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A healthy, growing business is almost always a good thing. Still, expansion brings with it certain responsibilities on your part.
If your business is growing quite quickly, it’s important to understand that large changes or adjustments may need to be made. This could mean hiring more employees, starting to provide employee health insurance, advertising more and spending more on marketing services, or obtaining more physical office space.
One area that you certainly won’t want to ignore as your business expands is your company’s information technology provider.
Many businesses who start small assume they can keep their IT provider as they grow. However, it’s important to realize that some providers aren’t equipped to handle larger businesses — those who often necessitate sprawling networks and extensive security needs.
To determine whether your company will soon require new IT services, consider the following questions about your current IT provider.
Often, when you’re just starting out, you’ll hire an IT provider who handles information technology services for a broad range of industries. Without a doubt, working with these types of providers will help your growing business by cutting costs. At the same time, you’ll still have your IT taken care of.
But as your business grows, you’ll want an IT provider with unique expertise in your industry. Niche IT providers who specialize in IT for hospitals, transportation services, or optometry offices, for example, are much more likely to provide you with better-quality service and improved security.
They are knowledgeable about and regularly brush-up on industry standards. They keep up with new and cutting edge technologies in your industry. And most of all, they are constantly aware of common security threats (and solutions) to businesses like yours.
Take a look at who else your IT company serves. Are there any clients who match your company’s size? If so, do you believe those companies would also necessitate the same amount of attention and security as your company?
Even if your current provider services a company comparable to your size, if that company is a greeting card business and you own a chain of dental offices, you may have more to think about than just size. Namely, you’d have personal medical information within your network and a unique and crucial need to avoid breaches, scams, and possible liability catastrophes.
Are you already in near-constant communication with your IT provider for recurrent outages, network errors, slow-downs, and other problems?
Certainly, troubleshooting is one of the reasons you have an IT provider in the first place. However, the best providers should be able to set-up a network that requires infrequent service.
Moreover, preventable errors that happen once should not happen again. The downtime that results from problems in your network will inevitably hinder your business’s success. Moreover, as a company that’s growing, things will only get worse if you do not improve your service now.
When you have needed to make a service request in the past, what’s been your current provider’s track record?
Consider how easy they are to get in touch with. Are you able to speak with your own account manager or at least a representative who’s knowledgeable about your business?
How fast is your request handled? If it’s an emergency, such as a security breach or a system failure, how fast do they respond? If it’s a routine question or small system error, how fast do they respond?
Larger businesses need IT providers who know their business and are at-the-ready when a problem occurs. In fact, you should have a direct line to call when problems arise — one that answers to a live person.
Furthermore, as a growing business, you’ll want to anticipate that future problems will inevitably be more calamitous, especially when left unhandled for even a day or two. As your business expands, your IT provider must be immediately responsive, fully capable of handling any problem, and prompt in their service calls.
First of all, have they taken notice of your company’s growth? A quality IT company will come to you first, noting that your company has been expanding and ideally, presenting a plan for your extended IT needs.
However, even if it’s you who needs to take the knowledge of your company’s expansion to your IT company, you’ll want to look for signs that they have a plan in mind to accommodate your anticipated needs.
They may, for example, suggest that you move from an as-needed payment plan to a monthly or yearly management plan. Many of the best IT providers who handle a range of company sizes will have at least these two options for their clients. When moving to a managed plan, you’ll be able to request assistance whenever necessary, paying a flat rate for their on-call care.
If, by evaluating the questions above, you’ve determined that it may be time to hire a new IT company, this certainly doesn’t mean that your current provider is entirely insufficient. It simply means that you’ve outgrown them, which in turn means that it’s time to move on to a more capable provider.
Taking the time to assess and realize your business’s extent of growth and possible outgrowth of an IT provider is an important step in your business’s expansion. Hiring an IT provider with adequate resources and capabilities to handle your expansion will ensure you’re fully prepared when it comes to your information technology — a foundational element that is, today, an invaluable component to businesses of all kinds.