Arming your organization with up-to-date, secure, high-functioning IT is a non-negotiable necessity in today’s business world. Even companies that don’t rely heavily on technology from a service perspective have a need for secure and reliable IT to manage their accounting, human resources, and contract management operations. However, when it comes to obtaining the perfect blend of quality IT that meets your business needs while also taking into consideration your overall business goals, things can get tricky. As a business leader and decision-maker, you have options - either you can hire internal IT teams, have Jim from accounting troubleshoot broken workstations and printers, or work with a trusted IT service provider.
There is no right or wrong answer here - unless you have a business with complex IT needs and Jim doesn’t know the first thing about computers, then Jim would definitely be a bad choice. However, there are definitely some options that are better than others, depending on the current state of your business and your goals.
Join us as we discuss the IT options available to businesses, and - more specifically - the ins and outs of working with an IT service provider, also known as a Managed Service Provider (MSP).
One of the biggest benefits organizations can glean from hiring an outsourced IT service provider, besides the added flexibility and expertise, is cost savings. It may seem counterintuitive at first, that hiring an additional partner/vendor would lead to saving any funds at all, but when you review the facts it becomes clear that working with an IT partner will save you money in the short and long run.
First, a glimpse at the long run. According to a CompTIA survey, 46% of businesses working with an MSP reported that they’ve saved a 25% or more in their IT budget. For many organizations, especially those hiring an IT service provider to work in conjunction with their internal IT team, the cost savings doesn’t necessarily come with cutting any initial overhead expenses. Instead, they are realized by:
The strategic planning of an organization’s long-term IT needs.
Avoiding emergencies by taking advantage of proactive and preventative maintenance.
Purchasing equipment at better prices by taking advantage of their vendors’ contract pricing, including any promotional opportunities.
For organizations that replace their existing IT team with an outsourced service provider, they’ll recognize immediate savings by streamlining their personnel needs and reducing the overhead associated with having a full-time employee (or entire team) on staff.
However, for organizations looking to cut corners on their IT, it’s important to remember that - as with anything - you get what you pay for. As you’re comparing prospective partners, it’s important to consider how their pricing and packages fit into your business, but selecting a company based solely on their lower price means you may be undercutting the value.
As you begin to look into hiring an outsourced IT service provider, it’s important to take a look at the entire process. These types of vendors are different than many other vendors your organization may work with - you won’t simply be placing an order with them over the phone and waiting for it to be delivered. These folks will be in and out of your office on a daily basis.
Your IT vendor - from your account managers to the engineers you deal with on a routine basis - will be having conversations with your staff about issues related to IT, your overall business, and perhaps about your weekend plans! You’ll be speaking with them when you’re stressed out (because is there ever a time that a computer crash isn’t stressful?) or when you’re excited to get started on a new project. You’ll also be working with them to ensure that your technology and infrastructure are capable of supporting your overall business goals.
You’ll want to hire your vendor in a very similar way to how you’d hire an employee. Yes, their pricing and service offerings are going to be important, but their ability to integrate into your business and provide you with a level of service that you’re comfortable with should be the most important.
Additionally, you’ll want to take a close look at what they can do for your organization. Obviously, they should be capable of supporting your existing technology and implementing new tech down the line. But where do they stand on assisting with business and budget planning? Do they have the expertise to act as a Virtual CIO should the need arise? Are they capable of looking at the big picture and helping your business not only maintain its current status, but also thrive and grow into the future?
Once you’ve determined whether or not they’re a good fit from a company culture perspective, you’ll want to take a deeper dive into the service offerings they have available. You already know that they provide outsourced IT services, but different providers handle their offerings differently, and not every provider is a good fit for every client.
As we mentioned above, there are a few options for managing your IT. You can choose to do it yourself or have an employee handle it on an ad-hoc basis. You can hire a dedicated IT support person/team/department or outsource some or all of the entire operation to an IT service provider (also known as a Managed Service Provider).
In some cases, companies with an existing IT staff or department are hesitant to work with an outsourced IT services provider. After all, they’ve got it covered - right? However, there can be many instances when having your in-house team partner with a vendor can actually be hugely beneficial to your organization.
These situations include:
Additionally, when considering your options, it’s important to look at what type of IT support you’re looking for. You might need someone to remediate issues as they happen (break-fix) and also proactively maintain and monitor your systems to prevent issues from occurring in the first place. On the other hand, you could have complex, unique databases or software that need to be maintained, or complex networks to be managed.
Some IT providers offer combinations of these services, while others specialize in one or two areas - it’s important to evaluate your needs and figure out what type(s) of service(s) you’re looking for and which vendor most closely matches those needs. Here’s a quick rundown of the various types of services that most providers offer:
Here’s where the value of IT service providers lies. Yes, break-fix is great, and remote support and help desk is crucial, but preventing problems in the first place by proactively maintaining systems, installing patches and updates, monitoring performance, etc. is going to be the absolute best bang for your buck in the long run. Ultimately, it will not only help increase efficiency in your overall IT operations, but it will help to cut down on those break-fix and help desk tickets.
For many clients, this is their initial primary concern. In fact, in 2018 there have been 1,035,846,011 data records breached by hacks. With so many industries enacting regulations on data and so many stories in the news about breaches and hacks, every business leader wants to make sure their organization is protected. With a strong network and data security plan in place, you aren’t just protecting your business operations, you’re protecting your clients’ data as well as the sensitive, personal information of your employees.
Depending on the geographic location of an IT service provider, they see upticks in these types of business requests every year. In the Northeast, it usually begins to kick into high gear as winter approaches and businesses begin to worry about blizzards, whereas in the Southeast it happens just ahead of hurricane season. The fact of the matter is that, according to FEMA, 90% of smaller businesses fail within one year if they are unable to re-open within five days and 40-60% of businesses never reopen their doors at all.
However, this is something that businesses should be aware of and considering well in advance anytime they might potentially need it. A strong Data Recovery and Business Continuity plan may be the difference between having your systems be down for an inconvenient few hours or couple of days versus having to shut down your business entirely because the loss was just too great.