Outsourcing Your IT Department
Many organizations, especially those experiencing growth, find themselves at a crossroads where they must decide to expand their own internal IT department, or perhaps hire their first full-time IT staff member. Small and medium-sized businesses typically have a ‘technical’ employee or two who perform the daily duties of managing the organization’s equipment with varied results. These ‘involuntary IT managers’ often perform duties that go well beyond the scope of their actual job description. As a result, neither the job they were hired for nor those extra responsibilities are performed adequately due to time, budget, and/or knowledge setbacks of those individuals being pulled in multiple directions.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the larger organizations that already have qualified in-house IT staff. Even if it is only one individual, it's the IT staff's job to:
- Oversee daily IT operations
- Safeguard data
- Keep maximum up-time
- Maintain, support, and customize line-of-business applications
- Provide end user training
- Provide business reporting and analytics
- Logistically plan for the future
As our world evolves and everything becomes more integrated with the Internet and cloud services, the role of IT in business, regardless of the sub-industry, is becoming more of a priority and impacting all entities - both large and small. Forward-thinking, proactive organizations realize the need to embrace technology and to have (and keep) it working on their side. It is that forward-thinking approach to technology and the ability to strategically plan changes in an ever-changing field that will make a successful business even more successful. The inability to adapt and strategize will ultimately make any organization’s mission more difficult to achieve, if not impossible.
Establishing a partnership with a managed service provider (MSP) or outsourced IT vendor is often a consideration of those forward-thinking, strategic organizations. An MSP provides numerous services to the IT needs of any organization. They often include services like:
With numerous years in various IT roles, both technical and management, there are a few things I notice when people and organizations consider teaming up with a managed service provider or outsourced IT vendor. The questions raised during these discussions differ depending on the type of organization and its goals.
For the small businesses that do not already have a dedicated IT staff or those who have someone in the office that is ‘pretty technical, but their job is actually a receptionist.’ The choice is usually easy and made quick – they go with the MSP.
They choose this option for many reasons.
1. Consistent Support at Any Level
The business gains security from knowing that assistance is always a simple, quick helpdesk ticket away. The MSP is bound by a Service Level Agreement (SLA), which requires they respond to and resolve issues within a designated time-frame based on the urgency, not complexity of the issue.
The business’ budgets tend to agree more with teaming up with an MSP than hiring their own full-time (or even part-time) IT staff. The majority of MSPs offer plans and custom-tailored solutions to meet a client’s unique needs and budgetary concerns. The client gets the full benefit of a complete IT staff, with the professional expertise and support of a team of technicians, often for a smaller investment than the salary and benefits of one fully qualified IT staff member.
3. Ongoing Monitoring, Maintenance, & Backup
If a major system crash happens, regardless of the amount of manpower available, it’s only possible to recover what’s been saved and backed up. That’s where the preventative maintenance is extremely critical to consider and be mindful about, not only does that safeguard important mission-critical data and systems, but true proactive and on-going maintenance will help identify failures before they happen. Routine testing of the backup systems and disaster recovery are often neglected by over-worked, larger IT departments, too, not just the single IT employee, or those without any internal IT staff at all.
Unfortunately, that’s a risk all-too-many businesses take until it’s too late. Many organizations establish a relationship with an MSP after they've been struck with a large downtime event either as a result of human error or malicious attack. I’ve never known one entity to be struck with a large downtime event more than once without changing their approach to IT support and management. Once is enough for them to feel the pain of being down, both physically and financially, and they take the matter seriously.
Large Businesses, Corporations, & Enterprises
For the larger business that may already have an internal IT staff, or a team of dedicated IT people the questions and concerns, although often similar, differ in some ways from the concerns of smaller businesses.
1. SCALable Change and Ongoing Maintenance
Larger corporations require the ability to adopt changes at scale. As the business changes and evolves, the IT department must remain flexible, which tends to increase their workload as they try to maintain day-to-day functions while reacting to the ebb and flow of the business. Often the ability to acquire extra IT staff to accommodate changes just isn’t feasible.
It’s almost always guaranteed that when an IT department gets stretched thin, maintenance of the networks, servers, and data is often affected as a result of said neglect. If technicians are busy with upgrades, fixing failed devices, or simply just working with end-users, they don’t have the time to ensure systems are running smoothly. What IT departments lack the bandwidth to proactively monitor and address issues before they turn into failures, data loss, or downtime - negative things that can and will affect the business’ revenue. Having the right team working on your issues, strategically planning every aspect, and working with you toward goals for in the future will help ensure your business stays running flawlessly and profitable.
2. Diversity of Skill Sets
Large corporations have diverse needs and greatly benefit from access to diverse and qualified expertise. Internal IT staff members typically focus on one or a select few specialties. More than one IT staff member may offer some diversity, but not as much as one may think. When a technician is surrounded and most often works on the same systems day-in-and-day-out, they almost are guaranteed to not think as ‘out of the box’ when addressing issues or implementing solutions. True diversity of skill and related experience is found in technicians that deal with multiple systems in multiple configurations and locales regularly. They see how different systems interact and the most effective and securest ways to implement new ideas and projects. These are approaches that veteran technicians may not realize if they have been intertwined in the same environment for the last five, ten, or more years.
3. Fear from Internal IT Staff
Existing IT staff often experience negative emotions when the management of a large company considers teaming up with a managed service provider or outsourced IT vendor. Commonly, a barrier in relationships with MSPs and businesses that could benefit from their services is the internal IT staff who may worry about their own job security. In reality, very few organizations have the ability to accurately perform all the technology functions available from a managed service provider. CompTIA (a leading IT certification organization) performed a survey and found that only 6% of organizations eliminated internal IT staff after establishing a partnership with a managed service provider.
MSPs can offer greater job satisfaction to internal IT staff. When MSPs take on the strategic IT functions, internal staff are freed up to focus on specific line-of-business functions. This can create a great partnership between internal IT staff and the MSP which allows everyone to utilize their greatest strengths offering the greatest benefit and return on investment to the business.
Overall Benefits for Everyone - Both Large & Small
Partnering with an MSP makes sense to fill the gaps in support for those lacking an IT staff and for those with an overworked jack-of-all-trades IT staff. Using an MSP and the services they provide help businesses excel, be more profitable, and be on the leading edge of technology.
There are many benefits, for any organization to partner with a managed service provider or outsourced IT vendor for their technology needs and concerns. Some MSPs also offer unique products and services that businesses may find extremely beneficial such as PCI compliance testing, HIPAA consulting and risk analysis, and advanced network security and penetration testing.
On the surface, outsourcing is rarely a popular subject in any line of business. In the case of IT, selecting and investing in managed services not only benefits your internal team but makes your business run smoother to provide a more pleasant experience for all of your and customers.