Nonprofit organizations looking to buy or upgrade computer hardware and software, or who are seeking a consultant to provide routine computer support, system maintenance and repairs need not look for a technical support provider that specializes in nonprofit clients. When it comes to outsourcing IT support Houston TX, nonprofits should think more like for-profit businesses.
That’s because, no matter what your business model is, your IT support consultant or service provider should be an ally for your organization, willing to listen to the particulars of your situation and to provide well-considered computer support and advice that maximizes your technology budget.
Many nonprofit organizations, especially smaller ones, come to rely on someone within their organization who is the unofficial, or accidental, “techie,” by dint of their tendency to be the one who can fix most minor problems with printers or workstations.
Times are challenging for nonprofit organizations, so it is understandable if they want to avoid spending in non-program areas, such as tech support. But this approach to IT can backfire. The unofficial office tech guru has an entire other job to do, leaving little time for preventive maintenance, keeping up with the latest security threats, or developing a strategic technology plan. Unfortunately, neglecting any of these functions can cost your nonprofit significant money down the road.
According to TechSoup.org, “the technology place for nonprofits,” the majority of nonprofit organizations with more than ten or 15 computers should probably have a full- or part-time system administrator for regular maintenance needs.
At the same time, technology has continually improved in reliability over the last 20 years, so many organizations don’t really require a full-time, in-house IT staff to satisfy their computer support needs. Because nonprofits must carefully allocate their resources, it is often hard to justify the salary of a full-time network engineer when outsourcing this skill on an as-needed basis is so much more efficient.
The best outsourced IT services are provided by local, established, fully qualified professional tech support companies that can offer support via phone, online and on-site.
- Outsourcing IT support allows nonprofits to efficiently access IT services only as needed.
- With an IT company providing computer support, nonprofits have on-demand access to a variety of individuals with specialized skills and the latest training.
- A qualified IT services company can offer its nonprofit client an established process for ongoing technical documentation, systems planning and budgeting guidance.
Such professional assistance with strategic technology planning can be of great value to nonprofit organizations, especially when proof of smart resource allocation is critical to donors and grant makers. According to TechSoup.org, “A technology plan is the single most important ingredient to effectively using technology in your organization. The technology planning process will help minimize technology-related crises, use staff time efficiently, and avoid wasting money on equipment. Create a plan to help you think through your priorities in order to use technology in a way that directly furthers your mission.”
What about the fact that many nonprofits can get special pricing on hardware and software, and even make use of donated equipment? Even if you are outsourcing IT support, your provider should help you find and obtain any nonprofit discount available. As for donated and used equipment, your IT company can certainly help evaluate which equipment will save you money initially, and over time. In fact, it’s wise for any nonprofit to have a written policy for accepting technology donations, because a wide-open approach can end up costing you more in increased support, noncompliance or disposal fees.
Tips for Outsourcing Tech Support for Nonprofit Organizations
Not all computer support companies can provide all the benefits that should come with professional IT services, so it’s important to assess and compare talent, capabilities, experience, pricing and capacity when outsourcing IT support. Selecting the right company to support your computer network is as important as choosing your accountant, banker or lawyer.
Subcontracting creates an extra layer between you and the accountability you should demand from an IT services provider.
Believe it or not, you need to ask your tech support provider if they carry workman’s compensation and other business insurance.
A one-person IT service shop necessarily limits your company’s access to support. When your network goes down, response time is critical.
Your IT services partner company should be able to remotely access your network. This improves response time and saves money, as many problems can be resolved without an on-site visit.
A qualified IT services company will use dispatch management tools and tracking systems to ensure your service requests are completed in a timely, efficient manner.
Billing should tell a story. Without detailed time and activity reports from service providers, business owners can’t accurately assess just what they got for their money.
No Prepaid Service
Advance payment for blocks of IT service time is like prepaying for car repairs. What if nothing goes wrong with your car? A reputable IT vendor that maintains your system in good working order does not need or require advanced payment for speculative blocks of time.
Quality, Not Quantity
A qualified IT services company has skilled, certified technicians with real-world experience in their areas of expertise, such as computer networks, server maintenance and desktop maintenance.
Computers, Not Copiers
Expertise in phone systems, copiers or home theaters does not necessarily translate to expertise in business computer networks. Hire a company that is specialized and focused on computer networks.
Technology professionals can use so much industry jargon that they are unintelligible to the uninitiated. Demand that your IT services partner communicates clearly and is willing to explain any technical slang you are unfamiliar with. Buzz words are hard to avoid in the rapidly-changing tech industry, but be wary: the ones who are hard selling ‘cloud computing’ this year are often the same ones pushing ‘virtualized computing’ last year, and ‘thin clients’ the year before. Don’t follow the buzz without substance.