More and more businesses, particularly in the manufacturing sector, rely upon their IT systems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In the event of an IT breakdown out of normal working hours, it can be frustrating and costly, and the consequences can ripple out far and wide.
I’ve been tasked numerous times over the years to come up with solutions that can provide out of hours IT support, and broadly speaking, there are 3 paths SMEs follow:-
- An IT support company that promotes and promises 24 hour cover but cannot deliver consistently, has no framework, no formal SLA in place and no provision for holidays or sickness
- An IT support company (because they’re good eggs and go the extra mile) will try and respond when they get that scatter e-mail from the client, but there’s absolutely no guarantees or certainty.
- A 3rd party IT support company that has the framework in place to offer 24×7 cover, but their offering comes with a very high price tag and a narrow scope of what they will deal with
It’s important to consider with all three of the above options, that even when you make contact with an IT professional out of normal operating hours, they’re not backed up by their regular team members, systems, resources etc. It’s absolutely bare bones!
So if you’re an SME and you rely upon your IT systems 24×7, here’s a few things to consider:-
- Full 24×7 required? – Identify what out of hours cover you really need. For example, it may just be early mornings, late nights or weekends. Shopping around for 24×7 IT support cover is completely different to shopping around for some extended hours support.
- Support on all areas of IT? Consider which areas of your IT system would have the biggest impact on your business if there was a technical issue? For instance, it’s unlikely you would need payroll software support at 2am on a Saturday, but it is probable you’d need IT assistance if manufacturing equipment lost connectivity to the network at 2am on a Saturday.
- What if – internally, go through the exercise of thinking in advance about different situations that could occur and how you would deal with them and who would you call out of hours. What if the internet goes off? What if the Wi-Fi is unavailable? What if we cannot access the file server? What if we can’t access the courier portal? Think about this now when you’re not under pressure.
- Manual procedures – it’s not ideal, I know, but consider the creation and introduction of manual procedures. IT systems at some point will throw you a curveball, it’s inevitable one way or another. Running on manual procedures is clearly more labour intensive at the time and prone to human error, but it will really take the edge off in the event of a lengthy IT outage and allow you to continue trading.
- Internal IT Admin Training – speak to some of your team who work nights and / or weekends. Would they be receptive to some basic IT Admin training from your IT support provider – for example, how to reset passwords, server first aid, network checks, applying basic workarounds.
- Internal Product Training – Today’s software applications are surprisingly versatile, and they are capable of great things, but if you don’t know these useful features exist, you can’t take full advantage of them in your hour of need. A perfect case in point is e-mail. If you use Microsoft 365 for e-mail and your Microsoft Outlook will not load up because of an error, knowing that you can (and how to) send and receive e-mails using your phone, or using the M365 website, or using another computer, suddenly takes the pressure out of the situation and the root Outlook issue can be resolved calmly during normal working hours. The developers of all your software products are regularly adding new features, do you know what they are and could they help you to continue trading if you have a computer, network or internet problem?
- Identify any weaknesses and resolve them – Think about any recent outages you’ve had with IT. Was there a common theme? For instance – that computer in the factory has broken down four times in two months. Chances are it’s going to do it again unless something changes! Consider taking that problem out of the equation. Do you already have doubts about your network cabling, server reliability or your internet connection? Address it today!
- Work with your IT support provider – there are no magic answers or one-size-fits-all here, so perhaps you can work with your IT company to reach a halfway point with out of hours support that suits both parties. Start a conversation.
- Examine which products you have that already have 24×7 support – if you have Microsoft 365, chances are you already get 24x7x365 technical support (unless you get billed by a business other than Microsoft). Did you also know you can get fixed-price technical assistance on any Microsoft product 24x7x365 for £398+VAT – link below
- Purchase spare parts – in my 23 years of IT, I have seen it time and time again where a whole business’ IT systems breakdown due to a low cost piece of IT hardware such as an 8 port network switch or some other seemingly insignificant piece of hardware. Purchase one extra of each (routers, switches, wireless access points, fibre converters), ask your daytime IT support to copy the configuration of each device to the spare, understand the procedure to swap them out, and the cost will be far less that a full-fat 24x7x365 support contract.
In short break down your 24×7 IT Support requirement into smaller chunks and address each of those chunks individually.
As an business, if you work through all of the above considerations (or chunks), you will end up with less disruption, more profit, a happier workforce and in a position where you’re confident to grow your operation.
Microsoft Business Technical Support link https://support.microsoft.com/supportforbusiness/productselection