Choosing a technology partner

Company IT spending in Canada was predicted to jump 9.9% in 2010, according to Forrester Research. And for 2011, Paul Edwards, Director of SMB and channels research at IDC Canada, maintains that it will be the small business sector that will boost IT spending in Canada as part of a trend towards the adoption of technology for strategic purposes. Whatever your business plans, as a small or medium sized business, you can't risk being left behind in the technology arena. If you're looking to make some changes, here are some factors to consider.

Before researching the technology solutions that are best for your company, first examine your needs:

  • Look at the heart of your business. Where do you need to be focused? Do you have the expertise in-house to select the best technology solutions for your company and keep it running and secure? And if you do, is that where you want to allocate your human resources, or should that staff be spending their time on other activities?
  • Budget. What portion of your operating expenses can you realistically spend on technology?
  • Company size. You need to examine not only your current size, but your growth projections. Is your technology set up to grow with you?
  • Data and phone accessibility. If you have more than one company location or a mobile workforce, then you will want to ensure that your staff can easily access whatever data they need, and that your customers can easily contact anyone in your business.
  • In house IT ability. Is there anyone on staff that can handle glitches?
  • Security needs. Considerations include: how sensitive is the data you collect? Do you need 24/7 remote access? If you have more than one operating location, should you ensure that all data is centrally located? And finally, do you a have disaster recovery plan in place?
  • Bandwidth needs. You don't want to pay for bandwidth you don't need. But is your system scalable and able to grow with you?

Now that you have taken a good, hard look at your needs, it's time to research the solutions that are the best fit for your company. Providers supply a wide range of services to choose from, but how do you ensure that your IT needs will be met? Not only should you study their offerings, but you should look at other elements, including:

  • One-stop shopping. Even if you want to outsource some functions while keeping others in house, is your potential partner a full service provider? Can it change its offerings and grow with you as your needs change?
  • Reputation. As with any significant purchase you make, it's wise to check a provider's references. Does the company have a good reputation in terms of supplying ongoing support? Does it resolve any problems that arise quickly and effectively? Have customers suffered any unwelcomed surprises?
  • Cost. It's an extremely competitive industry, so shop around to get the best value for your dollar. But a caveat: don't base your selections on price alone. Ensure that you get the support and expertise you need, and that includes getting good advice from a partner not only to meet your requirements today, but also for your future growth needs as well.
  • Ongoing support/availability. This is an obvious one. Does the potential technology partner have the ability to be there for you whenever you need it with fast, reliable customer service? It is not just a matter of answering the phone promptly - the provider should have the expertise and infrastructure available to get you up and running as soon as possible.
  • Expertise. How much know-how do you need from your technology partner? And is its staff fully trained to provide it? This is especially crucial if you choose to outsource most or all of your technology.
The bottom line

No matter what size business you run, take your time when choosing a technology partner. With the constant advances in IT, the systems and functions you select can become a major factor in the health and future growth of your business. Don't look at it as a headache you have to endure, but rather as a strategy that can help you stay ahead of your competition.

And remember, as a leading national full service communications provider offering affordable Voice, Access, Hosting, IP connectivity, disaster recovery and Business Continuity solutions, Primus can partner with you to provide the technology solutions that will work best for your business.