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10 questions to ask your tech provider

Andrew Colley
Smarter Writer

Andrew Colley has written about technology, business and media for over a decade - nine years on a national newspaper

Andrew Colley
Smarter Writer

Andrew Colley has written about technology, business and media for over a decade - nine years on a national newspaper

The rise of on-tap technology services that resemble water and electricity has given rise to a perception that choosing a provider is easy.

However, whether its telecommunications, hosting, cloud or broadband services, businesses still need to consider more than cost to avoid a potential sting in the tail.

The image shows bundles of server cables and a service person in the background. Asking your tech provider these questions could prevent major issues for your business.

How fast is ‘superfast’?

The establishment of the nbn™ as a wholesale broadband access services network is likely to lead to a slew of new market entrants. Many are likely to advertise ‘superfast’ download speeds. However, nbn™ is only obliged to guarantee so-called ‘last mile speeds’ and defines ‘superfast broadband speed’ as anything above 25Mbps. You need to ensure your provider has a proven track record providing reliable, high-speed broadband services.

Security

It seems like an obvious consideration but, as a business, you need to expect more from your service provider than flimsy boilerplate assurances about data protection. There are no absolute guarantees when it comes to data security but you should at least ask your provider about their data security policy to ensure you’re as protected as possible.

Privacy

You may be aware of the myriad free online cloud storage and backup services that have become available in recent years. Major technology brands offer them to consumers with smartphones and webmail like meal toys but usually in exchange for your privacy. If you plan to use one of these services for your business make sure read the fine print carefully.

Compliance

There is another important reason that businesses need to ask how their technology providers handle their data. New Australian privacy principles came into effect in 2014 and they effectively make Australian businesses responsible for the way their service providers handle their customers’ data. For instance, offshore storage is more complicated.

Compliance requirements can and do change as well. For example, in February 2017 the government passed an amendment requiring mandatory notification of individuals affected by a data breach ‘likely to result in serious harm’. So, you need to make sure your provider has kept up with the rules, as your own customers will be expecting it of you.

Customer Service

As the owner of a growing business you want a technology provider that has the same dedication to customer service as you. You should choose a service provider that can provide a level of service appropriate for business and will commit to responding to your needs in a timely manner.

Scalability

Many businesses are affected by seasonal changes in demand or may simply grow much more quickly than they anticipate. Can your technology provider rapidly scale their services to give you the agility to respond to fluky business conditions?

Mobile Connectivity

Businesses are increasingly relying on mobile connectivity, particularly mobile data, for day-to-day operations. Whether you’re using sophisticated mobile applications or simply ensuring you’re available to customers, reliable mobile service is critical — particularly if your business operates in or near to regional and remote areas. It’s worth investigating your mobile provider’s mobile network reach.

Stability

As a business owner, there’s not a lot you can do quickly if your suppliers fail, so you probably take a lot of care to choose them carefully. You need to make the same consideration when choosing a technology provider and ensure it has record for stability.

Are you getting the latest innovations?

It’s almost become a truism that changes in technology have never been more rapid than in the post-digital era. What efforts is your technology provider making to invest in R&D or investigate the latest technology improvements that could make your business easier to run? After all, if they fall behind on innovation, so do you.

Do they listen?

Finally, and this could be the most important question of all, does your provider take the time to understand your business? Many technology firms are great at understanding their wares but tend to want to mould their customers’ businesses around it. It should be the other way around.

Find out why you should be speaking to Telstra about your business network services.

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