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10 Monthly Computer Maintenance CYAs to Protect Your Firm

10 Monthly Computer Maintenance CYAs to Protect Your FirmIt’s great that your company is offering, or at least considering offering, monthly computer maintenance to its small business clients.

After all, your clients need a predictable partner to help them get the most out of their IT.

And your firm needs a predictable source of recurring service revenue.

But, before you fall head-over-heels “in love” with the potential to start out each month with a big running head-start, consider these 10 CYAs (yes, “cover your ass” tactics) to protect your firm from some of the most common challenges.

Why These CYAs Are Sorely Needed

When was the last time a potential client knew exactly what he or she wanted?

Is your first meeting with a new prospective client really a “sales call” or more of a free consultation?

Have you ever received a phone call from a new potential client who out of nowhere asked, “How much does a server cost?” -- as if that prospect were getting price quotes on an iPad, Lexus lease payments, 100 shares of Microsoft stock, or any other commodity.

A lot of how you answer these questions depends on which kinds of environments that you’re selling into.

If you’re with a computer maintenance firm targeting Fortune 1000 IT managers, chances are your prospective clients have a pretty well defined idea of what they’re looking for. However, if your firm works with small businesses, you’ll almost certainly need to educate your prospective clients before you can have any kind of meaningful discussion.

Where the Problem Originates

Now before you can sell monthly computer maintenance to small business clients, you’ve got to understand where they’re coming from.

Most small businesses decision makers have some very unique IT issues to grapple with and…

  • See technology as an expense, as opposed to an investment

  • Have unrealistic, rosy expectations concerning support costs and deployment cycles – often wondering why monthly computer maintenance is even necessary

  • Try to solicit “bids” or free consultations for their planned projects

  • Have very limited in-house technical expertise

  • Want a single point of accountability

  • Underestimate the time commitment required on their parts

  • Want to work with a local technology provider

  • Prefer to be shielded from technical details

Now, you can help small business owners to better understand their real needs with a comprehensive IT survey or audit. This includes an assessment of their existing technology infrastructure, business problems, and where they want to be 6, 12, 18, and 24 months from now.

Here are some of the key areas, or CYAs if you will, that you’ll likely want in your preliminary IT audit for a small business.

1. Examine Headcount

To determine the scope of what’s required, first size-up the quantity of what needs monthly computer maintenance.

  • How many employees?

  • How many locations?

  • How many supported users?

  • How many desktops? Notebooks?

  • How many supported tablets? Smartphones?

2. Size Up the Existing Network

Next, you need a back-of the-envelope understanding of their network.

  • Is there a network in place today? If so, what kind?

  • Are there any legacy, host-based systems?

  • What kind of data cabling is in place? Was it a certified installation?

  • What kind of Wi-Fi infrastructure is in place?

  • Are VPNs utilized internally or externally?

  • Is the network infrastructure keeping pace with growth (anecdotally at least)?

3. Scope Out the Desktops, Notebooks, and Mobile Devices

Armed with a very basic understanding of this company’s network, now you need to get a handle on the devices that connect to that network.

  • What are the company desktop and notebook standards? Hardware? Applications? OS’s? Printers?

  • What do people like and dislike about these standards? (Hint: Different groups within the company often have totally different priorities.)

  • Are there any legacy or custom applications that are redundant or obsolete?

  • Are there any orphaned applications where the ISV is no longer in business or no longer supports the product?

  • How does software license compliance look? Who’s in charge of maintaining and enforcing this?

  • What are the company standards for supported tablets? Supported smartphones?

  • Is there any mobile device management (MDM)?

4. Understand IT Policies

While typically the domain of mid-sized and enterprise-sized IT departments, some small business HR managers are IT-savvy enough to recognize the need to have company IT policies.

  • Is there a written policy on acceptable use of IT resources such as the network, e-mail, and social media?

  • Is there an IT strategy plan that forecasts projects out at various time intervals?

  • Is there a business continuity plan?

  • Is there a BYOD policy?

  • What kind of IT documentation exists? Technical? End user? Is it adequate? Is it up to date? Is a hard copy kept off site?

  • What would this company do if their internal technology guru resigned tomorrow?

5. Assess Network Requirements

Even though you may not uncover everything in this initial visit and conversation, staking out a company’s monthly computer maintenance needs has to take their networking needs into account.

  • How are files and folders shared? How it this organized?

  • Which business applications run on premised-based servers? Which run on collocated servers?

  • What’s being run in the public cloud? The private cloud?

  • What kinds of SaaS applications are used by users across the company?

  • Are there managed services agreements in place for backend network infrastructure?

  • What percentage of users work exclusively in the office? What percentage work 100% out of the office?

