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Do you think you’re paying too much for IT support?

12 April 2017

You’ve probably heard the old adage “you get what you pay for”, meaning if you choose a cheap product over a more expensive one you can probably expect to run into problems, but is the same true when it comes to IT support?

As one of the most commonly advertised benefits of outsourced IT support is its cost-effectiveness, this can lead to some companies that they need to find the lowest priced provider. But if you’re selecting your IT support provider based solely on cost, e.g. who can give me the cheapest quote, then you could be in for a nasty surprise. Just a bigger to more well-know provider doesn’t guarantee you a higher quality of service, a cheap quote doesn’t guarantee that the service is going to be cheap in the long run!

IT support prices can vary widely from provider to provider, but you should be wary of any quotes which significantly undercut the others. If the price seems too good to be true then it probably is, and you should be on the lookout for any hidden costs. Your proposal says you’re getting a fully managed IT service for X amount of ¬£’s per month, but what’s really included? For example you have access to the Service Desk but is that 24x7x365 or 9-5 Monday to Friday? Or “Security” is included but what exactly does this entail – is it a firewall, anti-virus, network scans? Those elements alone do not mean you are secure.

Providers will typically price IT support in two broad ways; pay-as-you-go (or ad-hoc) or fully managed services for a fixed monthly fee.

Pay-as-you-go or ad-hoc IT support services

This option is typically suited to small businesses and start-ups who are not heavy technology users and have budgetary constraints. There is usually a set hourly cost for reactive support, which can vary depending on the role of the person you require (e.g. a senior consultant will usually charge a higher rate than a systems engineer), and sometimes there are additional charges for transport and travel time.

Some companies will sell blocks of hours, also know as a “time bank”, with the price determined by the numbers of hours you buy. There may be a discount for bulk buys, but be aware that some companies may put an expiration date on the hours your purchase.

Your ad-hoc IT support may include a small monthly retainer to cover the cost of the initial take-on, ongoing maintenance and network monitoring. You should be clear exactly what you ad-hoc support covers and what you can use your hours for e.g. can I use my hours for strategic guidance and IT consultancy.

If IT is an essential part of your business, or your company is growing quickly, then ad-hoc support should typically¬†be avoided as it simply isn’t cost-effective over the long-run. If you end up requiring day-to-day support then purchasing hours or paying for reactive support will get very expensive – and likely slow down your operations.

Managed IT support services

The price you pay for fully managed T support usually depends on the number of servers, computers and devices to maintain, but some companies may charge by the number of end-users instead so make sure you check with your provider.

Typically a fully managed IT support service will include telephone, email and remote support, alongside onsite visits when required. A good quality IT outsourcing company shouldn’t put limits on your support, in terms of how many call you can make to the service desk and what hardware and software is supported. If your company is using extremely bespoke applications then allocations may need to be made, but your IT company should be able to provide guidance.

However not every managed service provider is transparent when it comes to pricing. It’s still very common for providers to offer tiered pricing, where the support and service you receive depends on the tier you sign up to. For example you may have seen pricing plans with levels such as:

  • Bronze – or Standard, Basic, Entry
  • Silver – or Preferred, Advanced
  • Gold – Elite, Premier, Premium
  • Platinum

Tiered pricing for IT support

Tiered pricing can become extremely complicated, become some features are included in one plan and not the other. For example you may find remote support is included in the Bronze package, remote and telephone support is included in the Silver package, and remote, telephone and onsite support is included in the Gold package (the most expensive option). You can also expect to find different levels of sipport at each tier, for example all levels may have access to help desk support but at the Bronze level you can only access that support between 9am-5pm – or log a certain number of tickets per month.

Another thing to be wary of with tiered pricing is your Service Level Agreement (SLA). This can massively impact the level of service, support and the response times you receive – which can negatively impact the running of your business. Every IT service provider should have transparent SLAs which detail how issues are prioritised, and the response times for each level. If a provider won’t – or can’t – give you the details of their SLAs then step away now. The best thing you can do for your company is choose a managed IT support provider who is completely transparent when it comes to pricing and SLAs.

Every support provider is going to be different when it comes to price and what they include in their IT support packages, so do be sure to check exactly what it included. What may seem like a good price initially could turn out to be a headache in the long run. A fully managed service should be just that, you shouldn’t be limited. You should both be working in partnership.

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