What You Should Look For In An IT Agreement

Outsourcing your IT support can be a great move for your business, but you need to understand exactly what the support agreement you’re signing entails. By looking for certain items and knowing what to expect, you can make an informed decision when choosing an IT company you can trust.

A support agreement outlines the understanding between the service provider and the client regarding the services and commitments being provided. Any support agreement should consist of some critical items, which may be covered in the support contract, or in a separate service level agreement (SLA) document. Here’s what you should see in an IT support agreement:

Response and Resolution Time. Response time is how long it takes for your support company to acknowledge you when you contact them for assistance, while resolution time is the time required to actually address the problem. Since IT problems can equate to serious downtime for your company, you need to have a clear understanding of how quickly your issues will be resolved.

Support Tiers. Many IT support providers offer tiered support – such as first, second, and third line support. First line support is the typical “Did you try turning it off and back on again?” response. Second line gives you access to more experienced technicians, who are capable of addressing complicated issues. Third line is generally where the real experts are, so if your problem gets this far, it’s serious.

Activity Outline. Many IT businesses don’t charge for services by the hour, instead offering ‘managed services’, which is a service package provided for a flat monthly fee. This may consist of help desk support, remote support, email management, backup monitoring, virus scanning, and more. If you’re considering a managed services provider, ensure that your support agreement includes a list of activities they will carry out each month.

Exclusions. Many IT support companies exclude some items from the services they offer. This is common – but you need to know what these conditions are, to ensure that the services provided will meet your needs. Typical exclusions include IT failure from power fluctuations, water damage, theft, unauthorized modifications, and a few other unusual circumstances.

Hours of Operation. Your business may not have the same operating hours as your IT service provider. If they aren’t open for business during the same hours you are, they might not be available when you need them the most.

Extra Charges. Check the schedule of charges carefully. There will likely be extra charges in some circumstances, such as those times when work must be completed outside of scheduled business hours. You should be familiar with these charges to avoid future surprises.

If you’re thinking of outsourcing your IT support, you might initially focus on price – and maybe the supplier’s reputation. While these are certainly important considerations, you need more information in order to make an informed decision. You should understand exactly what your IT company is supporting and have it clearly stated in a support agreement. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and do your research to find an IT company you can trust.

Greg’s extensive technical expertise spans nearly 2 decades of study and application. As a constant advocate of security and technical excellence he leads his team in staying abreast of technology developments, benefits and potential threats to business continuity and efficiency.