There are four main types of IT service providers. The thought for today is that if you know what they are - then it will help you know what to ask for - because you'll better understand their capabilities.
Think of this sort of like the Beach Boys song California Girls.
The first group are the Independent’s or what are referred to in the industry as Trunk Slammers. These are typically the guys you find on Craigslist or the local paper. Generally this type of service provider provides support with desktop computers and laptops. They can perform simple tasks around your office. While they may say they know more and are capable of more - the nature of how an Independent gets business and their delivery model limits them to simple spot solutions. Service calls generally cost somewhere between $60-$80 an hour.
The second group is what we shall refer to as the Big Boys. Under this category you have large corporations who are trying to focus on or service a small business. This would include the likes of Best Buy and the Apple Store. While these companies may have aspirations to service small businesses they are too large and are organized in such a way that it’s just not a fit for small business wanting someone who is attentive to their needs. Not to say they’re not a fit. It’s just that delivery model is very transactional. In the end, the Big Boy service model ends up feeling a lot like the service you would get from an Independent.
The next type of provider is what is called the Managed Service Provider (MSP). These are companies typically ranging anywhere from 4 to 10 employees with some larger outliers. They attempt to provide an all inclusive service to their clients. The promise of these types of providers is that they want to be a fully outsourced IT department. This typically means that they focus on the core things that companies need namely IT Help Desk and making sure your computers are patched, running and up-to-date. Some are better than others so if you find a good one stick with them.
The fourth would be what is know as a Professional Services Firm. These companies typically have a lot of IQ points in a specific product or service that they sell. Most of these companies are focused on selling some form of application or service into larger companies with 200 to 1000 users in the environment. In certain cases the minimum budget to engage one of these companies is around $150,000 to start. Typically these companies complement an existing IT department that doesn't have the specialization to be able to implement a complex product.
So there you have it. I'm not saying that one is better than the other. I'm not saying that one company will solve all your needs.
In my view the hardest function for any of these types of companies to provide is IT leadership. Mostly because it's a difficult thing to provide. One reason I say that is because every company dynamic is different. While it is simple to recommend things like warranty replacements, standard upgrades and things to keep the lights on - Developing a comprehensive road map is not typically within the bounds of any of these providers because that is not how they are organized.
So knowing all this how in the world can you get your tech right? Stay with me and I'll show you a framework for how to do it