No matter how large or small your company, technology plays a huge role in your organization, from daily operations to marketing strategies to data management. Therefore, working IT is essential to the success of your business.
While many companies enjoy the convenience of an in-house IT department, it’s not the only option available to meet your growing information technology needs. For a small- to medium-sized company's IT infrastructure management, there are 3 distinct alternatives to an in-house IT team:
A single, on-site independent IT contractor
Emergency-only, help desk IT services
Outsourced IT/IT managed services provider (MSP)
Which IT option will best meet your specific business needs? Let’s take a deeper look…
One On-Site IT Contractor
This option involves hiring an independent contractor as your on-site IT professional to manage the entirety of your IT infrastructure.
The Pros: Your IT pro is always available, just a few steps away, so he or she can provide almost instantaneous emergency and/or end-user tech support. Working with one independent IT pro is also much cheaper than hiring and managing an entire IT department. Plus, you won’t need to worry about dealing with the learning curve as time goes on, as he or she becomes more and more familiar with your industry, your business operations and the IT required to support your endeavors.
The Cons: This IT person’s role in your organization is to understand and implement ALL the necessary policies, tools, equipment and actions to keep your company relevant, functioning and flourishing in the world of business. Not to mention, this IT professional needs to be fluent in ALL forms of IT, from servers to desktops to networks to mobile technology. These high expectations may result in a workload that outpaces a single IT professional’s abilities and time constraints.
Your best bet: One independent on-site IT professional is often a great option for small businesses. You get the IT support you need right away, wrapped up in an affordable package. However, if your company is on the verge of a growth spurt, it might be time to consider some additional IT options, so as to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.
Emergency-Only, Help Desk IT Services
This solution involves establishing a relationship with an external help desk team for IT support—a team only contacted in the event of a productivity-impeding IT emergency.
The Pros: Between the mysteries of hardware malfunctions and the learning curve on software and SaaS solutions, your new startup is going to need IT help for all those little problems—and fast. Who wants to deal with IT hassles while you have a million other things on your plate? Many burgeoning new businesses opt for an emergency-only IT help desk solution because of the pay-as-you-go model: costs are calculated based on an hourly rate, so you only pay for the services you need, and only when you use them. Added bonus: If you’re interested in engaging with fully outsourced IT (our next option below), most IT managed services providers (MSPs) offer an hourly option. When you go with the hourly service first, you can vet that IT company before you commit to contracting long-term services.
The Cons: Hopefully, generally speaking, your IT problems are small, everything runs smoothly, and you’re back up and running in no time. But keep in mind, when you enlist an emergency-only IT team, there’s a lot of troubleshooting and not a lot of IT strategy—so there’s no potential for a big-picture solution due to the help desk’s inherently narrow perspective on your IT issues.
Your best bet: While emergency-only IT services are often a great short-term IT option, this option might impede your business growth in the long run. If you know your business is about to boom, seek out a more permanent IT solution for the long haul.
Outsourced IT/IT Managed Services Provider (MSP)
This term refers to a complete outsourced IT team, ideally stocked with specialists in a wide variety of IT management solutions (from networks to desktops to servers to mobile), experienced across multiple industries—and proactive in every way.
First, a note on the Proactive IT model vs. the Reactive IT model. Under a reactionary model (like an emergency-only help desk), when a problem event occurs (for example, your main server goes down, making a big mess of things), it is isolated, cleaned up and fixed as quickly as possible. A proactive model involves building preventative solutions right into the IT infrastructure to eliminate problems before they happen, then continuously monitoring systems to detect threats from everything from productivity to data security. This safeguards desktops, servers, networks and even mobile devices from the rollercoaster ride of unpredictable downtime and system failures. Even in worst-case scenarios, the proactive model offers a ready-to-go plan of action as soon as a problem is identified.
A proactive IT strategy, optimized to ensure your business is up and running 24/7, gives you the confidence you need to move your business forward, while flexible, scalable IT options eliminate the stress of downsizing your internal IT department due to economic constraints.
Your best bet: A good IT managed services provider (MSP) understands their business interests are aligned with those of their clients: by providing the most reliable, proactive and cost-effective solution available, both the MSP and their clients achieve success. By employing industry best practices, staffing talented and experienced IT professionals, and implementing proactive IT solutions designed to minimize technology problems, a proactive outsourced IT managed services provider can be a breath of fresh air to businesses of all sizes.
Depending on the size of your company, the phase you’re in, and your impending growth potential under your current business model, any of these 3 alternatives to in-house IT might suit your business just fine…for now. Just be aware there are other options available than the traditional in-house IT team. If you’re concerned your IT isn’t working for your business, it might be time to look into a new IT solution.