  • How has the network been adapted to allow for remote working arrangements or at least some limited mobile activity?

6. Drill Down on Security

Experienced technology providers that offer monthly computer maintenance know that’s impossible to keep small business clients happy in a vacuum. If it’s IT-related, you are ultimately responsible. So before taking on a new client, get a pulse on its state of IT security.

  • What types of confidential data does the company deal with? Social security numbers? Credit card numbers? Proprietary research and development? Client lists? Payroll?

  • Is any sensitive data being kept locally on desktops? Laptops? Tablets? Smartphones?

  • How is data protected today?

  • What are the biggest internal and external security risks?

  • What kind of firewall is in place? Who manages the firewall?

  • Does everyone have their own account logins and passwords? Or do any resources have just one shared password?

  • Are on-premise servers physically secured? Who has access?

  • How often are passwords changed? What kinds of policies are in place to strengthen passwords?

  • Is encryption used for any applications or devices? Two factor authentication? VPNs?

  • Is there a formal disaster recovery (DR) plan? How often is it tested? Revised? Who’s in charge? Where’s the “hot” site?

7. Evaluate Data Protection

Myopic, non-technical small business decision makers sometimes worry about protecting the wrong things. While physical assets such as notebooks, tablets, and storage devices certainly have tangible value from a hardware standpoint, it’s the stored data and intellectual property (IP) on those physical assets that merits the greatest level of protection.

  • How often are full system backups run? When was the last time the restore capability was tested? And to what extent? Who monitors backup logs?

  • How is data on desktops and notebooks protected? What about data on tablets and smartphones?

  • What kind of anti-malware software is in place? Who’s responsible for monitoring? Are users trained on common sense protections?

  • Where is power protection in place? UPS units? Generators? When was the last time these protections were tested? Who’s responsible for monitoring?

8. Look at Internet Access, E-mail, and Web Presence

While evaluating Internet access may seem awfully basic for experienced technology providers, those that frequently sell monthly computer maintenance to small businesses know that you really can’t take anything for granted with small businesses when there’s no in-house IT manager.

  • How is Internet access made available throughout the company?

  • What kind of bandwidth is contracted for? Who’s the ISP? What’s the SLA?

  • How is e-mail provisioned and managed? On what platform?

  • What domain names does the company control? Which domain names are used for primary websites? Who’s the domain name registrar? Who keeps the registration data current?

  • What technology platform is the main website built upon? Who manages the main website?

  • Where is the main website hosted? What’s the SLA?

9. Review Employee Training

Even though users today would rarely need training on traditional office automation apps, as new SaaS-based offerings and mobile apps are deployed, end users still do need some occasional training.

And on the backend infrastructure side, there’s more of a need than ever to ensure that internal administrators are a properly-trained, first line of defense.

  • What kind of training do various end user groups receive? What topics? How often?

  • Is there formal classroom training? One-on-one? Peer-based? Self-study? Cross-training?

  • How effective has the training been?

10. Analyze Asset Management Procedures

In an enterprise IT department, someone or multiple someone’s will be responsible for inventorying and managing various IT assets. But when you’re selling monthly computer maintenance, that responsibility almost always resides with the technology provider.

  • Who determines hardware/software needs and writes the specs?

  • How does this client procure hardware, software, and services?

  • Who determines whether items shipped match the items requisitioned on purchase orders?

  • Is hardware and software generally leased or purchased?

  • Are service agreements ordered at time of purchase?

  • What’s the typical asset life cycle? How often is hardware refreshed?

  • Who maintains the asset inventory?

The Bottom Line

When you’re offering monthly computer maintenance to small business clients, it’s extremely unusual to just have responsibility for hardware support. It’s far more common that your company will be responsible for anything and everything having to do with your clients’ IT needs.

Make sure you use this list of 10 CYAs to help protect your firm from unknowingly committing to nightmarish client scenarios.

So, the next time you get a request to go out and meet a prospective client for a sales call, think big picture. An objective fee-based IT audit will help you uncover your prospective clients’ true needs.

Chances are that small business needs a lot more than just monthly computer maintenance.

IT audits will help you identify opportunities to increase your revenue per client. Your subsequent analysis will also pave the way for successfully pitching the value of related solutions that your firm can offer.

Only you can decide how in-depth to make the audit or what fee to charge for these services. However, monthly computer maintenance can be a great lead-in for evaluating the client’s technology investments.

 

Does your company sell monthly computer maintenance to small business clients? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below. 

 

And to follow-through on the tips introduced in this short article, be sure to download your free copy of the special report on IT Service Contract Secrets for Getting More Repeat Clients and Recurring Service Revenue

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