There comes a time when small business leaders are forced to rethink the IT function of their business and ask themselves – Should we continue to have internal IT staff or is it time to outsource managed IT services? It could be that the IT manager is leaving or there’s been a lot of turn-over in IT. Maybe the organization had a cyber-attack. It could be that the business has grown, and technology needs have become more sophisticated.
Whatever the situation, it’s causing stress on the business, especially if it looks like there’s going to be a gap in IT support. Before you rush into anything, however, look at this as the perfect time to weigh your options. Evaluate what you’ve been doing with a critical eye, and then have an open mind so that you can consider alternatives that you might previously have excluded.
To help you in your evaluation, here are some pros and cons of internal IT compared to hiring a managed service provider (MSP).
Keep Doing What You’re Doing with Internal IT
It’s natural to want to stay with what you know if that’s possible and you can’t deny that there are some advantages that come with having an internal IT department.
Pros of Internal IT
1. Always Onsite Staff
When you have staff at your facility, they can respond in-person to support requests. If you have an IT role that’s specifically focused on helping staff, that’s even better. Unfortunately, small IT departments usually can’t dedicate one person to act as a help desk, so this role is on the list of their many duties.
2. Relationships with Employees
Since they’re one of you, your internal staff have shared experiences with their coworkers and opportunities to get to know people. If your IT staff are good communicators and relationship builders, then they can use those abilities when they’re helping people use technology tools.
3. Knowledgeable About Your Business
There’s only one business that your internal IT people need to know and that’s good for taking their knowledge deep. Ideally your internal IT people have opportunities to get outside your four walls on occasion so they can keep up with technology trends in your industry and bring that knowledge back to you.
Cons of Internal IT
1. Staff Turnover
Staff turnover could be a reason not to keep your internal IT department. The IT industry is very competitive and if your folks jump ship for a different opportunity, there are costs for recruiting, hiring, and training a replacement. If there’s a gap in staffing, the stress can impact employee retention.
2. Reliance on Institutional Knowledge
When you’re considering the stress that staff turnover could have on your internal IT department, you should also consider how much knowledge of your IT systems will walk out the door when a key staff person leaves. Having thorough documentation makes it easier for other people to jump in to manage and troubleshoot issues. If creating the documentation wasn’t on top of your IT manager’s list of things to do, it will be harder and take longer for the next person to get up to speed.
3. Inconsistent Coverage
Even when you have all your positions for internal IT filled, you could still have some gaps in coverage when people take time off. Planning ahead can help to lessen the impact of an empty seat, but you might have to place restrictions on when IT staff can and cannot take time off.
4. Limited Knowledge
IT is complex and changing all the time. There are multiple disciplines wrapped up into the whole that all need to be covered – network management, cybersecurity, help desk, IT strategy to name a few. No one person or small team can know everything. What’s more, each person will have skills and passions that can cause them to spend time on one area of IT to the neglect of the others.
5. Limited Bandwidth
Even if your small team could know everything there is to know, there are only so many hours in the day. When IT is stretched too thin what usually happens is that management and maintenance go by the wayside while staff solve problems and take care of the immediate issues right in front of them. Ultimately, the priority problem is a system failure.
6. Resistance to Change
Not everyone likes change, and if there’s one thing that’s a constant with technology it’s change. Change always comes with a new learning curve and if your IT staff are already struggling to get everything done and keep everyone happy, they’re likely to push back on initiatives that will bring more work.
7. Leadership Deficiency
If you want to get all the value that you can out of your technology, you need to have expert guidance to take you along a path to improvement. Thinking strategically is very different from being a technical manager and problem solver. Your basic IT support people probably won’t have the experience or the desire to sit at the strategy table with leadership.
Go a New Direction and Outsource Managed IT Services
Look at the gap in internal IT as a fork in the road. You have more than one direction you can turn, and one turn points you to outsourced managed IT services.
