From misleading information to unqualified technicians, poor management and terrible customer service, we’ve seen it all…and we know they exist in abundance because we have had a number of customers come to us to clean up the disasters they have caused. Sometimes this is out of greed for your money, but more often it’s simply because they don’t have the technical expertise, staff and experience to do the job right, but won’t tell you that up front.
To make matters worse, the IT industry is not regulated like many other professional service industries, which means ANYONE can claim they are an “IT expert” or “cyber security specialist.” In fact, a lot of the businesses in this industry started because the owner was FIRED or laid off from their job and couldn’t find work anywhere else. That means many of the so-called experts are useless and make the sleazy auto repair shops look like the pinnacle of virtue and competence.
Automotive mechanics, electricians, plumbers, lawyers, realtors, dentists, doctors, accountants, etc., are heavily regulated to protect the consumer from receiving substandard work or getting ripped off. However, the technology industry is still highly unregulated and there aren’t any laws in existence to protect you, the consumer.
Can you imagine anyone being able to hang a shingle out and claim to be an accountant or doctor without specialized training and a license to practice? Would you want that person treating your illness or handling your tax return? Or an attorney who never went to law school or passed the bar exam? Even truck drivers need training and a license to operate. But, unfortunately, that’s how the IT industry works, and anyone can claim to be an IT expert, even if they don’t have training, certifications or experience.
That’s why it’s SO important for you to do your due diligence and use this book to weed out the incompetent charlatans. Here are 10 mistakes to avoid when you’re conducting that search:
- Mistake #1: Choosing your next IT person or company based purely on price. We all know you get what you pay for, and the last place you want to be cheap is when it comes to IT security, data backups and disaster recovery of data. What you save in services fees you’ll end up paying for in problems.
That’s not to say the highest-priced IT person is the best either; larger IT firms may be more expensive simply because they have more overhead and may use higher prices to weed out small businesses with smaller IT budgets. If you’re a small business (under 100 employees), they might not really want you either, giving their best techs and services to larger organizations with bigger budgets.
Choose your IT company based on reviews and competence and the answers they provide to the questions later on in this book, not just on the prices they charge.
- Mistake #2: Choosing an IT company based on their marketing claims. While good marketing is not necessarily a bad thing, the sad truth is that all IT companies will tell you they’re responsive and proactive and they care about building relationships with you. (Gee, wouldn’t you expect your IT company to care about you?)
Most IT marketing gives you very little information upon which you can make a good decision, so don’t just rely on slick marketing materials – do your due diligence as outlined in this book and ask the tough questions we’ve provided you. You’ll be able to cut through any marketing B.S. and see if they can and will do the job you need.
- Mistake #3: Choosing your next IT company based solely on a referral. Of course, referrals are the lifeblood of any good IT firm, but make sure the person who is referring you actually knows how to pick a good IT firm and their own IT needs are similar to or more complex than yours.
We’re all busy, so it’s tempting to get a little lazy when you are referred to a company by someone you trust. It’s tempting to forgo your normal research and not look at competitive bids, ask the tough questions, etc. My advice is that you should still ask the tough questions and conduct some due diligence.
- Mistake #4: Falling for signing a long-term contract. How can you be asked to sign a two-year or three-year contract when you’ve never done a single project with them? This is a big red flag. Make sure you can get out of that contract easily if they fail to deliver the level of service you deserve. In our business, we don’t have long term contracts. Our whole business is designed to deliver value month after month and we back that up with a money back guarantee.
- Mistake #5: Hiring them before you’ve spoken directly with three to five of their long-term current clients who have a business similar to yours. Don’t let them give you just any client to talk to. Make sure you talk to clients who are similar in size, employees, locations and technology. If you have a particular project in mind, ask to speak to another client for whom they did a similar project.
Another good sign is that they have multiple client reviews online and success stories posted on their website and on review sites like Google My Business. A lack of this may be a sign that they don’t have clients who are happy enough to provide a good reference. While I wouldn’t completely dismiss a company based on a low number of positive reviews, I do suggest you at least look to see if they have any, and if any are negative.
- Mistake #6: Hiring an IT company that doesn’t insist on doing a network assessment of some kind BEFORE they provide you a quote or recommend an action plan. Any competent professional should offer to do an audit or assessment to diagnose your situation BEFORE quoting you anything. Would you take a doctor’s word that you need surgery if they hadn’t done X-rays or other diagnostics? Of course not! Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.
Remember, how they interact with you initially in the sales process is a very good indicator of how they will work with you after you hand over your money. GOOD diagnostics and researching a problem are always necessary for recommending the right plan of action. I’d be very nervous if the company I was looking to hire didn’t insist on doing that initial deep dive into our computer network before they start proposing “solutions” (selling).
- Mistake #7: Hiring an IT consultant who isn’t very experienced with (and recommending) a cloud option. Many inexperienced consultants are only knowledgeable about how computer networks were designed ten years ago, when physical servers and equipment inside your office was the only option (or a better option). While there is certainly still a place for physical servers and devices, newer cloud technologies such as Microsoft 365, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are often capable of providing the same or even better solutions at a lesser cost and with more flexibility and security. A great consultant will know these technologies and offer them as an option (either fully cloud-based or a hybrid solution of cloud and on-premise hardware). A really great consultant will be able to figure out what provides the best return on investment for you and what’s in alignment with the longer-term goals and work preferences of your business. Further, many technologies are moving in the direction of cloud-based solutions, so you might find your IT company completely out of touch and unable to provide support when cloud-based is the only option for some applications.
- Mistake #8: Don’t hire a consultant who can’t (or won’t) remotely monitor your computer network via “managed services.” With cyberthreats at an all-time high and businesses relying on uptime, you’d be a fool not to have someone monitoring and maintaining your network, security and backups on a daily basis. IT consultants who can’t or won’t do this are dinosaurs living in the Stone Age and are NOT doing you a favor or “saving you money.”
- Mistake #9: Never hire an IT company that doesn’t make cyber security one of their TOP priorities. The old saying that the cobbler’s children never have shoes is never an acceptable excuse for an IT company having lax security measures. If they get hacked, YOU’LL get hacked. Be sure to ask the questions we’ve outlined in the next chapter specific to cyber security and do NOT hire them if they seem evasive, nervous or even angry when you grill them on THEIR cyber security practices.
- Mistake #10: Never hire a “one-man band” to handle IT for you. If they get sick or go on vacation, you’re without THE GUY (or gal) who knows all the passwords, how things are set up and how to make things work. That’s VERY dangerous.
I’ve heard countless stories of situations where their IT person went “missing” along with the keys to the IT kingdom, never to be found again. Recently a friend called out of desperation because his solo IT guy was in prison (!) and unable to share passwords or relay where the backups were stored. Yes, that’s extreme, but it’s not uncommon for a solo tech to be unavailable or have personal problems that prevent them from helping you. You want to hire someone with a team, and preferably a LOCAL team (not an outsourced help desk overseas) that has more than one tech who knows your network, your passwords, your systems and preferences.
If you are reevaluating your IT or Cybersecurity provider, contact us. Choosing a new provider can be difficult and seem like a huge task. But we can help you make it easier. Give us a call to see how we can help you. (336) 570-9409.