What to Ask your Current IT Provider

Perhaps you already employ a contractor to provide services for your IT systems and applications. However, not all contractors provide the same level of services and it can be difficult to compare relative standards of service.

For many businesses, their technology systems are critical to successful day to day operations and growth. When vetting potential contractors to assist you with maintaining your business critical technology assets we recommend you ask some of the following questions.

How many technicians and engineers will be involved in supporting my business?

Too often an IT contractor will not have sufficient staff redundancy to truly support your business well. It is important to ascertain whether the organization you are putting your trust in is well prepared for events such as staff turn-over, vacation, sick leave or disability.

Another common pitfall is relying exclusively on one highly skilled technician or engineer. While this approach can provide a very deep level of understanding for that individual about how your business functions and how you use technology, without cross training among technicians you can be left in a lurch. Many Office Managers and Business Owners have “their favorite tech guy” and for good reason! However, highly skilled people are often provided lucrative opportunities to advance their career and recruiters for large tech companies are frequently looking to hire them away.

Make sure your IT Contractor has a plan in place to address staffing redundancy.

How do you vet your employees when hiring them?

It is a fact that IT support personnel often have access, implicitly, to highly confidential information and records stored in your business applications, file servers and email including:

  • Human resource records
  • Financial information
  • Salary data and budgets
  • Strategic documents and plans

While strategies exist to help limit this extent of access (role-based access control, separation of duties and enhanced auditing), the provision of System Administrator access is necessary to maintain your technology systems in good working order.

While your business is likely to vet employees very well, when you are considering the option of using a contractor to assist you with IT support and maintenance, be very careful. Ask potential contractors the tough questions, such as:

  • Do you perform pre-hire background checks?
  • Do your background checks include a financial credit check?
  • Do your employees have to perform a pre-employment or ongoing screening for illegal drug use?
  • Do you have a program in place to assure your employees are not abusing alcohol?
  • What types of findings would disqualify an applicant from being hired?
  • Do you perform periodic background checks on your current employees in order to maintain their positions?
  • What sort of crime or incident might lead you to terminate an employee? Does this require progressive discipline?
  • If I had a concern about the behavior of one of your employees, what is your process for addressing it?
  • Do your employees sign an NDA as a condition of employment that also covers me as your customer and may I have a copy of it?

What is your liability?

While having your lawyer review any contract for services is recommended, it does not hurt to directly ask potential contractors about how liability would be handled in the "worst case." For example, if your business were to suffer from a cyber-attack that compromised your business, what level of liability would fall on your contractor? It is common for contractors to provide strict limitations of liability buried deep in their contract or terms of service. It is important that you fully understand exactly how risk is apportioned between you and your IT contractor.

Does you contractor have sufficient financial means or insurance coverages to ensure you are compensated? In many cases, small firms do not have sufficient financial assets to ensure you are compensated in the event of a data breach or loss of business claim. In fact, many of these smaller contractors would simply go out of business and if they were structured as a corporation or LLC you may not have any recourse to seek damages and be compensated for your loss.

Don't be afraid of having an uncomfortable conversation about the worst case scenario with your IT contractor. It is better to discuss these issues calmly before the event than to be caught by suprise later on.