Network management

Your telephone and computer networks are probably taken for granted until they break down.

At that point, work comes to a grinding halt as technology-dependent employees lose access to the data and people they need to do their jobs.

If your company is large enough, then a full-time expert probably would have enough work to keep busy. But for smaller firms, outsourcing for telecom and technology expertise may be the most cost effective route.

“Small businesses are better suited to take advantage of outsourcing to have a pool of people they can draw upon to take care of their problems,” says Brad Clark, president of Cleveland-based SpyGlass Technology Advisors. “Why you want to do that is so you only have to pay for the services when you need it so you don’t have the salary burden.”

Outsourcing allows you to draw on the expertise you need for the problem you have. If you have a problem with your computer network, you can call a computer network person. If you have a software problem, you can call a software expert.

“Finding one good person that does everything is difficult,” says Clark. “Outsourcing allows you to draw on the expertise of many people.”

The first step is to identify your potential needs and establish relationships with experts in each field of technology you use. Find someone who can repair your phone system – it might simply be the vendor that sold it to you – identify someone who is familiar with your type of computer network and have someone that understands the software you use.

“Once you do that, the challenge is making sure you get the response you need from the vendors,” says Clark. “Often vendors will sell you a block of prepaid time. If it’s prepaid, make sure there is a guaranteed response time.”

By prepaying, you get a break on the hourly rate and you know someone will be at your company within the response time.

“If you just pick up the phone, you would be charged the full hourly rate for that service and there is no guarantee that staff will be available,” says Clark.

How to reach: SpyGlass Technology Advisors, (440) 716-3400.

The reliable phone

The best thing about phones is that they are extremely reliable and the need for experts to troubleshoot them is rare.

However, there will be times when you need help. If your system is a common one, there are independent people who understand the systems that aren’t tied to the company that sold you the system.

Moving a station, adding another extension or making other minor changes are the most common needs, and it may be worthwhile to shop around.

“Generally people that sell phone systems have some sort of annual support contract,” says Brad Clark, president of SpyGlass Technology Advisors. “Once the contract is up, shop around. Some vendors tend to get greedy as the relationship goes on. Their level of support may decline. Analyze your contract and what you are actually getting. It might be better to forgo the support contract and get a prepaid block of time that will get you service just as quickly for less money. Generally something like 10 to 20 hours is sufficient to handle moves, adds and changes to your system.”