Pros of Managed IT Services
1. Access to Every IT Specialty
A managed service provider (MSP) will give you access to a whole IT department of expertise included in your monthly fee. Having experts on your team through an MSP brings capability to your company that you wouldn’t otherwise have. It wouldn’t be practical to hire all of the roles yourself because you don’t need that level of capacity, not to mention the cost would be astronomical.
2. Alignment of Job Roles with Personalities
People tend to focus on the activities that match up with their gifts and personalities and avoid the tasks that are outside their core skills and interests. Because an MSP is staffing a whole department, they’re better able to align job roles with these natural tendencies so you get people who like what they’re doing and balls don’t get dropped.
3. Better Management of Cyber Risks
Because an MSP has a dedicated cybersecurity department, they’ll have the capacity to look at the entire cyber threat landscape and pivot with changing needs. They’ll be able to craft a security strategy that matches your risk tolerance and needs for compliance. The cyber crime landscape is evolving and you’ll be able to count on them to make sure that you’re defenses are up to date.
4. Just Right Capacity
Small and medium-sized businesses don’t need a full-time employee for most of the roles that are part of a comprehensive IT department. With an MSP you essentially get whatever portion you actually need of each role. Additionally, with managed IT services, you can scale up or down as your needs change. This is especially useful if you have seasonal ups and downs or if you anticipate fast growth.
5. Fast Response Time
When you sign up for managed IT services, you’ll be able to set expectations for response time. Chances are good that the MSP will be a lot faster than an internal team could move just because of bandwidth limits and gaps in coverage when someone takes time off. When your people know they’ll get help, they’ll be more productive and won’t need to waste time creating their own workarounds that could cause additional problems.
6. Knowledge Redundancy and Documentation
An outsourced managed IT service provider is not going to rely on tribal knowledge to pass along information about your IT systems. One of the first tasks they’ll do will be to document your network. Then everything they do will have a paper trail so that knowledge can be shared, and duplicate work eliminated.
7. IT Guidance
One of the best benefits of working with an MSP is getting the services of a vCIO (Virtual Chief Information Officer) to advise you on long term technology improvements and adoption of new technology. Without this expertise, it’s likely that IT investments won’t pan out. vCIO guidance will help you to choose the right technology and make sure that it’s compatible with the rest of your systems so that you get the results you expect.
Cons of Managed IT Services
1. Not Onsite
A managed IT service provider will need to have field technicians visit your facility on a regular basis, but it won’t be the same as having onsite staff. Most problems will be resolved remotely and your people will get used to a different way of getting help, but some people might still prefer to flag down the IT staff personally.
2. Get-to-Know-You Learning Curve
Even if an MSP has worked with other companies in your industry, it’s going to take a bit of time for them to learn about the intricacies of your business. That goes for your vCIO as much as it is for Service Desk technicians.
3. Different Type of Relationships with Employees
When you work with a managed IT service provider, you can expect to get to know the people you need to work with but it won’t be exactly the same as the relationships that your employees have together because they aren’t part of the same company culture.
Covering All the IT Bases
Let’s face it, unless you’re a very large company and you have the resources to staff every IT and cybersecurity specialty that you need, internal IT is only going to partially cover what you need and break fix IT isn’t going to be any better. It’s time to explore managed IT services.
You may never have considered this before because you thought your company was too small, your needs too simple, or that managed IT was beyond your means. The truth is that working with an MSP will actually help you get more value out of your technology. It’s cost effective and may even cost less money than what you’re paying now.
Managed IT Services for Small Businesses
At Bellwether, we bring a holistic approach to technology management to organizations that have from 10 to 300 employees, all for a flat monthly fee. Our proven model for managed IT service delivery makes it possible for you to be strategic with your use of technology so you can move your business forward. When you’re strategic, you can focus IT resources on your goals, improve how you manage risks, plan and budget for the future – all while giving employees and customers the technology experience they crave.
Contact us to explore what this would look like for your company.