Making sure IT systems are running efficiently and securely is a must for companies of all sizes. However, many businesses struggle with how to make that a reality.
With a wide variety of IT service options to choose from, business owners can quickly feel overwhelmed. Should you farm out services on a piecemeal or as-needed basis? Do your systems require a full-time in-house IT employee? Would you like to give all the worries to an external partner who will work with you on future growth and strategy? Or is there some combination of those that hits the sweet spot for your company’s needs?
A Closer Look at the Options: 4 Types of Business IT Support
In many cases, small companies start with what is known as the break-fix model or a time & materials vendor. This is a very basic arrangement in which the company calls their vendor when something is not working, and they are billed for any time and materials needed to fix the issue. Time & materials appears to be cost effective, but because the vendor is not proactively managing IT, the company’s systems are often missing patches and updates. And by waiting for issues to occur, employee productivity is impacted from the moment the problem is reported until the time the vendor is able to fix it.
Larger enterprises often have internal IT teams composed of help desk troubleshooters, systems admins, database admins, cyber security professionals, and others who are responsible for maintaining parts of the larger technology systems and applications. This is a tremendous solution due to the variety and depth of skills needed to keep an enterprise’s IT running smoothly and securely. However, it is very costly; and it is difficult to find, hire, and retain the personnel to implement.
So how do the companies in between solve this critical issue?
One solution is outsourcing IT (note: outsourcing is not offshoring) to a managed services provider (MSP). An MSP helps companies stay focused on everything else they need to do to serve their clients and improve their products. An MSP gives small and medium businesses the resources of a large internal IT department for a predictable monthly fee. These resources include tools for proactively monitoring critical systems and services, automated patching and update management, help desk services, vendor management, engineers skilled in various disciplines such as network administration, security, and more. It’s an entire IT department without the salaries, benefits, and personnel management headaches that come with internal employees.
At a certain point, however, healthy SMBs grow large enough to begin weighing whether or not it is time to hire their own internal IT person. And that can be a very difficult decision.
On one hand, these companies have had success with their MSP. They’ve got a healthy system and a plan for the future. But on the other hand, the cost of this service may have reached the point where they could hire an internal person. At this time it is important to consider whether one person can do the job competently. Factors in this decision include:
- does the person have ALL of the skills needed?
- if they are a high-level IT professional, will they be satisfied handling “user” issues?
- if they are less-skilled, will they be able to handle the higher level networking and security requirements?
- will you be able to retain that person?
- will he or she be required to be “on-call” for emergencies 24/7?
- what happens when that person gets sick or wants to take vacation?
- apart from salary, have you considered the cost of the tools this position requires, plus ongoing training and professional development?
- are they organized and will they document properly so that all of the “knowledge” isn’t lost if that person should leave?
These are not questions to dissuade a business from hiring an internal IT employee. They are simply considerations most companies don’t know to include in their decision-making.
An internal IT staff member can be loyal, knowledgeable, and a great resource for his or her coworkers. He or she can quickly become burnt out or overwhelmed managing an entire business alone, however. And that’s why a hybrid arrangement of internal IT and complementary services is becoming more popular.
Complementary IT services combine the resources of an MSP with the comfort of on-staff employee. Depending on the agreement you make, the internal IT employee could be the first line of defense for your staff, handling all initial, basic troubleshooting issues. Then the MSP could be your heavy-hitting backup, ready to take any escalated issues. The MSP could also handle your firewall, antivirus, and security issues, your data backups, plus monitoring and managing patches and system updates so your IT employee is free to dive more deeply into your core programming. Or if you prefer to have the MSP handle first-level support and bring your internal IT person in for specific, more complicated issues, that could be your hybrid arrangement. Either way, you can still enjoy quarterly technology business reviews with your MSP to discuss strategy and plan future projects. You really can have the best of both worlds.
As a caveat, don’t be surprised if you have an internal IT person already and the complementary services suggestion is met with resistance. Employees can feel threatened, thinking the MSP will try to get rid of them. A true partner will not, however. Their goal will be everyone’s success.
So if you’re struggling with the decision of which IT service level is best for your business, be sure to weigh all your options. Consider where you are and where you want your business to be. The best arrangement is one in which everyone gets what they need, and at Infinity, we’re always happy to talk things through with you. Contact us for a friendly conversation today.