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What would you say is the biggest difference between a partner and a vendor? Trust? Communication? We think those are pretty basic necessities for both categories. For many prospects that we meet with, they find that their technology vendor isn’t giving them what they need. Sure, you can trust them not to charge you too much and maybe they’re pretty responsive when it comes to technology support – but are they really there for your business at the level you need them? When it comes to business technology, you need a partner. You need someone that is going to give it to you straight and tell you what you need to do to improve your technology within the budget that you have and according to your future growth plans. A break-fix relationship doesn’t work, and a Managed Services relationship that doesn’t give you the level of planning and strategy you need isn’t exactly a partnership either. Here’s how to determine if your IT company is a technology partner or an IT vendor:

Next-level communication.

Sure, responsive IT support is great. It keeps you running efficiently and your users from becoming frustrated with your technology. But that’s pretty basic bullet point when it comes to your IT provider. What sort of communication is required before a Managed Services provider can be considered a partner? Proactive communication letting you know when your systems are struggling and giving you a play-by-play on any issues that arise (sometimes before you even know they’re issues). You want to not only be able to submit a ticket and hear back quickly, but to be reached out to on a regular basis to discuss the state of your technology.

An evolution of your technology.

It’s one thing to have things covered. Your system stays up and running, it backs up, it’s protected from viruses, your connectivity is consistent – but what about those items that can distinguish you from your competition? What about new business applications, cloud services and storage options that are revolutionizing your industry? How will you know when those come about? How will you strategize implementing them? You shouldn’t be the one initiating the conversation about these types of things. Your technology partner should be talking to you about how to take your business technology to the next level. There should never be a time where you’re coasting on technology that just works. Your technology should move your business and give you an edge over your competitors.

Budget planning and strategy, before things happen.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be told about predictable budgetary items before they expire? Say, during your annual budget meetings? Things like server warranties, services on your firewall and software renewals should be predictable expenses that are planned for WITH your technology partner and built into your annual budget at your planning meetings. They’re not a reactive item that your IT vendor e-mails you about that then becomes a headache to find funds for. These sorts of items are easily documented and noted to be discussed by strategy managers in budget meetings alongside your executive staff – not just an afterthought.

Maybe you’ve been with your technology provider for quite some time – maybe you know that it’s time to make a change, but you’ve been avoiding it. Regardless, consider this: don’t you deserve a technology partner that not only gives you incredible support and strategy but also acts as a trusted advisor? You need a technology partner that you can count on to get you through difficult times, to help you when disaster strikes and to give you the type of technology guidance that you deserve. You don’t have to continue settling for less. Things can be different.