising their protection; ensure appropriate security measures are taken to protect your data and your business from theft; help you to maintain system integrity and security to ensure no risk is presented through viruses, spyware, hacking or incorrect access to data, design a fully tested and regularly updated disaster recovery programme to ensure your business quickly recovers from disaster and emergency, and; provide access to data and voice in the event of a disruption to your normal business operations.

Data Back Up

Regular and secure data backup is critical to the survival of any IT dependent business, but managing the process can be time consuming and complicated. If your business is highly reliant on IT than you should look for a provider who can supply a flexible, transparent and secure data back up service that can be tailored to suit your needs and features: a wide range of scheduling options including multiple full backups; functionality across a range of operating systems (Windows, Linux, Mac and FreeBSD); intuitive user-friendly interface supporting 1-Click Selections for common backup tasks and easy end user restore capability; up to 448-bit encryption using the military strength Blowfish algorithm; automatic directory monitoring, and; detailed graphical reporting.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing offers virtual solutions to help cut costs and boost flexibility. By moving your data, applications and email to a Data Centre you can help reduce your IT costs by removing the need to purchase and maintain costly on-site servers, while keeping your data securely backed up in “the cloud”.

Internet-based hosted services with a good IT provider, will allow for flexibility and cost-efficiency, and if they are a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, you can access a complete online solution via Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS) to enable employees to share data, email and real-time communication wherever they are on the globe, this can be achieved from as little as £6.32 per month per user.

Budgeting for IT Procurement 

Financing IT is no different to financing cars or sofas, and all the same choices are there. Delayed payment, buy now pay in 12 months – just the same as your sofa adverts on TV. You can also finance a complete solution package. This means you buy IT hardware, engineering time, project management and ongoing support for the entire solution, including the end users. Basically everything is covered in one monthly cost over a 3 -5 year period. Should you wish to add to your system, then the term extends to cover the change, with the monthly cost remaining unchanged.