Thursday, May 12, 2016

Quick Technology Inventory from Prospects

As most of you know, I sold my larger managed service business several years ago and started a new one in 2014. My new MSP takes only high quality clients who are dedicated to using their technology to make their businesses better. That means they are willing to spend money and do whatever I tell them to do.

It also means I spend a LOT of time turning down prospects who want to do business with me. In order to do that, I have to make a pretty quick assessment of whether they take I.T. seriously and whether they'd be a decent prospect.

I've discovered something I always knew, but it's come into much sharper focus with cloud services:

Most small companies have NO IDEA what their technology profile looks like. They don't know where their data are. They don't know who controls their domain registration. Very often, they don't even know who their ISP is.

You would think that the act of paying for these services each month would give them a clue. But it doesn't. Many use free Internet services, so there is no bill. And all too often, they're using for-pay services that their former I.T. consultant left in place but stopped billing them for. So they're getting free spam filtering and "guru" is paying for it - probably without knowing.

As someone who is rigorous about documentation, this is all beyond my comprehension. But it makes my decision to reject these prospects very easy. They obviously do not put any effort or concern into their technology. That means they're probably not willing to invest money in it.

With viruses and spyware and Cryptolocker, I don't know how these companies survive. If I went without AV for ten seconds, I'd be overwhelmed with viruses. These people go years with no idea who is managing what.

It makes me want to scream.

Instead, I developed a quick little 2-page document to help them take inventory of their technology assets. This is NOT a replacement for real, thorough network documentation. I'm posting a video about that tomorrow.

This worksheet is literally the most basic information about:

  • Who is you ISP?
  • What is your internet domain name?
  • Who is the registrar for that?
  • Who is the technical contact for that?
  • Where is your web site hosted?
  • Who manages that?
  • Where is you email housed?
  • Who manages that?
  • How is your email filtered?
  • Who manages that?
  • Where are your files stored?
  • Who manages that?
  • How are your important files backed up?
  • What is your anti-virus solution?
  • How is your network protected (e.g., firewall)?

Click the graphic to enlarge. No, you can't get the Word doc version of this. It's mostly white space. It will take you seven minutes to retype it.

If you don't have something already, such as the 68-Point Checklist or another lengthy interview tool, this quick inventory might be very helpful. It can be used to educate the client/prospect about the scattered nature of their resources.

Personally, I would be in a panic if I didn't know where my company data lived, who controlled it, and how it was secured. But I'm very clear about one thing: People who don't know this stuff are not my clients!

Use if it's helpful.

And if you have recommendations for improvement, post them as comments so we can all share.



  1. Anonymous8:30 PM

    I think you meant to say "People who DON'T know this stuff are not my clients!" :-)

  2. I might also want to know what their primary means of authentication (resource control) is: (Peer to Peer, AD, Other). Knowing that one thing say a lot about a potential client.

  3. Good point. Although it might say more about the previous IT consultant than the prospect.

    1. Perhaps, though your approach to supporting the network will vary wildly based on the information gleaned from this question - indeed every one of the inventory questions you mention. I would also make an effort to understand the prospect's approach and attitude towards technology. The inventory is, of course not going to give me that, but perhaps some well-placed open-ended questions might get you a little closer (depending on the prospect).

  4. Again, this is just the super basics. Search this blog (upper left hand corner) for "roadmap" or 68 point checklist and you'll get a richer sense of what we do to go in depth with prospect and client networks.

    Thanks for the note.

  5. This almost perfectly mirrors our "brief site survey form" that we use. The biggest exception is that we make a point of having them demonstrate that they can login to their firewall (one in three have one at all and less than half of those have credentials). And finally, we ask them to work with us to locate their backup data (on-site an off-site) and restore one file. Less than one in three can do that either.

    These wedge techniques have brought us a lot of interested, if not interesting clients.

  6. Thanks Josh. I do think there's value is starting a conversation with "forms" because it shows the client that you have a system and a way of doing things. As simple as it is, it makes you stand out from the crowd.

    Hey. Aren't you in Belize? Isn't there a beach you should be at?


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