When you hear the word "concierge," you probably think of the service that made dinner reservations for you the last time you stayed in an up-scale hotel. You probably didn't think of a dedicated team of tech experts researching solutions for your next small business IT project. But now you can, thanks to the Spiceworks IT Concierge Service.
If you own or operate—or provide IT services to—a small business and you haven't heard of Spiceworks, do yourself a favor and get acquainted. The company provides free (ad-supported) network management, network inventory, and help desk software. It also operates a very active online community of IT professionals.
Just keeping the day-to-day technology running isn't easy for small business IT pros who regularly contend with increasing demands and evaporating budgets. Trying to advance an IT strategy that can move the company forward often feels impossible. That's where Spiceworks thinks its Concierge Service can help.
A High-tech Cavalry for Small Business IT Pros
Spiceworks designed the Concierge Service to help IT pros with any aspect of an IT project—from researching vendors, solutions, and product information, to connecting them with resellers, vendors, or other IT professionals who completed similar projects.
"We kept hearing a common pain-point from our community of IT pros," said Ted Nitka, Spiceworks' director of strategic and new brand initiatives. "They'd tell us 'I don't know where to start a project, and I don't have the time, resources, or domain expertise. I need help.'"
Leveraging its 10-year tradition of simplifying the daily lives of small business IT pros, Spiceworks launched a dedicated team with the resources to help small businesses move beyond a break-and-fix mode of IT support.
"We'll help you get your projects moving, gather the resources to make informed decisions, and connect you with the right potential vendors and partners," said Nitka. "We'll deliver the actual solution, and help you navigate the complexity of that system. In short, we'll put time back in your day and help you look more successful at your job."
How Much Does Free IT Support Cost?
The word "free" catches everyone's attention, and it also raises everyone's guard. How, it's fair to ask, can Spiceworks offer this service free of charge? The answer is through revenue sharing. Spiceworks partners with various vendors and resellers. If you decide that a particular solution is right for your needs, Spiceworks receives a portion of the revenue that sale generates.
But does that mean the service recommends only vendors that partner with Spiceworks? Nitka weighs in on that score. "The bottom line is we want to deliver the right solution to the IT pros, so we're going to get them the best option—whether it makes us money or not. We want to earn that long-term relationship," he said. "If we earn that trust, we can work with them on a variety of different projects."
The small business IT pro community is, not surprisingly, well networked. It makes sense that word-of-mouth plays a big role in marketing the Concierge Service. And it's another reason why earning the IT pro's trust is an essential element for success.
"If we help an IT pro in Austin and we do a great job, he'll tell three, or five, or 10 buddies that they should try it out," said Nitka. "We'll take inquiries from anywhere, and we'll help you anywhere. We want to be that kind of resource."
Let's say, for example, that a small business IT pro in Boston called for help finding a fire-suppression system for a data center. Nitka said they would research fire suppression vendors—both locally and nationally. "We ask about your exact needs—water-based, chemical-based, gas-based. Do you need help with installation? We try to understand the nature of the project, and then connect you with the providers who can deliver it."
A Real-world IT Pro's Concierge Service Experience
Brian Putnam is the sole network administrator for Chicago-based Sunset Healthcare Solutions, a company with 40 employees and two locations. A Spiceworks customer for more than two years, Putnam told Small Business Computing that the Help Desk software makes his life much easier.
"Moving from post-it notes to a digital process keeps me organized, and it helps me provide timely responses," he said. He also uses Spiceworks' network and inventory software to track the age and warranty status of devices on the company network.
When Putnam wanted to move his company's IT structure to the cloud, he used the Concierge Service to research cloud hosting providers. Although Spiceworks recommended three providers, Putnam went with a provider that he previously found.
"Even though I ultimately chose a different vendor, having those three other options to consider helped me to make the right choice," said Putnam. He plans to move another server to the cloud in 2016. "I'll definitely use the Concierge Service again. The research is helpful, because vendor options and price points differ widely.
A Small Business IT Partner
What kind of small business IT pro are you? Did you become the company "expert" simply because you knew how to set up a computer? Or maybe you really are an IT pro, but you're so busy keeping the lights on that you don’t have the time to think about anything beyond basic maintenance. Even if your company is lucky enough to have an IT team, no one knows everything about tech.
"There's breadth of knowledge and there's depth of knowledge. No one can know it all, but we can be a resource to help—that's the value the Concierge Service offers," said Nitka. "We provide resources and breathing space so that you can actually move forward."
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com. Follow her on Twitter.
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