As your business expands, so does your IT infrastructure. You can do everything yourself, but eventually you're going to hit a wall where you just can't keep up anymore. Either you need to add staff to handle these tasks, or you need to outsource them. Outsourcing is typically cheaper than hiring additional staff, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. That's why you need to make sure you're choosing the right provider before you sign any contracts. Here are the six questions you need to answer before deciding whether outsourcing is right for you.
Who "owns" the responsibility for maintaining your IT system?
Hiring an IT Person
In-house IT departments are often viewed as a cost savings measure. They provide a reliable service without the overhead costs associated with hiring outside contractors. But they also create a new set of problems. You may not know where to start if something breaks down. You may find yourself spending too much of your own valuable resources managing them. And worst of all, you may lose control of your company's technology infrastructure.
The management and monitoring of the quality of your in-house IT team effectively requires a certain skillset, experience, and time invested in understanding IT. You're required to keep tabs on their response and handling time, and ensure they have the skill set and equipment they require to perform their duties. You must also communicate effectively with them so you can assess their work. Are you aware of what to monitor? What methods should you use to determine if your experts are performing properly?
Another consideration is that your IT person requires a break! But IT emergencies wait for no one. In order to cover your bases, you'll need to also ensure you have a backup plan and personnel in place if any of your internal IT team members call in sick, are away on vacation or need to take an extended leave.
Hiring an IT Company
When outsourcing your IT needs, there is shared accountability between both parties to maintain and protect your IT infrastructure. Regardless of if you choose to outsource completely or have an external IT company work in collaboration with your internal IT team, everyone shares in a common goal - to keep your business running smoothly. However, the responsibility of maintaining your infrastructure and network now falls to the IT company. This helps to mitigate your company's risk - if something goes wrong, the IT company is responsible for fixing it.
Your IT should be able to provide you with an inventory of your current hardware and software configuration. They should also be able to show you how often they perform routine maintenance and keep track of any security patches that may have been applied. Proof that regular backup procedures are being followed is another good sign. Finally, you should get proof that firewall configurations have been recently reviewed and verified.
Defining Your IT Needs
Regardless of which route you choose, your IT pro(s) should be able to help you inform and prioritize tasks based on how urgent they are. Once they've worked with you to define what an emergency is, your IT staff/company can work on projects that help you get back on track quickly and efficiently. For example, if you're working on a new website, you might assign a priority level of "urgent" to make sure that you keep things moving forward. You might also add a second priority level of "high" so that you can take care of any last minute changes before launch day.
A qualified IT firm should first map and document your system, so they know your infrastructure. They'll understand your network and how to navigate it, this will be a road map for your IT and will help to guide them through any problems. Working with an IT company means they can allocate any issue to the right person with the most expertise on their team. A reputable IT firm will offer helpdesks and on-call technicians who offer 24/7 customer care. Ensure that if this is what you choose, their response and resolution time works for your organization.
Technology evolves constantly. There will be an ongoing need for skill upgrading, courses and educational investments in keeping your teams technical support and skillset up to date. Your company needs to train them how to apply those technologies effectively. You can do this through internal seminars and classes, or by hiring an outside consultant who specializes in technology. Either way, make sure your staff knows what they're doing before they start working. You'll also want to ensure that any new hires are trained properly so they can hit the ground running. Your job is to make sure they get the proper education to help them succeed. You can accomplish this by checking references and interviewing potential employees.
Hiring an IT company, on the other hand, will take on this investment for its own team, and has a vested interest in doing so in order to remain cutting edge and competitive. Any IT firm you select must have a staff with an assortment of skills. One individual may be able to handle the technical aspects of your website while another handles customer support issues.
Cyber-Security - Your Biggest Risk
Cyber safety is crucial. Imagine having your network exposed, your website held for ransom, or your systems infiltrated. If you're only depending upon your company's own IT staff, they should have extensive knowledge of cybersecurity and stay current with the latest technologies and attacks. You'll have to spend money continuously training them. This will be non-negotiable.
If you want to be safe online, you need to get professional help from an experienced IT company. They will handle all the risks related to cybersecurity. You'll need a dedicated staff of experts who know how to prevent, detect, and respond to cyberattacks.
If this IT company offers managed IT services, then they should provide an extensive suite of cybersecurity solutions. They should include both proactive and reactive measures to help ensure the safety of your data and systems. A qualified group of experts should lead the charge, including experienced professionals who understand how to respond to cyber-attacks. Regardless of whether you opt for traditional or cloud-based services, you should consider implementing a robust set of policies and procedures to keep your network secure.
Cost of an IT Department vs IT Company
For larger teams, you'll be paying anywhere from $6.6K to $22K per month for an IT department.
- Technical equipment and third party software for the job and managing IT internally
- Recruitment and costs associated with hiring
- Yearly ongoing education (1-3% of annual income)
- HR meetings and annual reviews
- Payroll/Accounting expenses
- Healthcare and Benefits
- Employment insurance and CPP
- Business insurance to cover your risks
IT Company Rates
When researching IT companies, you'll find that prices differ greatly. It's important that a provider really does provide all the services they claim to offer. Ensure that there is a process in place for holding them responsible. You should also ensure that prices are not too high or low. They may charge more if you require additional services. Pricing will also depend on what services are being offered and how big your organization is. This makes comparing costs difficult.
Most IT firms provide fixed price service packages that usually cover a range of services including an online help desk where clients can get support without paying by the hour. Some firms may charge a yearly fee for these services.
What can you expect for your business? A small business with ten people working for you may cost anywhere from $1,000 - $2,700 each month, to hire an IT company, depending on the complexity of your IT needs. A business with fifty people working for you could cost anywhere from $5,000 - $9,000 a month.
The Bottom Line: Align Your Business Goals with IT NeedsAs you think about whether you want to hire an internal IT team or work with an external IT company, one thing to keep in mind is that you should be asking yourself these questions: How will you align the IT strategy of your organization with your overall strategic objectives for your firm? And, who will support you in doing so?
Every company should evaluate how they're using current technologies to meet their needs. How do you plan to determine what new technologies you'll need in order to achieve your objectives? Which technological solutions will help you accomplish your mission? You may not know exactly what you'll need in the future, but you can get an idea by analyzing your current situation and determining what changes you'd like to make. Once you've done that, you can choose between various options and decide which ones would work best for you.
If you're serious about growing your company, look for an IT service provider that offers executive level consulting with deep expertise. You'll need someone who can help you plan ahead for your business' growth and future technology needs, not just reactively manage existing systems.
Regardless of whether you choose to outsource your IT needs internally or externally, this is an important choice for your organization. Make sure you've thought through the pros and cons before making your decision. And if you choose to go the outsourcing route, do your homework and make sure you get the services you want and expect from your provider.