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How to select a support vendor

Before you select a vendor to provide on-going support for your custom software, consider these items:

Availability. Many customers only require support during regular business hours, but some require more robust support. If your business needs to provide services outside a traditional 9 -to-5 workday, then make sure that your vendor will provide the same level of support.

Response time. How quickly will the vendor respond to requests (especially emergency requests)? No vendor can guarantee with 100% certainty that they will provide a fix or solution within a small timeframe, but they can guarantee that they will start investigating the matter quickly. If your custom software provides a mission-critical service to your business, then you'll want to know that they will respond fast.

Trust. I don't recommend that you use a new vendor for support without working with them on some other project, even a small one. Let's face it: a crisis is the worst time to learn that your new vendor can't be relied on. So if you are considering switching vendors, find some other small project or opportunity for them to prove themselves to you. Otherwise you may learn the hardware that your new vendor has a better sales department than technical staff.

Cost of questions. Some vendors charge by the hour, whether they are on the phone answering a simple question, fixing a bug, or troubleshooting an issue. Depending on the kind of support you need this may be okay. However in my experience there is a large benefit to developing a partnership with the vendor, and you can't do that when you are being nickel-and-dimed for every question. So look for a vendor who charges a flat monthly rate, or at least one who doesn't charge for each question you ask.

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What the critics are saying...

Avonelle is a rare IT professional who can communicate with business users on a level they can understand, and who can recommend creative technical solutions that are in line with the business goals and the business budget. Avonelle is conscientious not only about meeting deadlines, but also exceeding her customers expectations around quality software while providing superior customer service. Avonelle is an inspiration to me.

Valerie Vogt, Director of IT Advisory Services @ Inetium