Whether you're setting up a whole new business or simply adding a new service into your existing infrastructure, it's often easier to hire an IT provider for the grunt work rather than doing it yourself. Here are five questions you should ask no matter what's being installed.
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These aren't the only things you should ask, obviously; there will be plenty of other questions relating to the specific options you need. However, solid answers on these issues will give you much more confidence that you have chosen the right provider and the right solution.
1. What's the longest you've ever taken with this kind of installation?
While the obvious question is "how long will this take to set up?", asking for the longest-ever install time offers two benefits. Firstly, it gives you a worst-case scenario. Secondly, it establishes whether your provider has actually worked in this area before.
2. Why does it cost this much?
No IT service is entirely free, and labour costs will often make up a significant percentage of the installation bill. However, if a provider can't easily explain how the pricing is calculated, proceed with caution.
3. How easy is it to expand?
You need a more specific answer than "no worries, we can do that easily". Find out details: can you upgrade licences for software on a per-user basis, or is it cheaper long-term done in bundles of five or ten? What time frames are involved if new hardware is needed?
4. What happens when it isn't working?
No technology is perfect; even a 99.95 per cent uptime (which is often quoted for cloud services) means that you'll lose four hours of operational time in a year. What needs to be clearly established are what the service options are, what you'll pay for them, and how quickly you'll get a response. You need critical systems fixed quickly, but you also need to be realistic; paying a fortune for a two-hour turnaround on something you could manage without for a day doesn't make sense.
5. What happens when we want to shift to a different technology?
No IT solution is going to last forever, and the time will come when you either want to upgrade to its successor or shift to an alternative. What you need to know now is how readily you can shift to another solution, including whether your data can easily be exported. That relies on two factors: an open and well-understood data format, and the availability of people who know how to export that data.
Any other questions you would add to the list? Tell us in the comments.