If you’re looking for an IT consultant for your small company, it’s a good sign when the consultant can provide references from businesses similar to yours. While references from other businesses are a great way to vet a promising consultant, you’ll want to first narrow the field by asking the right questions.
With each potential IT consultant, ask these five questions.
- How many small-business clients does the consultant have and what problems have they helped those businesses overcome? The goal of this question is to determine where an IT consultant’s expertise lies. Their small-business experience may consist solely of setting up networks, for example. Or they may be experienced with cloud computing and able to help small businesses embrace remote workers. An IT consultant can’t be an expert in everything, so make sure they have expertise in the specific areas you need.
- What do the consultant’s service level agreements (SLAs) promise? Should your system go down, a provider’s SLA should set forth what turnaround time to expect. For a good match, look for service providers whose availability and holiday schedule align with yours. If you’re a manufacturer, for example, you may be closed for three weeks around Christmas but open every day the rest of the year, including weekends. In that situation, a provider that’s only available Monday through Friday might not be an ideal choice.
- How much does the consultant charge for data recovery and how quickly can they respond in the event of a disaster? Does the consultant use a cloud service provider or does he recover the files himself? Obviously, an IT consultant will have other clients, so in the case of a natural disaster, it’s important to know where your business falls in line. For instance, if a hurricane hits your region, are you guaranteed a specific timeframe in which you’ll receive service? If the consultant cannot meet that commitment, they may provide some form of financial compensation, or outsource the work to another local vendor.
- What certifications does the consultant have and maintain? You want to know that you can rely on your IT consultant’s expertise. Organizations like CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association) provide several IT certifications; a certified consultant can email you a verification code and URL as evidence that they are up-to-date with the latest certifications.
- How much access does the consultant have to your backup data? If you’re using an online backup system, like Carbonite, make sure that that reseller doesn’t have access to your company information. Confidentiality can be especially important in certain industries, such as health care. Should you decide to change IT consultants and providers, make sure you can easily access all of your passwords and login information for the different services you’re using.
Ideally, you might also want to audition the consultant with a test project to make sure you work well together. If that’s not feasible, another approach would be to issue a fully detailed request for proposals (RFP) and then evaluate the bids that include references.