Virtual IT or virtual information technology is a service offered by some information technology (IT) consulting firms. Just like companies that offer virtual service for work like billing, accounting, customer service and administrative tasks, it is also possible to hire firms that provide virtual service for technology related work. While virtual IT service is used by businesses and organizations of all sizes, it is more typically favored by small and growing companies that may not be interested in or able to hire full-time employees for an information technology department.
Companies that hire a virtual IT service typically have access to all of the standard information technology services that one may expect from an in-house IT department but the work is completed by an outside consulting firm and staff members are typically located off site. Some of the benefits of using a virtual IT service include the fact that it is generally less expensive than hiring full-time employees (FTEs) and it is also easier to change underperforming contract agencies than it is to hire, fire and train new FTEs.
Sometimes companies that hire virtual IT services for things like software development and web design also have full-time IT employees that can act as liaisons, primary points of contact and even project managers for the IT consulting firm providing the technology services. Other times a web development firm’s virtual IT service may do the work necessary to cover all of a company’s information technology needs.
If you are thinking about hiring an information technology company to provide you with virtual IT services, when you are interviewing tech firms, there are some important questions you should ask to make sure that your experience is as positive and productive as possible. Here are four important questions you should ask any web consulting firm you are considering for virtual IT services:
1. How much do you understand my business or industry? What will you do to learn more about my business or industry? Good virtual IT services are in many ways based on having a very solid understanding of a particular business and industry. Information technology often involves anticipating technical challenges and problems before they happen and many potential challenges are only identifiable if a person has a clear understanding of company operations, industry and market drivers and trends, current and future goals, and past and present challenges. Making sure that a company offering virtual IT services has a commitment to understanding your business and industry is an extremely important part of hiring a great tech partner.
2. How accessible are you? How and when can I reach you? Are there times that you are not reachable? Even though your brick and mortar business or organization might not be open 24/7, if you have a web presence, you have a 24/7 business by default. While the day to day communication flow between your company and a virtual IT firm may be somewhat predictable, chances are you will need open and varied access to your information technology support. It is very important for you to understand a tech company’s process for handling calls, change requests, problems, emergencies, questions, and any other type of need you might have while working with them. To offer top quality service, providers of virtual IT need to be widely accessible and dependable.
3. What is your communication process like? How do you keep people in the loop with status updates, progress reports and with more general day to day or weekly issues? Great communication meaning clear, concise and to the point, may be the biggest differentiator between good and great technology service. It is important for you to understand a consulting agency’s process for keeping you updated about how things related to your information technology needs are going.
4. How does your pricing structure work? What do your fees cover? What things are not covered by your fees? Are there any hidden fees I should know about? Pricing for virtual IT services varies considerably from less than a thousand a month to thousands of dollars a week. It is helpful to choose an information technology company that is economical and efficient. Make sure you understand all of the billing details related to the service. The cost savings you thought you would realize by using an IT consulting service can quickly diminish with unexpected fees. Make sure you have a very clear understanding of any information technology company’s pricing structure.