Based on the assumption that SMEs often don't have to meet specific criteria to hire an IT service provider for their day-to-day IT needs, the following list is a handy “cheat” that addresses key questions businesses have. Potential remote IT support providers should ask when looking for and comparing IT services:

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1) What specific hardware and software products, packages and offerings does your IT company offer or resell to make our business more efficient and productive?

For example, if you are a small business, some telephone systems work better and are licensed for small businesses with a hundred employees. Some even have a limit on 50 employees or less or a limit on the number of jobs they can do at the same time.

2) Will any of the services, hardware and software you provide really reduce our total cost of ownership (TCO) in the short or long term? If so, how?

For example, installing a new VoIP telephone system can inevitably result in high initial costs. However, if you examine that once installed, a new Internet Protocol telephone system will save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in long-distance and in-between charges on-site calling, the initial cost can be worth the long-term savings.

3) What is your fee structure and how will it benefit my small or medium business?

Cost structures come in all sizes, shapes, and structures that are suitable for large businesses are often not suitable for small and medium businesses.

While purchasing an "incident-based" fee structure can be tempting because you are only paying for each IT issue, the unfortunate negative effect of this fee structure is that some providers may not create solutions in their own quest to make more money on IT services that is a solution long term for your problem.