Depending on the stage of your business development, you may find it easier to handle your own information technology (IT) needs or to use a managed IT solution. There are pros and cons to each option that it pays to consider.
Why IT Matters
In the 21st century, IT provides the foundation and backbone of any business. Restaurants use IT for their smart ovens, refrigerators, freezers and point-of-sales registers. Public-relations firms use IT for things like their computers, copiers, communications and cloud storage. Transportation uses IT to track in-transit loads with smart sensors, weigh loads at transit stations and track inventory. Those few examples should provide a view of how IT integrates into various types of business. IT does much more than provide computers and tech support for those working in an office environment. As vital as IT is, how much outside assistance a business needs depends on its unique situation.
The Many Options
Three main options exist for obtaining business IT services. These include:
- Occasional service, also called break-and-fix service
- Managed IT service
Which you choose depends on the size of your business, the number of computers and other networked technology equipment that you have and the technology-related activities that you undertake. Your choices vary as you grow.
Deciding when to hire a managed IT provider is about workload, not just network load. Once your business takes off, you need the IT help. You may still only have five people with five computers, but you could have landed a million-dollar contract or entered the production phase of your minimum viable product (MVP). At that growth point, the downtime from self-administered fixes or the wait for a break-and-fix service will lose you a lot of money, and it puts production behind.
What Managed Services Offer
Managed service providers offer specialized services for a flat monthly rate. You essentially pay for them to be on call. Their service plans provide weekly or monthly maintenance as well as on-call servicing when something breaks. Some offer only a single type of service, such as network security. Others offer a full range of IT services.
Using a managed services provider takes the place of hiring a full-time IT employee or staff. Of course, it can also help you extend your business if IT is your business’ specialty. Having a business specialized in IT means managed IT can also build a technological roadmap for the growth of your business.
While some experts recommend hiring managed IT services once you reach a certain number of systems, employees, registers or phone systems, the real decision-making time is the breakpoint at which you crunch numbers and find that IT-related issues are hurting development and diminishing revenue. If break-and-fix service costs you so much downtime that your projects run behind, that signals it’s time to move to a managed service. Anything that loses revenue or customers must go.
You might turn to a break-and-fix, also called an occasional service, provider if you have a small business with basic technologies, such as computers and printers. You may have a sole proprietorship or five or fewer employees. In this case, it makes sense for you to use an occasional service provider to handle your IT problems. Especially if you’re a startup, you might not be ready for a technology roadmap yet because you’re still developing the direction of your firm.
Paying for an occasional service call will typically cost you less than paying a monthly fee. Calling in help only when you need it works better than trying to use Google or Bing to find a solution, which not only wastes your time but means that the repair is not done by a professional. That can violate your warranty.
Doing it Yourself
DIY tech support normally works well when you’re a sole proprietor. You might have to take your computer to a professional repair service for big issues, but, in general, you can probably handle your own updates and install new software when you purchase it. Depending on your operating system, it and the native browser probably update automatically by themselves. That leaves you with a lot less to do.
Unless you are a programmer or a database designer though, you will probably need the services of an IT professional at least once. You may have already hired one to design your website. At this stage of business growth, you are still handling the day-to-day items yourself.
Starting out doing it yourself does not mean that you will remain that way, just as founding a sole proprietorship does not mean that your business won’t grow into a major corporation one day. You may need to turn to occasional service providers when something big goes wrong. As you hone your specialties and grow your business, you’ll benefit from hiring a managed service provider.
Essentially, when your workload reaches a point where you consider hiring someone internally to handle your IT needs, you have reached the point that you should consider a managed service plan from an all-services provider. Doing so will provide you with three important things:
- A reduction in downtime and risk
- A standardized cost for IT service
- Unlimited IT support
When deciding if you should handle your IT yourself or bring in outside managed help, look at your numbers. First, determine how much it costs annually to handle all IT services using your current methods. Next, obtain managed-service estimates from three to five providers. Look at your project milestones and deadlines. How many were delayed due to IT issues? What was the bottom-line cost? Compare the three numbers. Your total IT costs are not the amount you spent on IT annually, but that plus what IT needs cost you in lost revenue and customers. It is time to transition to a managed service provider when its service plan saves you money and customers.
The stage of business growth that your company is in determines your needs. Whether you choose DIY, break-and-fix service or managed services depends on your business’ size and its requirements. Expect to change how you handle IT as your company grows.
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