6 Key Things to Look for in an IT Support Contract

Posted on Tuesday 27th September 2016 10:30

If you’re planning to outsource IT to another company then you need to look at more than just the price. An IT support contract can be complex and difficult to understand, so here are some of the key points you should look for.

IT Support Contracts

What’s the difference between an IT Support contract and SLA?

Once you’ve decided to outsource IT support or maintenance to another company, you’ll start looking into potential providers. Pretty soon you’ll hear the phrases ‘IT Support contract’ and ‘SLA’, or some variations of those at least. Before you go any further it’s important to understand what these are.

The contract is the main written agreement between yourself and the other party/parties. This will be a legally binding document that outlines the services, approach, duration, cost, resources, assumptions, etc.

The SLA – Service Level Agreement – is often a separate document that focuses the service levels you’ll receive. It sets out what levels of service are acceptable and the consequences if these levels are not met, allowing performance measurement for the service.

Having a separate SLA document means you can revise the SLA without having to revise the contract, adapting easily to any changing service level requirements. Keeping them separate helps to reduce the administrative strain of reviewing contracts too regularly.

What key things should your agreement cover?

Contracts and SLAs come in all shapes and sizes and most are designed to be customised for each specific client. Whatever formats they may take there are some key items that should be covered in either the contract or the SLA:

1. What You Get

There should be a complete list of what your support agreement covers, including what kinds of software and hardware are included.

What kind of support tiers are available? First, second and third line support tiers reflect good organisation and capability to handle issues with different levels of complexity or difficulty.

2. What You Don’t Get

Exclusions & Limitations – it’s normal for companies to exclude certain items from the services they provide. This might include IT issues due to situations and circumstances outside of your service provider’s control, like water or fire damage, force of nature occurrences, unauthorised modifications, theft, etc.

In these scenarios it’s a good idea to have a continuity plan in place to minimise system downtime. Don’t rule out asking your service provider for help, but their support times and facilities won’t be bound by the same terms as the rest of your agreement.

3. Response and Resolution Time

Response time is the time taken for the support provider to acknowledge the issue you’ve raised. Resolution time is how long it takes for the issue to be fixed.

Response time is usually defined within the support agreement or SLA, but resolution times can vary depending on the severity and complexity of the issue. Many agreements will have a breakdown of resolution times relating to different levels of issue severity or resolution priority.

4. How Long You’ll Wait

Response time is the time taken for the support provider to acknowledge the issue you’ve raised.

Resolution time is how long it takes for the issue to be fixed.

Response time is usually defined within the support agreement or SLA, but resolution times can vary depending on the severity and complexity of the issue. Many agreements will have a breakdown of resolution times relating to different levels of issue severity or resolution priority.

5. What You Have to Do

Check for responsibilities or conditions you have to fulfil to keep up your side of the contract – are you ok with them? They may include things like:

  • Payment schedule
  • System problems you may need to fix before the contract comes into effect
  • Getting approval from the IT support provider before making changes to your system
  • Having a designated person in your team responsible for liaising with the provider
  • Meeting minimum standards for security/ continuity (anti-virus, or reliable power supply etc.)

5. What it Costs

Price is the bottom line – knowing exactly what you are paying for is vital. How is the support price calculated – per incident or per day? Do you have a fixed bill each month, or pay-as-you-go credits?

If support is supplied via a credits system then check for details of how many credits you get, how long are the valid for and how much time or support each credit grants.

Check for hidden costs, like excess charges for special circumstances or additional specialist personnel. Are these costs agreed in advance or on a case-by-case basis?

How do I know which IT Support Contract is best?

Remember that the agreement/contract is there to protect both parties involved. It’s always best agreed in advance so that terms of service are laid out before any difficulties arise. Don’t be put off by a provider wanting to agree all these details up front – it demonstrates that they’re organised and professional.

Given the variety that agreements can come in, it’s important to just make sure you check over all terms and conditions and make sure you’re happy with them. Good providers will understand the need for custom requirements and should be happy to discuss any queries you have.

