Choosing an IT support provider
This page describes:
- what makes a good IT support provider
- what to ask when seeking a recommendation.
It will allow you to reflect on current or past IT support practices at your CLC.
Transparency and control
You want to be confident that your provider:
- communicates with you
- is transparent about their processes.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Are their processes transparent or do they make you reliant on them?
- Are they controlling?
- Do they listen to what you want or do they make you do it their way?
- Do they 'keep you in the dark' about what they are doing?
- Do they allow you little control over, or access to, your own system?
- Do you need to contact them every time you want access a certain file, folder or database? Have they provided you with the passwords you need?
- Do they determine IT policy in your organisation (deliberately or by default)?
Do they respond in a reasonable time after they have been called? Are they especially quick in an emergency?
Note that on a CLC budget, it is often not fair to expect priority service.
Some questions to consider:
- Should you have to have a contract with them? If you do not, how does this affect response time and costs? If you do, how does this BENEFIT response time and costs.
- Is there a chance to 'test the waters' for 6 months without a contract before you sign up?
Pro: Contracts can mean that IT systems are properly maintained – where such maintenance would not normally be budgeted for in a CLC.
Con: Contracts will not benefit small organisations, whose support needs are often ad hoc and who cannot usually afford priority service – even with a contract.
Recommendation from similar organisation
The best recommendation you can get for an IT support provider should be a positive word-of-mouth recommendation from an organisation:
- similar in size and purpose to yours
- in your area (if possible)
- that uses the same computers as you do (Macs or Windows PCs).
However, in the past, certain unsatisfactory providers have 'cornered the market' for the CLC sector in a particular region or state.
Strangely, this has happened through what passes for a recommendation from one CLC to another. One centre asks another "Who do you use for your IT support?" with no follow-up questions about the quality of the work or relationship with the provider.
A good provider will document problems and how they were resolved. This means:
- they are more likely to do the fixes you want
- you will have a record of decisions that explains the current status of your IT system.
See IT support contractor log in the Templates section.