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There’s no getting around it – IT is expensive, but as the backbone that keeps most modern businesses on their feet, spending the money is often a necessary evil. The question is, do you need the additional expense that an in-house IT support team represents?
A big part of the problem with the cost of IT is the ‘double edged’ nature of the spend. To put the right equipment in your office, the capital expenditure line on your budget is going to feel the pain – but at the same time, keeping those all-important IT lights on is going to take its toll on your operational budget.
Since 90% of that operational spend is likely to be on staffing costs – does it really make sense to recruit, train and maintain your own IT team?
What are the alternatives?
As IT evolves, so do our options around how we pay for it. In the same way software and infrastructure are now available ‘as a service’ – so is IT support.
Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are the effective and lower cost answer many companies are choosing when it comes to that support. No doubt you’ll find numerous local IT Support providers in your own city – a quick Google search for Minneapolis IT support services will reveal several capable providers, for example. Rather than building your IT team, you simply use an off-site IT team that works on your network and systems, for the most part, remotely.
Of course, MSPs don’t come for free – you’ll generally pay a monthly fee – but this cost is often just a fraction of what you’d pay if you wanted to bring the same expertise onto your own payroll.
Don’t be fooled into thinking cost is the only benefit though, there’s much more to the MSP business model than that…
Wide ranging experience
One of the biggest benefits you’ll see when you opt for an MSP instead of an in-house team is the on-going access to best practice knowledge your service provider has.
The reason is fairly simple; as an in-house team you’re usually dealing with just one network, one system, one way of working. In effect, the experience you bring to the role is the sum-total of all the experience you’ll have to apply to your work.
An MSP, on the other hand, is constantly working on a host of networks, for a range of businesses across a diverse range of industries. The result? MSP teams often have the kind of ever-evolving hands-on IT experience and knowledge that in-house teams just don’t have access to. If you want a team that’s guaranteed to be operating from a best-practice knowledge-base at all times, an MSP is the obvious choice.
Support that doesn’t sleep
For many modern businesses (especially those with automated practices or online facilities) IT doesn’t sleep – and that can be a problem, because the staff that support it do.
If you want to make sure your IT has around the clock support, working with a managed service provider means the chance of walking in to your office on a Monday morning to find your systems down is massively reduced. MSPs will generally use a specialist system to monitor your network health – and, depending on your service level agreement, this could be done 24/7 – 365 days a year.
Support that doesn’t resign
Of course, sleep isn’t the only factor you might need to consider when you’re dealing with an in-house team. Unless you’re a very prestigious company offering considerably higher-than-average compensation, then you stand the very real chance that your team or team members could up and leave – opening up gaps in your IT support.
It’s absolutely right that your team get to pursue their own career aspirations – but employee rights can be a thorn in your side when you’re sent back to the drawing board and have to start the recruitment process all over again.
When you bring an MSP on board, you’re buying yourself support that won’t leave – what’s more, you won’t find yourself lacking IT support through illness, holiday leave – or for any other reasons. By signing a service level agreement, your MSP will deliver that service, no matter what happens with their staff.
It’s worth expanding on how service level agreements (SLAs) work in the context of MSPs – because it’s another area where you’re removing chance from your IT support.
When you first get together with a managed service provider, they’ll be keen to talk about your business IT requirements. Some people will need hands-on support at all hours, for others, a less intensive amount of support will suffice. Whatever your need, a contract will be drawn up around it – and your service will be delivered.
This is a huge bonus when you look at your business through the lens of downtime. Downtime is expensive – in fact, for 98% of businesses, just one hour of downtime can cost over $140,000. Now, that might sound excessive when you’re a small business – but even if your downtime costs you just $1,000 an hour in staff costs, missed opportunities and lost revenue, it’s $1,000 that could have been kept in the business with the right support on your side.
It’s hard for an in-house team to guarantee you won’t experience downtime. It’s unlikely that you’ll have claw-back clauses in their contracts that will see you compensated if downtime occurs – but that’s not uncommon for MSPs – which means they’ll pull out all the stops to make sure your systems are running when they need to be. If this means they need to incur additional expense making sure you’re able to trade, then that’s what they’ll do.
MSP vs. In-house
While there are lots of reasons you might want to choose an MSP over an in-house IT team, there are definite benefits to keeping IT in house. If money is no object, then dedicated support that’s on-site all the time can be reassuring – but in fact, blending in-house and MSP can sometimes be a good option too.
A tremendous amount of internal IT support’s time goes on ‘keeping the lights on’ with your IT system – the effort needed just to make sure things are functioning as they should. This means your strategic IT and business planning can get bogged down with daily issues – leaving you guessing at how IT might fit into your bigger business pictures.
Bringing an MSP onboard can sometimes complement your existing IT team, passing off the daily running of your systems to an external company – and freeing up your team to concentrate on how you can grow your business with the help of IT.