By Cheryl Nelan
As businesses grow, so do their IT needs. Many businesses start off “managing” their own IT. And, they do an ok job of it when it is just a few people. As their environment gets more complex, many find an independent IT tech they can call just when needed. And, they seem to stumble along just fine. Eventually, most find they need IT resources that can help them plan for their future, build a stable network, manage their backups, and hopefully keep everything running smoothly.
And, this is when they ask – should they hire someone in-house or outsource their IT?
Hiring an internal resource can sound like a great idea. You have a trusted employee managing your IT. They can help both strategically (where should we invest, what should we budget, which software should we use, etc.) as well as tactically (keep your systems protected, manage your backup, help end users, fix things when they break). They’ll have the best interest of the company in mind.
A good IT partner can do all the things above (and should always have the best interest of your company in mind). And, they probably have the ability to do so much more. Let’s break this down by key requirements:
Reduce Labor and Control Overall Costs
Employees require management and training. With outsourcing you can avoid hiring, training and paying overtime. An internal IT staff can be very expensive, and employees don’t always live up to your expectations. Even if you are lucky and make a great hire, chances are the employee won’t last long. Turnover is high in this industry and keeping a tech engaged and challenged is difficult when there isn’t a natural career path within the organization. A single person is unlikely to be proficient in all IT disciplines (networking, security, servers, PCs, phone systems, video surveillance, audio-video, etc.). They will end up learning at your expense or leaving areas of vulnerability.
Compliance and Security
Is your firewall up to date? Do you have a DMZ installed? Do you audit your Workstations and Servers? Has your company implemented PCI security standards and are you compliant? Are there other compliance standards your company needs to meet? By partnering with a qualified Managed Services company who is familiar with PCI Compliance standards, HIPAA compliance and other government regulations you can rest assured that your company is minimizing the risks associated with maintaining client data, credit card numbers, sensitive competitive information and more.
All businesses assume some level of risk. Markets, competition, government regulations, financial conditions, external threats, and technologies all change often and quickly. Outsourcing providers can assume and manage much of this risk for you, with specific industry knowledge, especially security and compliance issues.
Small businesses can’t afford to match the in-house support services that larger companies maintain. Outsourcing can help small companies act “big” by giving them access to similar technology, resources, and expertise that large companies enjoy. An independent third party managed cost structure and economy of scale can give your company a competitive advantage.
Trained, Experienced, Qualified, Certified.
If you’re not IT trained, how do you assure an employee is qualified? Certifications like Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) are important, but so is experience. How do you cover an them while they are in training (or out sick or on vacation)? It is challenging for a small businesses to afford one good internal IT person; having a backup for that person is even more difficult. A good managed IT services company has a team of engineers and supports a number of clients with a wide variety of networks. This experience helps give them a clear picture of best practices and industry trends that enables them to better advise their clients.
Qualified doesn’t Equal Experienced
Few problems are new for leading IT service companies, who see related problems multiple times. An in-house IT employee leads an isolated existence no matter how much they train. A typical new hire will be an entry to mid level IT person without IT management experience, without exposure to the best practices, without business acumen. They may be good at fixing PCs, but may miss the big picture and knowledge to implement the right tools to provide positive impact to your business.
Increase Efficiency and Competitiveness
Organizations that try to do all IT Services in-house themselves can have much higher research, development, and implementation time, all of which increase costs. It is challenging to control and validate in-house IT person activities and recommendations. Helping companies find the balance between under-spec’ing (and therefore costing more in the long run) and over-engineering (buying more than you need) is where a knowledgeable IT partner can really help.
Quickly Implement New Technology
A quality outsourced IT service organization will have the resources to start new projects right away. Handling the same project in-house might involve weeks or months to hire the right people, train them, and provide the support they need. For most implementations, quality IT companies will bring years of experience in the beginning, and this saves time and money.
Stay Focused on Your Core Business
Businesses have limited resources, and every manager has limited time and attention. Outsourcing can help your business stay focused on your core business and not get distracted by complex IT decisions. In other words, you worry about running your business, and let someone else worry about your computers, networks and backups.
Does this mean an in-house IT person is never the right decision? Absolutely not! We have a number of clients who do have in house IT support. The key to success is defining the role and being sure the new hire has the right resources they need to be successful. Often, that means they work in partnership with an outsourced IT partner. The right IT partner will help that person be successful in his/her job. They will augment the skills that person brings to the organization and provide the additional skills and services the organization needs to be successful – with a solid IT strategy that meets the needs of the business. A true win-win.
The right solution varies depending on the goals of the company. Start there – what are you trying to accomplish? After that, work with trusted partners to build a plan that achieves those goals!