21 Mar Small Business IT Solutions: In-House or Outsource?
Today, businesses of all types and sizes rely on technology to succeed. Whether it’s email, online sales, social media or accounting (the list goes on), the need for reliable, secure and effective technology is crucial to business operations. Most companies are not in the business of technology per se, but it’s a recognized means to an end. TECHPol has previously discussed the important IT decisions that new businesses should make. The question then becomes one of implementation. How will those technological needs be met? Is it best to hire IT professionals to work in-house or to contract with outside experts who can function as a business’s IT department? It’s not necessarily an either-or proposition, but many small firms find that handling all of their technology needs internally is unwieldy. For business owners who are inclined to leave the IT headaches to someone else, managed services companies provide an option to consider.
What are Managed Services?
Managed service providers (MSPs) offer a defined set of IT services on a contractual basis. These services are varied and may fulfill a wide range of IT functions such as email hosting, storage, backup, recovery, network monitoring and security. The managed services model is proactive. It is not an insurance policy that you pay for in case something goes wrong or a “fix-when-broken” arrangement. MSPs work closely with clients to understand their business. They manage systems and make adjustments to avoid problems in the first place. Of course, the occasional technological hiccups are inevitable, and MSPs are available 24/7 to address issues as they come up.
Business IT Strategy: The 3 P’s
There are a number of factors to consider when determining what kind of technology support a business requires.
Productivity: A primary reason to utilize technology is to exact greater effeciencies, but poorly managed technology can take a significant toll on productivity. To run on all cylinders, companies need their staff to be focused on the jobs they were hired to do. When technology is slow or not functioning, employees are redirected or idle and likely frustrated. Companies that rely on a limited IT department, a fix-when-broken strategy, or a go-to technology employee whose primary responsibilities lie elsewhere are going to see productivity suffer as IT glitches occur. Downtime will be more frequent, and problems will take longer to fix. Whether in-house or outsourced, a proactive IT strategy that incorporates continual monitoring, updating and adjusting is required to maximize productivity.
Peace of Mind: Having a team of experts on-call, 24/7 is comforting. Since the business of a managed services firm is to solve technology challenges, clients benefit from their knowledge of best practices, their experience solving all kinds of different tech problems and the insights gained from working with a broad range of businesses. These attributes are hard to replicate in a small IT department. But, for companies that do have an internal IT team, MSPs can offer complementary services to round out a company’s tech resources.
Price: Depending on the size and goals of a company, having a tech department or IT experts on staff may be either advisable or impractical. Hiring employees is expensive. On top of salary; recruiting, training, benefits and resources (e.g., space, supplies) add to the cost of in-house staff. An advantage of contracting with a managed services provider to meet technology needs is access to a team of experts with experience on a wide range of technology issues at an affordable rate. Budgeting for IT may be more predictable with a managed services contract as well.
The good news is there are options. For businesses who determine that an outsourced IT solution may be the best course to follow, TECHPol has published some tips to consider when hiring an IT vendor.