Operating a law firm has some unique challenges. Among them is IT. Vancouver area lawyers don’t often think about their IT needs when they start their practices — their focus is usually on marketing and getting clients in the door. However, IT is critical to a functional and successful law office. Most Vancouver law firms outsource their IT, simply because it allows them to focus on their clients and caseload. If you’re planning on outsourcing law firm IT services in Vancouver, make sure you ask some questions first.
Before you ask the more complicated IT questions, make sure their customer service is up to par first. Ask these questions:
1. What are your customer support hours?
All law firm IT companies worth your consideration should have dedicated customer service hours. If they don’t, that’s a huge red flag. Also, be sure to call a few times before you sign on the dotted line. If you’re always leaving a voicemail and waiting hours or even days for someone to get back to you, there’s a good chance that the company won’t be able to meet your needs.
2. What is your guaranteed response time?
If you have an IT problem and put in a call, you should be given a guaranteed response time for when the issue will be addressed. Don’t let them tell you what their response time usually is — make sure it’s written in the contract you sign. Avoid considering IT companies that don’t offer a guaranteed time.
3. Can you explain my agreement in detail?
Before signing up, ask the provider if they can explain your agreement in detail. You want to know — line by line — what you’re paying for and what you’re getting. Also, ask if their computer technicians provide customers with a detailed invoice each time they provide a service. If you can’t verify what exactly you’ll be paying for in your contract or that you’ll know what work was done when computer technicians come to your office, consider the deal off.
4. What type of insurance do you carry?
Companies that provide law firm IT services in Vancouver should carry errors and omissions insurance as well as workers compensation insurance. If a technician breaks a computer or is hurt on the job, it’s critical to know that you won’t be the one responsible for paying the bill.
5. How often do you review network performance and make recommendations?
A good IT service provider should be able to provide you with recommendations to improve the performance of your network. You want to hire a company that does periodic reviews of your system and proactively makes update recommendations. Some providers get comfortable in their contracts and don’t do the work until the client asks for it. Instead, make sure you’re working with a company that takes the initiative to get your network performance in tip top shape.
6. (Any question)
As you’re asking questions, get a feel for how the company provides you with answers and the information you’re looking for. The company should be willing to listen to your concerns and provide resolutions for you. Don’t work with companies that blow you off or make you feel as though you are a burden for asking questions.
Disasters are inevitable, but without proper preparation, your law firm’s crucial data could be lost. Ask these questions to ensure the law firm IT companies you are considering make backups and disaster recovery protocol a priority:
7. Do you back up the system before performing any work?
Any work done on your network has the potential to cause a crash. You need to be able to immediately restore your system with the latest data if that happens. This is a simple practice that most reputable law firm IT services in Vancouver will do.
8. How often do you back up data on a regular basis?
Ideally, your IT provider should be doing frequent back ups, whether they are doing any work or not. Also, they should be checking to ensure those back ups are intact and the data isn’t corrupted.
9. Are backups done offsite as well as onsite?
Your data should be backed up offsite if an office fire or a natural disaster renders all of your onsite equipment unusable. If offsite backups are done, you can restore your existing data to new hardware once it’s in place.
10. Do you have a written disaster recovery plan?
Your law firm’s data is critical. You need more than just a general disaster recovery plan. Make sure your IT company has a written plan specifically for your firm on what steps would be executed to get you back up and running as quickly as possible in the event of a major disaster.
Law firm IT companies have a greater responsibility than to help when there’s a problem. They should be doing proactive network maintenance and be able to have something to show for it. Ask these questions:
11. Is there 24-7-365 remote monitoring?
Viruses happen, even on Christmas. Make sure any provider you are considering offers remote monitoring of your systems 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
12. Do you provide access to all software, passwords, user information, and other systems used on the network?
While your paralegal probably doesn’t need an all-access pass, as the owner, you should. Your IT company needs to provide written documentation of how all systems and software can be accessed at the same level they have access. You may never use it, but your IT company should not be the only entity with complete control over your network.
13. How do you keep records of my account?
In case a technician gets sick or goes on vacation, other team members should be able to access your account to see what was done last and when. Detailed information should be stored about trouble calls, updates, etc. so team members less familiar with your account can get up to speed quickly.
14. How often do you provide reports?
It’s not uncommon for an IT company to never inform their clients of what work was done when unless asked. However, you should be getting monthly reports of the status of all machines on your network, when the last updates and backups were done, what threats were found and quarantined, and other essential network checks. You may read this report or not, however, transparency is vital when you’re looking for a reputable law firm IT services in Vancouver.
15. How inclusive is your support plan?
Before you hire, find out what is included — and what costs extra. A company may put in its fine print that only so many calls per month are included or third-party software support is an additional charge. You need to know up front what you’re paying for and what you may have to pay more for later on.
Even if you don’t have a lot of technical knowledge, you need to be at least reasonably sure that the IT provider you choose for your law firm is capable of providing you with service. Ask these questions:
16. Is your help desk in-house?
Some IT companies will outsource their help desk to a third party and only route the highest priority level calls to their team. Third party help desks not only put your law firm’s data security at risk, they’re also a pain to deal with.
17. How current is the training or vendor certification of your technicians?
Your IT provider should proactively keep their technicians up-to-date on all training and certifications needed apart from the work they are doing on your network. Don’t work with a company that allows their technicians to be “trained as they go” — that means they’re being trained on your dollar.
18. What training does your company have for applications that are unique to law firms?
Be sure that your chosen IT company has experience servicing law firms specifically and is familiar with applications, software, and network solutions that are unique to your industry.
19. Are you willing to accept responsibility for issues you cause and provide help even when the problem isn’t your own doing?
The last thing you want to hear when you have a problem is “that’s not our problem.” Your IT service provider should be willing to own up to issues they are responsible for and at least help you as much as they can with other problems. They should only direct you to another provider in cases where they’ve tried and are unable to resolve the issue.
20. Are your technicians required to wear uniforms?
The company you choose to provide your law firm IT services in Vancouver should require their technicians to dress in uniforms or at least professionally with some company identification. This is not only so you know the company you’re hiring is legitimate, but also for your safety. You should never allow someone who cannot be identified as a technician with your company to work on your network.
Asking questions can help you narrow down the search for a reliable IT service provider for your law firm. Every provider may not be able to answer all of these questions to your satisfaction, but you should choose the provider who can respond most of them intelligently and transparently.
Compunet InfoTech provides comprehensive IT support to law firms in Greater Vancouver, Burnaby, Langley, Surrey, North Vancouver, and New Westminster. Call today at (604) 986-8170.
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