So why outsource your IT support? Do the numbers stack up and what are the advantages and disadvantages of outsourced IT support?
For most companies there’s a development life cycle. In their early stages whilst they’re still young, most will find it cost effective to outsource their IT. As they grow some will reach a point where they weigh up the merits of employing a full time staff member. But there are other considerations apart from cost. Finance directors will tell you how hard it is to manage staff when you don’t know what it is they should be doing and why should any employee spend time trying to better a system when they get paid the same by just maintaining the status quo. Here are some of the factors to consider when evaluation the in source/outsource question:
The true cost of an IT support engineer on your payroll is not just the salary. An average network engineers’ pay is between $50K and $70 depending on experience. The lowest paid of engineers won’t able to cope with server support and more complex queries, therefore you can expect to have to pay more.
Once you factor in four weeks holiday pay and cover, sickness, training, office seating, insurance and other benefits. It’s easy to see why a company of 70 workers of less will rarely opt to have in house. Cost is not the only consideration though.
Understanding your Business
Take the example of a business where technology is tailored to the company. Can a database be supported by an outside company? Can an IT support company sufficiently understand that business and influence decisions in its best interests.
The answer is of course that it depends on the situation and the support company, but PC Correct support many clients who have complicated requirements and an alternative opinion might be that if you can only rely on one in house engineer, then what happens if he leaves or is unavailable.
An office worker will always prefer the friendly face of an engineer on site and therefore able to be tapped on the shoulder and asked for a little help. In reality most IT support queries can be resolved using remote connections over broadband connections, but there’s always going to be occasions when a cable needs changing or a PC needs connecting up. One way to resolve this issue is to arrange a regular visit, perhaps weekly, or monthly with the flexibility to bring it forward or push it back. The company needs to decide whether the benefit of having a full time employee is worth the cost and particularly in this age of technology enabling technology.
Range of Technology Supported
Many companies will have a mixture of operating systems; Microsoft , Mac , Linux as well as various competencies such as networking, programming, VOIP and web design . No one engineer can understand all these technologies well, and one major advantage IT companies have over an in house engineer is that a team of professionals can support each other when they don’t know.
A number of things can be put in place by the support company to ensure consistent service levels:
- Do they offer a service level agreement with clearly defined targets?
- Do they monitor your servers and network proactively?
- Do they have review periods?
- Is your system properly documented to mitigate the risk of staff leaving with valuable knowledge?
- Can remote access be provided to a help desk operating at the times you need them?
- Do they have all the relevant accreditation? Are they a Microsoft Partner for example?
If you find the right support company for you, then technology has evolved to remove so many of the objections put forward. Until your company can afford a two man team, it’s now probably not worth considering anything other than
IT Outsourcing Benefits
The biggest benefit to a business when outsourcing to other service providers is, of course, the cost savings. It will often be cheaper to hire someone outside the company for certain jobs. With an internal IT department, the network and systems may work normally without maintenance, but the IT department still gets paid for doing little to nothing. Outsourcing to an outside IT contractor means IT personnel will only be paid when they’re needed. When contracting with managed IT service providers, however, service agreements are usually long-term and more proactive than simple maintenance.
Competition between outsourcing companies pushes them to a higher quality. The service provider is forced to train its employees above and beyond the competition and must provide the highest quality service possible to maintain its reputation. Because of said competition over the last decade, high quality IT providers developed into managed IT services with hosted solutions. Managed IT service providers hold their standards to ITGC (IT General Controls) and use an SLA (Service Level Agreement).
Along with quality, a business can get specialized services that might not have been otherwise available internally. While a business could potentially hire such skill for a limited amount of time under a contract, good IT services offer a more comprehensive skillset that can be used permanently, just like internal IT departments. A competitive IT company also has the resources for application development, software deployment, and tech support.
There is also more liability for an outsourcing company in signing a contract than for a business. The service provider has a reputation to uphold if it wants to stay competitive, therefore creating a safer avenue for a potential client to outsource IT.
IT Outsourcing Disadvantages
One drawback to outsourcing IT is the time factor. If there is an emergency with your network or machines then the outsource company takes time to get there. Different elements you might consider: drive time, priority on the client list, or the contractor’s schedule. If you have in-house IT then it is dealt with immediately. Note that high response times aren’t always a factor, especially in managed IT services, because much of the hardware is offsite and/or closer to the IT service personnel. Additionally, certain companies like TTR go above and beyond their SLA to provide clients with permanent onsite technical support staff.
Businesses may be concerned that outsourced IT staff won’t understand the network or system in place—and with some IT contractors, this may be true. In-house IT staff will (or should) be intimately aware of their infrastructure. Good outsourced IT will a) learn the system and b) take care of the sensitive information involved. Managed IT services often host the infrastructure or can provide onsite staff as stated above, and thus will be equally aware of how a company’s networks and data function. However, onsite support staff will develop a deeper understanding of business objectives as they relate to IT strategy compared to a remote technician.
Finally, an outsourced IT company can only handle so much. A small-to-medium business is likely to benefit more than a large enterprise with hundreds or thousands of employees. Enterprise corporations at that scale need a large IT department to support its size and sustain a complex onsite infrastructure.
Depending on your needs and the size of your company, outsourcing IT can be a good choice. You will likely save money, and if you don’t, a good managed IT solution with an SLA will outweigh the costs.