Thorough agreements can cover most hypothetical scenarios, but remember that it’s just as important to feel the company themselves are trustworthy and reliable. The best way to find that out is to start talking to service providers, see the services they offer and speak to the clients they already provide such services to.

While you’re here why not start with us?

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For 25 years Influential Software Services has delivered quality business software & data solutions from within the UK. If you would like to talk to us about a business intelligence solution, software solution or any IT project you need to deliver successfully, please contact us.

 

How Outsourcing IT Can Help Your Business

Posted on Thursday 8th September 2016 10:30

Whether SME or FTSE-100, it’s never too late to start outsourcing IT – but where to start? In this article we take a look at what areas of IT & technical support you can outsource and the benefits of doing so.

IT Support

Your Business Needs IT Support. What Next?

You own a business, you’ve done your research and are well aware of the importance of IT support. So what next?

If your large company already has IT staff then you may decide that’s enough. If you’re an SME or startup that can’t afford to hire IT personnel then you may decide to manage without.

In both scenarios, you’re forgetting the potentially much better option: outsourcing IT support.

What are the Benefits of Outsourcing IT Support?

There’s lots of discussion about the topic of outsourcing IT. Different businesses prioritise different reasons and benefits of doing so. Here are some of our top ones:

  •  Access to Latest Tech/ Expertise – the most up-to-date technologies & specialists
  • IT Cost Savings – no need to pay for extra tech, training or staff
  • Improved Business Focus – internal teams are not distracted with IT support tasks
  • Flexibility – IT Support when and how you need it, adapting to any changing requirements
Enterprise support isn’t just for Star Trek.

Enterprise Support

Learn why you need IT Support Services, and the risks of assuming you don’t

What Can I Outsource?

So you’ve decided to outsource IT and technical support, but where do you begin? What parts of your business can even be outsourced? Here are some suggestions you might start with:

Software Support

Modern software is complex; if it goes wrong the fix can be tricky to figure out. Outsourced specialists trained in the latest tech can help with break-fixes, system configurations and troubleshooting, whether a bespoke application or licensed tool or platform.

Hardware Support

From troubleshooting and diagnosing hardware faults to installing new network printers, you need reliable technical support at hand – even if not 100% of the time.

Infrastructure Support

System efficiency is vital to success, so you’ll want help on hand to ensure your IT infrastructure is on point and well cared for. This includes broadband and network connections, servers and even the cloud.

Backups & Recovery

Did you remember to hit save… on your whole system? IT support providers can conduct regular backups for you and assist in recovering your systems in an emergency.

Security & Penetration Testing

SMEs are frequent targets for cyber attack. Enhance your system security with ad-hoc penetration testing & secure server setups by trained experts.

Data Management

Are you producing more data than you know what to do with? Hand your data integration and database management to specialists who know exactly how to process and look after it.

System Maintenance

Better than a break-fix is preventing the break in the first place. Regular system maintenance by technicians trained in the latest tech ensures a smooth running business, avoiding disruption and downtime.

System Development

Your competitors don’t just stand still and neither do you; you want things to run faster, better, stronger, smoother. Dedicated development teams work to optimise and enhance your business systems, allowing you to focus on the business itself.

When in Doubt – Ask Experts

If you’re still unsure of what to do you can simply ask for help – yes, even this can be outsourced.

Experienced specialists like Influential can assess your business and offer advice about where to relieve pressure and strain on internal staff. You could even gain new avenues of business that limited resources had previously made inaccessible.

The first step is to ask. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can relax knowing that IT is taken care of, so you can focus on your work.

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For 25 years Influential Software Services has delivered quality business software & data solutions from within the UK. If you would like to talk to us about a business intelligence solution, software solution or any IT project you need to deliver successfully, please contact us.

