Monday, March 31, 2014
Questions to ask a computer consultant before you hire him
Despite the challenges constantly changing technology poses to the casual computer user, computers are much more user friendly and versatile than they used to be with a plethora of different built-in programs to help recover data, restore programs, quarantine viruses and address a host of other problems that used to be much harder for the average person to deal with. More intrepid users have never had lower or cheaponer technology hurdles as open source software is free and continuously being expanded. Still the average business owner is knowledgeable about his business, not necessarily about computers or technology. And as he would want to find someone trustworthy to work on his car, as his life literally depends on the work done, he needs to find a quality computer "mechanic" for his company's needs as well. Customers who have
Vetting computer consultants is, in many ways, like vetting other employees; you need to determine if they are dependable, trustworthy, responsive, responsible, and comprehensive. Here are the things you must determine:
Responsiveness: You should ask if the consultant has a live operator, or if there are only scheduled hours for customer service. How soon will they respond to telephone or email inquiries? How soon during a data or systems emergency? Do they take the time to explain to their clients what is wrong with their computers or systems and how this might be avoided in the future? Will they give details as to what the problem is, in everyday English that people who are not technical will be able to understand? Is their customer service based locally or is it outsourced to another country?
Diligence: Will the consultant be proactive with your system, avoiding problems before they crop up, maintaining and updating hardware, software, virus definitions, and backups, regularly checking them all to make sure everything is functioning and there are multiple copies of important data? Is the consultant's organization large enough that it can function just as smoothly when someone goes on vacation or gets sick?
Liability protection: Is this consultant's company fully insured so that if, in the unlikely event mistakes happen, your business is protected from financial harm and could be compensated for lost time and productivity?
Trustworthiness: How does this consultant's company vet their own employees? Do they do full background checks? Are they required to remain current on their certifications? Have they had any previous incident with breaches of data?
Comprehensiveness: The consultant will take responsibility for the functionality of which systems, networks, or machines, specifically? Which will remain your responsibility?
Obviously, you should never hire based on brand recognition or price alone. Plenty of people think they know computers and can fix whatever you need for cheap. How much your data worth to you? How much is your data's security worth to you? The neighbor's kid may know computers; if so, hire him for smaller projects, not your overall system security. But big names are no guarantee of good service - ask the woman who sued Geek Squad for leaking her nude pictures online. Or the owner of the missing laptop Geek Squad tried to cover up.