Dec 09 2020

Service Matters: Choosing an IT Services Provider That Meets Your Needs

There’s a greater need than ever for outside IT support. How do you choose the right provider?

Between budget constraints, campus closures and the heightened need for technology support resulting from remote and online learning, university IT departments are faced with a massive undertaking: How can they continue to provide the high-caliber experiences that their faculty, staff and students deserve, despite constricting resources and an increasingly uncertain postsecondary landscape?

With the fate of higher education very much under the microscope, it’s a critical question that needs a quick and effective solution. More than ever — even amid a pandemic that has limited campus access for millions of higher ed stakeholders — universities are expected to provide high-quality and meaningful experiences to the students, faculty and staff they serve.

For many schools, the answer is an external partner that can provide guidance and insight into solutions and best practices. Given such an uptick in demand for external support, it’s no surprise that the IT services industry — which had already been growing rapidly in recent years — has expanded as well, with more providers all clamoring to support clients and organizations across all industries. But with so many providers to choose from, how can higher education IT teams know that they’re choosing the best vendor to meet their needs? Here are some things to consider.

Seek Out Meaningful Consulting and Advisory Benefits

This is an unprecedented time for higher education. University IT teams are being asked to solve problems they’ve never faced, during an event like no other and, in many cases, with tools they’ve had little experience implementing and using. They need a level of guidance and expertise that often comes with a hefty price tag on its own.

At CDW, many of our higher education customers are able to take advantage of advisory and consultation support that they otherwise might not have access to. A good services provider will have made incremental investments in nonbillable educational consultants and other experts who can offer vendor-neutral opinions about strategy and solutions.

Take Advantage of Partners’ Supply Chain Access

It’s not just toilet paper and hand sanitizer that COVID-19 has left in short supply. Laptops, mobile hotspots and other IT products have also seen record demand. But when Wi-Fi or network outages bring your entire userbase to a halt, simply waiting for the supply chain to pick back up again isn’t an option.

That’s why, when choosing a services vendor, you want to make sure that you select a provider with reliable supply chain access, one that will be aggressive and persistent in procuring whatever is needed to maintain business continuity. Look for vendors that have a broad range of manufacturer partnerships and a diverse portfolio of solutions and services.

RELATED: Understand the Differences Between Security and Privacy

Leverage Both Regulatory and Industry Awareness

Since the migration to remote, online and hybrid learning, we’ve seen a major increase in concerns about student privacy and other regulatory affairs. It makes sense: With millions of students, faculty and staff conducting countless transactions and transmitting massive amounts of sensitive data online, there are innumerable opportunities for universities and their users to inadvertently violate regulations, particularly those pertaining to student privacy.

Like so many other industries (both public and private sector), higher education is governed by strict and specific laws. Failure to comply can mean massive disruptions and financial consequences for universities. Choose vendors and service providers with a demonstrated understanding of the regulations that govern higher education.

Review Relevant Partnership Levels and Certifications

If you have foot problems, you see a podiatrist. Faulty wiring? You call an electrician. And when you need IT support, you choose the provider that is best able to help you fix whatever problem it is you’re trying to solve, or need you’re trying to fill.

When choosing an IT services vendor, always consider its partnership levels and certifications. If, for instance, you need security assessment services and your security stack includes solutions from Cisco, IBM and Splunk, look for providers that have developed the levels of partnership with those manufacturers to ensure you get the most value, in terms of both cost and quality outcomes.

 This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.


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