 

IT Support Services – Why Kirk needs Scotty

Posted on Friday 2nd September 2016 12:30

With Captain Kirk and his crew as our guides, we explore some of the benefits of IT support services for your business, as well as the risks and consequences of not having things in place.

Enterprise Support

“Bridge to Engine Room – Warp Factor 9!”

Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise calls to the engine room for warp speed – but why? This is the future; does Kirk even need Scotty when he could just flip a switch right there from the bridge?

Starting or running a business can feel a lot like commanding a ship, setting forth on an adventure into the unknown. To boldly go…you get the idea.

IT and support are the engineers of your business ship.

With the mission of reaching customers and delivering services (or exploring strange new worlds) at the forefront of your attention, investing in support services is often a low priority. You implement a digital system for your business, set it running and assume it will continue to do so while you focus on your customers and services.

This would be like the Enterprise without Scotty. However, Captain Kirk would never set forth without his engineer on board.

For the Enterprise the engineers have to be literally ‘on board’ because, well… they’re in space and call-outs are tricky. While many businesses have internal IT staff too, there are some key advantages to outsourcing your IT support:

  • No single point of failure should your IT people leave
  • Up to date expertise from specialist support teams
  • Reduced IT costs with bespoke support agreements and SLAs
  • Increased internal focus; freed up internal teams to focus on the core business

However, advantages of outsourcing aside, the initial question remains: why do you need support at all? Why does the Enterprise need Scotty?

Why Do You Need Support Services?

1. Because you need someone on board who knows how the system works

“I know this ship like the back of my hand.”

You need an expert. You need someone there to answer the technical questions, to monitor systems, to investigate errors and help users understand how to get the results they need from the system.

It’s quick and simple to get a support agreement in place. Support is usually offered with bespoke development or a product licence, and you can approach providers about project rescue for your legacy systems.

 

Influential are SAP Gold and IBM Advanced Business Partners, providing licences, development & support Talk to experts for end-to-end BI service

 

2. Because the engine room needs maintenance to keep running

“I cannae change the laws of physics!”

Like it or not, technology around us changes constantly and your systems need to keep up. Updates to integrated platforms or APIs can affect your system’s functionality or compliance, disrupting services and compromising efficiency or revenue.

With established maintenance agreements in place you can rest assured that when issues arise they will be handled quickly and cost-effectively.

3. Because the ship will run faster and smoother with proactive improvements

“I’m giving it all she’s got captain!”

Modern digital solutions are often designed to be scalable and future-proofed, but they still require attention to maximise business potential. Your competitors will constantly work to make systems better, faster and more secure – why shouldn’t you do the same?

Support is about more than just reacting to issues – it’s also about proactively pursuing improvements to prevent issues occurring. With managed IT services you can outsource specialists to test and development systems, look after your data, boost efficiency and enhance security.

4. Because from time to time, things break

“The engines cannae take it captain!”

Without the teams in the engine room, the Enterprise could be left stranded.

It does happen – sometimes systems break, fail or stop working. This could be a minor disruption that only affects isolated functions, or a major one that brings your whole system crashing down.

It’s always a good idea to prepare for an emergency scenario. SLAs that outline strategies for different priority ‘break-fixes’ will save time, money and stress should the worst happen. System backups and disaster recovery services can minimise downtime in the event of system outages, restoring functionality as quickly and painlessly as possible.

“Set Phasers to Stun”

Support isn’t just about making systems work. It’s about supporting the systems while they work; supporting your enterprise, the way Scotty supports the starship Enterprise.

For many businesses support is low priority as it doesn’t produce revenue. You might even think that ignoring it will save you money. However, the consequences in the long run could be huge, not just to your bottom line but to your brand and customer retention.

With the right support teams on board, you can stun your customers and partners with a smooth running business ship.

So the next question is: where do I begin?

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For 25 years Influential Software Services has delivered quality business software & data solutions from within the UK. If you would like to talk to us about a business intelligence solution, software solution or any IT project you need to deliver successfully, please contact us.