I was given some advice years ago that I still follow to this day. Whenever writing a letter or a professional document of some kind, always have someone proof read it before turning it in. This may prevent you from making an embarrassing or costly mistake.
The same rule of thumb can be applied toward making an investment in technology. Getting a second opinion before purchasing, especially from someone that understands technology and your business, is always a wise decision. It can prevent you from making a costly mistake.
Here are a few instances when you should check with your IT provider before making a technology purchase:
- Replacing an old PC – When it comes time to replace that 6-year-old PC, your IT provider can verify whether the Operating System will cooperate with your environment. Will your new PC be compatible with your printers or your practice management software? Also, keep in mind that some Operating Systems are designed for home use while others are designed for business.
- Buying a new server – Servers can get a little pricey. Many times, your IT provider can shop around or work directly with a vendor to get you the best deal (See “Benefits of Working with a Value-Added Reseller“). Most importantly, they can verify the Operating System and licensing needs (e.g. Microsoft). If not licensed properly, you could experience compatibility issues or be in violation of copyright laws.
- Changing your internet provider – Transitioning to a new Internet Service Provider is a very delicate process with a lot of moving parts. Involving your IT guy in your decision to switch can help eliminate downtime and ensure your new service will allow your firm to function smoothly. For example, a Static IP address is mandatory for a law firm that utilizes email and remote access. But since your ISP is not familiar with your environment, they may not know your needs. Also, depending on the provider or the package, Static IP addresses may not be an option. An IT person can also help you shop for the lowest rates and the fastest speeds.
Recently, a client of ours was contacted by AT&T and told that they need to upgrade to U-Verse. The client scheduled the upgrade without notifying us. On the same day of the upgrade, we got a frantic call when they were unable to access the internet after the AT&T technician left. Upon arriving onsite, we discovered that not only did AT&T not provide them with a Static IP address, but they were also unable to configure their system to the firm’s current router. After 15 hours of additional labor and a day and a half of downtime, and back and forth calls to AT&T, we finally got them up and running. Had we been consulted before the decision to switch, this would not have happened!
- Taking your data to the cloud – There are many considerations you may not be aware of when implementing a cloud-based solution. One of the biggest is internet bandwidth and speed (at your office, home and your mobile device). When a 10-person firm is clicking through a cloud-based practice management system all day, internet speeds and bandwidth are sure to suffer. Depending on your practice area, you should also consider security, disclosure, and/or bank compliance issues. Ensuring your IT person is involved in this decision could save you from making a very costly mistake.
- Changing your phone system – Should you have the need to upgrade or switch out your phone systems, your IT provider will likely need to know the following:
- Does the new phone system offer Voicemail to email?
- Does the phone system require VoIP or analog-based hardware?
- Will the new system require PoE switches? (If so, do not buy them through the phone vendor as they often charge two or three times the price of purchasing them elsewhere.)
- Does the phone system require a separate server to run on?
- Adding new software – Introducing any new software to an existing environment can often cause compatibility issues, rendering employees unable to work. Planning for these issues up front will often save you a great deal of time and money.
In the end, simply asking for a second opinion on your technology purchase may save you a few dollars or thousands of dollars in the end. There may be aspects of the change you are considering that you may not know. There may be a slightly better way to plan it out. There may be a different way to implement the same goal. Without checking for a second opinion, you may never know.
Matthew O’Brien is a Network Service Manager Accellis Technology Group, a leading provider of IT consulting and Managed Services for law firms. He specializes in configuration and support for business-level security and networking systems.