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Everyone talks a lot about different levels of IT support, but what do they actually mean?
Why Do You Have Different Levels of IT Support?
Contrary to popular belief, IT can be a wide-ranging subject, from cyber security all the way to hardware, depending on your industry. This means people have different specialties, but in a corporate capacity, the different levels of IT support basically relate to how difficult something is.
In most cases, each line shows a level of escalation and this helps make sure that surface level tasks are dealt with quickly and in-depth tasks are dealt with by specialists who know what they’re doing.
That way everything runs efficiently.
So, let’s look further at the different levels of IT support and some additional roles you may be considering.
Different IT Support Roles
1st Line: First Contact
First line support consists of generalists that have a broad understanding of products and services and deal with the most common and simple issues. Usually available around the clock, they deal with problems like lost passwords or assist with software setup. They have a lot of interaction with customers, as they are the first line of contact with them.
They refer to a knowledge base when identifying and resolving customer issues and go through possible solutions. If there is an issue they can’t solve, they send it to the 2nd line. Before doing so, their task is to gather as much information as possible and provide a detailed problem description or open a support ticket.
2nd Line: Escalation Point
The 2nd line are technical specialists who have a more in-depth understanding of the issue. Usually, each member specialises in a different area. They investigate issues escalated by 1st line and try to resolve them in a determined time frame. This line also proactively monitors systems and performs regular health checks. Sometimes, they will also handle preparations for system and software upgrades and keep an eye on industry shifts.
3rd Line: Complex Technical Issues
This is the highest level of support that solves the most complex issues. This line is often staffed by personnel that was directly involved in the development, of the solutions so they know the ins and outs of how it works in your organisation specifically. They tend to have the best technical resources and often work hand in hand with third parties to get things fixed if the issue relates to an external matter.
Often for smaller businesses, the 3rd line support and IT manager role can merge with many proactive managers taking on the harder support tasks and fixes.
Involved in the decision making and interdepartmental support, IT managers bring the support team together. They oversee the implementation and maintenance of your IT solutions, as well as all matters that relate to IT operations and resources. They manage other IT specialists, optimise resources and staffing, and enforce best practices across the board.
*They also help with support roles as and when needed
Other IT Support Roles
Also known as a SysAdmin, is in the same realm as a 3rd line support so they have extensive knowledge, but it’s normally specialised. They will often oversee areas like data centres, network operations, backups or web technology. Their aim is to ensure the support systems perform optimally and oversee their area.
Think of them like working in the background to keep things running smoothly.
4th Line: Outsourced Services
Although not commonly used, you may hear the term 4th line support. This relates to external parties for example printer manufacturers or vendor software that help resolve issues from their end. For example, if there is a bug that needs patching, they’ll fix it and roll out an update.
How to Decide Which Level of Support You Need
No two businesses are alike, so their IT support requirements will be vastly different, even within the same industry. While some businesses deal mainly with 1st line issues for simple software, others may need on-site specialists or programmers on call who know the intricacies of the products and software being used.
If you are having a hard time deciding on the level of IT support your business needs, answering the following three questions may help you come to a decision easier:
1. What does your business do?
The level of IT support is different depending on your industry, company size, and your plans for the future. If you are a start-up, you will probably not be able to finance three lines of tech support jobs immediately, but you might find the right combination of lines through managed IT services.
If you already own an established business, you might have in-house IT staff already. You can complement them with outsourced or managed services that will take care of complex issues and help you by proactively monitoring your systems and aligning your IT tech with your long-term goals. Having access to 2nd and 3rd line will help you immensely when choosing and integrating new tech solutions or moving to a new platform.
2. How many resources do you have?
The number of resources to allocate to your IT support also impacts this choice heavily. The prevailing trend is to automate simple issues so that resources can be funnelled toward higher-tiered support. For example, you can have the 1st line automated through AI or chatbots, with 1st line agents responding only when AI/chatbots can’t resolve the issue. The savings from adopting such solutions can then be used to integrate 2nd and 3rd line support services.
3. Do you need reactive, proactive, or strategic support?
This is a tricky one and directly related to your future plans, as well as how you operate. If you need reactive support for lots of small but common issues, 1st line is for you. It’s also common for those that have to provide support to customers as well.
If you need active monitoring or proactive support, 2nd line is for you. For example, in the hospitality industry ensuring your equipment and software is maintained to avoid downtime during peak periods which can affect overall sales.
If you’re looking at growth and expansion or to save money overall, 3rd line support or an IT manager can help streamline and standardise your tech. In addition to proactive support and ensuring your systems are performing optimally, they also work hard on ensuring you reach your business goals. Third line support will choose new technological solutions based on how quickly they can aid you in achieving your goals.
If you want a flexible level of IT support, consider hiring an IT managed service provider like us, give us a call for a free consultation.