Ben Lavine is President at TCS Services; a Minnesota Metro-Area based IT and Technology Consulting Company, specializing in the technology needs for home base, small- and medium-sized businesses, ranging from help desk support to ground up network builds and maintenance. He can be reached atblavine@tcsforyou.comwww.tcsforyou.com

By Ben Lavine

As a new business, one of the most important investments you can make is to ensure you have a local technology consultant who you trust, who knows about your business, and who can manage your computing infrastructure and guide you in your technology growth.

You have an accountant (for obvious reasons) and a lawyer (for even more obvious reasons). A local technology consultant or solution provider is no different. When things go wrong, you want someone you can rely on to make it right again. Better yet, you need someone to help avoid those problems.

Here is What Every New Business Should Know About IT Services:

1) Needs Assessment. Identify your technology needs. Ask questions like: How many employees will need to use a computer? What are the hardware requirements of the business software I plan to use? Will I have employees working outside the office? Will I require a server? This will help your Local Technology Consultant determine how to build your network in the most cost effective way.

2) Equipment purchase and network build. Once your consultant has helped build a solid network plan, it’s time to acquire the hardware. Your Local Technology Consultant should have a relationship with a Tier 1 hardware vendor such as Dell, HP or IBM. This relationship gives you access to business class hardware at wholesale prices. Something you just can’t get at the big box stores.

3) Data Backup and Disaster Recovery. Your consultant must ensure that your valuable company data is being backed up and secured. There are three types of backups to consider. 1) Live: data that is on the computer you work with daily. 2) Local Copy: data that is backed up nightly to an external hard drive or tape drive. 3) Off-Site Copy: data that is backed up nightly to an off-site location, usually over the internet to a third- party server or a remote storage device you own. A monthly verification of the backups should be performed to ensure that the data is useable if you should ever need it. Sixty percent of companies that lose their data will shut down within six months of the disaster.

4) Antivirus/Email Security/Firewalls. Viruses, malware and spam all lead to computer and network corruption which directly affects your downtime. It takes an average of three minutes online to pick up a virus today. This is not a place to skimp.

5) Local Technology Consultant Costs. Many IT firms have adopted two types of business models. 1) “Break Fix,” which means you break it they fix it for a set hourly charge. 2) “Managed Services,” which means a flat fee per computer per month for a proactive approach to IT service. “Unlimited Onsite,” which means unlimited calls to help desk, and unlimited remote support by controlling your PC from their office to assist in repairs.