Let’s face it: managing an IT team can be complicated, especially if you aren’t an experienced IT expert yourself. For small- and medium-sized businesses, keeping a full IT team on staff can be cost-prohibitive; sometimes this means that IT support falls to people who aren’t trained or comfortable with anything more than bare minimum maintenance. For small businesses, in particular, this can make it almost impossible to keep up with bigger companies.
Outsourcing your IT support can help your business thrive. So how does it work?
What is managed IT support?
Managed IT support works like any other service that you outsource, from payroll to accounting to marketing. Your contract with a company which then handles your IT support needs. There are four primary services offered with a managed support company:
- 24/7 network monitoring, patching, and updating. This means that we work continuously to keep tabs on your network, looking for cyberthreats or attacks in progress – Digitalist Magazine predicts that attacks are going to continue to become both more sophisticated and more embedded – so that they can be stopped. We watch for signs of hardware or software problems in the network and fix them. And we keep your software up to date, from anti-virus updates to the most current updates to your OS.
- Remote help desk and on-site technical support. Does your staff have day-to-day questions? Are you running into a problem after a patch? Need some assistance navigating a new server? Your IT support company is there to help. Depending on a company’s needs, companies can offer either remote help desk support or an on-site team.
- Vendor management. If you’re struggling to handle an issue with another vendor – either hardware or software – your support team should be able to help you resolve the issue. Let them know what’s happening and get their assistance. After all, they probably “speak” IT better than you do; they can help the vendor understand what’s happening so that the issue can be resolved more quickly.
- Strategic reviews. One important part of support is looking for places to improve. Perhaps your support team is seeing that your network is regularly hitting its peak capacity at a particular time. Maybe your backup solution isn’t robust enough. It could be that your software is out of date and creating a vulnerability. When your support team sees a problem, they can meet with you to find the right solution to push your company forward and grow your business.
All of these tasks are things you could hire an IT team to do for you, however. So why worry about contracting with a managed support team?
How does managed IT support benefit your business?
- Fixed, lower cost. Onboarding a new employee costs thousands of dollars, according to Investopedia. This includes the cost of recruitment, hiring, training, any necessary office supplies, and can also include the salary of the person training the new hire. Companies also need to consider the ongoing costs of the benefits they offer. And if the hire doesn’t work out, the company is out that money and has to try again to find the right new person. With something mission-critical like an IT hire, using a company that specializes in IT support and offers a flat monthly fee makes much more sense.
- Real expertise. The world of technology is changing at a pace that even experts find hard to comprehend. As just one example, Deloitte predicts that blockchain will take up significant attention in the coming years. The tech is more than just what drives cybercurrency; it is also an immutable record that has fascinating business applications. An IT support team can be expected to understand blockchain and how it could affect your business – good and bad. The expert you hired last year may not have a clue.
- Leveled playing field. Big businesses have minimal downtime for their companies because they have the resources they need to achieve virtually 100% uptime. This is, in part, because of robust disaster recovery programs, strong IT teams, and a certain amount of flexibility in their function. Small businesses may not have any of those options on their own, but by contracting with a managed IT support company, they can access high level IT support, equivalent to what enterprise companies receive from their staff. They can get help in developing high-quality disaster recovery plans. They can even build more flexibility into their solutions by outsourcing their IT services.
- Focus on core business. How much time does your business spend doing tasks that are distracting from your core mission? Unless your business focuses on IT, the odds are that any moment spent managing your network or patching your anti-virus software are wasted. When someone else is managing your IT, you get all those hours back. You can approach your core business with additional vigor and help drive your company’s success.
Are there downsides to managed IT support?
There are potential disadvantages to outsourcing your IT, but they can be controlled if you’re careful.
For example, make sure that you thoroughly vet the company that you’re going to work with. Start with a company’s testimonials, but use that as a starting point for your research. Ask for references and talk to those companies – then search online for other businesses that have worked with the company you’re considering and see what their experiences are.
Find out what’s included in a company’s service package. Are they offering an all-in-one support system, or are you able to choose only the services that you need? Can the company grow with you? It’s frustrating to create a strong business partnership that will end in just a few years due to size.
Do you have legacy systems that will need support, and is your company willing to handle older products? This can be particularly important if patches are being implemented; older software and newer patches can react in unexpected ways.
In the end, managed IT support is a benefit for nearly all companies. Businesses save money, get back time, and have the support they need to grow. Every piece of that is a win.