What matters to you? What are you living for?
That’s a weird way to start a whitepaper about IT support. We know. But it’s also an important factor in determining the kind of IT support that will work best for your business.
Both you and your company are unique. That’s hardly news to you. You live that reality every day. But a lot of the resources out there online will try to convince you that there’s only one right way to handle some things.
You want good marketing? You “have” to have email campaigns. You want happy employees? You’re “obligated” to providing a specific set of perks. You want a solid IT network? Managed IT services are “the only way to go.”
Lies, every single one.
There’s no right way.
Most business owners agree that technology is a good thing. In fact, 72% of SMB owners would go so far as to say that their tech solutions make a significant difference in successfully running their business.
Inc.com says of small to medium-sized businesses, “technology is not what they’re selling, yet it is critical to fueling the operations.” Even The Wall Street Journal recently observed, “Improving the digital engagement of small businesses can be an important driver of future growth for small businesses and the entire economy.”
We could go on, name-dropping and stuffing this whitepaper full of stats, but that’s hardly the point. The point is this: just about everyone agrees that technology is important for business.
But that doesn’t mean you’re locked into one specific type of IT support.
You’ve got options.
Here’s where things take a surreal twist.
We make our money providing managed IT services. You probably expect us to lay out a few options, but imply (with a not-so-subtle bias) that managed IT services are the way to go. But if we did that, that would be like telling you, “You have options for IT support, sure . . . but only one good option. Don’t screw this up. Give us your business.”
So we’re not going to do that.
We’re not going to do that because that would be more than a little shady. It would wreck our integrity, and we’re pretty committed to shooting straight with folks.
We’re also not going to do that because it’s not true.
The truth is, you have four legitimately good options for IT support. The best option for your business will depend on several things.
- What are your priorities?
- What state of growth is your company in?
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- What are your technology needs?
- Who are your clients?
- Where are your clients?
- And what do you find fulfilling?
So let’s take an unbiased look at each possible approach. By the end of this whitepaper, you’ll know which IT support strategy is the best fit for your business.
A lot of the articles online about business IT support argue that a DIY approach is a mistake—which is a shame. If your company is small and only uses a handful of tech solutions, handling everything yourself without the expense of dedicated IT support staff or outsourced managed services can be a great option.
The reason so many “experts” encourage business owners to avoid DIY IT support is because it’s tempting to stick with this strategy even after you’ve outgrown it. If your company is small, focused exclusively on local business, and doesn’t rely on advanced tech tools to get through the workday, it’s entirely possible to handle all your own IT support, yourself. But the minute you start to feel like you’re in over your head, get some help.
If you’re interested in doing it yourself, get ready to become a research hound. You’ll have to invest some time (and energy) in learning about the best options for your business. But there are solid insider websites out there that can help. TechCrunch, TechRepublic, Wired and Tom’s Hardware are all great places to start.
This Option Is Best For: Small businesses focused on local clientele with minimal technical needs.
In-house IT Staff
While DIY IT support is fine for a few employees, once you hit a headcount of around 10 you may start to feel the need for something more sophisticated. One option is to hire your own in-house IT staff person—someone whose whole job is to make sure your network is up and running at all times.
The upside of this option is that you have absolute control. You don’t have to read the fine print of any contract or mess with periodically taking bids from different outsourced providers. Plus, there’s no rule that your in-house IT person has to focus exclusively on IT support. You may be able to find someone who can wear a few hats. Maybe IT support is just one of the things a jack-of-all-trades covers for you.
But there are downsides, too. You’ll be paying a full-time salary, which isn’t cheap, and finding talented IT support professionals can be challenging.
Still, if your company has 10-20 employees and doesn’t need much more than basic network support, in-house staff can be an attractive way to go. Especially if your IT person can pitch in around the office to cover a few other bases.
Managed IT Services
If your company is a little bigger (say, 20 or more employees), or if you use more sophisticated IT solutions, are bound by regulatory compliance laws, or operate on a larger scale (think regional/national/global), it might be time to consider a more robust form of IT support.
Managed IT services is the industry term for “outsourced IT support.” Instead of hiring your own staff, you hire an entire company. Depending on the level of service you purchase, this option can easily be less expensive than in-house staff, and it comes with some impressive benefits.
Forbes recently listed the following as ways managed IT services help businesses:
- Improved operational performance
- Reduced operational risk
- Cost avoidance
- Accelerated innovation
But all managed services providers are not created equal. Some of them will treat you like royalty, and some of them will make you want to pound your desk in frustration. Be sure you know exactly what your contract covers before signing up with anyone, and be sure to do your homework on any potential partner.
Pay particular attention to what their existing clients say about them.
The Hybrid Approach
Hybrid IT support typically refers to a blend of in-house staff and a managed services provider. At first glance, that might sound repetitive. It’s actually a powerful one-two punch.
Businesses with a full-blown internal IT department often rely on their IT pros for high-level analysis and revenue-generating innovation. When those folks have to stop doing something that will make money so they can help Donna from accounting recover her password for the third time this month, that’s hardly cost-effective.
Hybrid IT support eliminates that kind of waste. Your in-house IT staff can stay focused on business-critical work while an outsourced firm gets Donna back into her inbox.
This option is obvious overkill for a lot of businesses. But if you hired in-house IT folks so they could actively contribute to ROI by creating new things for your customers, it might be best to leave routine maintenance and network upkeep to a managed services provider.
The right approach for YOU.
As Dustin Garis so eloquently puts it, “Life is not the number of days you live. It’s the number of days you remember.”
Ultimately, that’s the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to picking a form of IT support for your business. What’s going to make your life meaningful and memorable?
If you actually enjoy tinkering with tech toys, then DIY IT support might be the best way to go. But if you’d much rather focus on something else—like growing your business or spending time with your family—then that’s not going to be a good option for you, even if your business is small.
Our sincere advice is to take a good, hard look at your company and then decide what will best meet your needs while giving you the time to do the things that are meaningful to you.
Remember, too, that the best approach for your business may change over time. Be sure to revisit this topic once every 1-2 years to make sure you’re still going with the best option for you and your organization based on where you are now.
And if you’re on the prowl for more helpful advice, be sure to check out our blog.