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How to choose the right computer equipment for your business to increase your productivity and efficiency without it costing the earth.

Business software helps you complete a range of tasks. Choose the right software, provide support and train your staff with our introduction.

It is highly likely that you depend on the internet for some aspects of your business. Find out how you can use the internet more effectively.

Good communication with customers, partners and suppliers is vital for business success. This summary explores business communication methods.

How would you cope if your IT system failed or was breached? We cover the main IT security issues and how to protect against them.

Good IT management can help you choose, use and implement IT. Our overview helps you manage IT in a way that maximises the return on your investment.

IT support is vital if you rely on your IT system. But how can you set up an effective safety net in case things go wrong? We explore the options.

Getting the right IT is just the first step. Appropriate training, policies and working practices can help you maximise return on your IT investment.

What should your IT support agreement cover?

If you're planning to outsource your IT support to another company then you may initially focus on the cost of such support - and maybe the supplier’s reputation

However, it’s also important that you understand exactly what the support company is providing and what obligations they will have. This should be clearly explained in a support agreement.

There are a few key items which should be included in any support agreement. They might be covered in your support contract itself, or in a separate service level agreement (SLA) document.

Make sure your IT support agreement covers the following items:

Response and resolution time

These are two different items, so make sure you understand the difference between them:

  • Response time is the time it takes the support company to acknowledge your call or email advising them of a problem.
  • Resolution time is the time it takes to actually fix the problem.

Most IT companies can respond to your call within the hour, but don’t confuse this with resolving your problem within the hour. Many will offer an eight hour resolution time - which equates to a working day.

Support tiers

Many IT support providers arrange their support process in tiers: first line, second line and third line. Typically, first line support involves the classic ‘turn it off and turn it back on again’ response.

Second line involves someone with more knowledge looking at the issue. And third line tends to be where the real experts sit.

If a problem reaches third line, you can bet it’s serious. If your support company has a system of tiers in place this may indicate they are organised - but always consider if they are big enough to really have staff members at different levels.

Activity outline

These days, many IT companies don’t charge for support by the hour, but instead offer what they called ’managed services’. This is a way of bundling up a range of services and providing them for a flat fee each month.

They could include helpdesk support, remote support, email management, backup monitoring, virus scanning and so on. If considering a managed services provider, ensure they supply a list of key activities which they will carry out every month.


Most IT support companies will exclude certain items from the service they offer. This is normal, but you need to be aware of the exclusions and be happy with them.

Exclusions typically include IT failure due to power fluctuations, water damage, theft, cybercrime, unauthorised modifications, and in a few other extreme situations. In any case, you should have a continuity plan in place to help you get up and running again as quickly as possible should you experience an extreme event of this nature.

Your IT support provider will probably still help if you have a problem caused by one of these incidents, but they’re unlikely to stick to their guaranteed response times.

Excess charges

Check the charging schedule of your support agreement carefully. There are likely to be extra charges in a number of situations - for instance, where work has to be done out of hours.

Hours of operation

Your business may not work the same hours as your IT provider. If your staff start at 8am, but your provider doesn’t offer support until 9am, you may have problems - especially as many IT issues occur in the first hours of the day.

When choosing an IT support provider, remember that the support agreement is there to protect both parties in times of difficulty. Like all contracts, they can seem rather dull - yet they offer protection and are best agreed in advance.

Written with expert input from Craig Sharp of Abussi Ltd.

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