As your business grows and technology becomes increasingly complex, it’s more difficult than ever to decide how best to meet your growing IT support needs.
As the owner of a small or medium-sized business you might be:
- Experiencing more downtime than you used to, causing your IT support costs to rise.
- Faced with the prospect of replacing your computers or your server in the coming year.
- Tired of handling the endless parade of glitches and problems on your own.
No matter what your situation, you have a few options:
- You can augment your existing IT staff by bringing on additional team members.
- You can work with a traditional IT services provider.
- You can work with a managed services provider (MSP).
Here we take a look at the pros and cons of working with a managed IT services provider versus augmenting your staff or staying with a traditional IT support company.
Pros of Working with an MSP
Proactive Instead of Reactive
Internal staff and traditional IT service providers both take a reactive approach to your business’s technology needs. When something breaks, they fix it. They may apply patches or handle software updates, but for the most part, the focus is on putting out fires and getting things back up and running when they fail.
On the other hand, a managed services providers takes a proactive approach to your technology needs. They’re focused on preventing problems before they happen. To accomplish this, MSPs actively monitor and maintain all your systems. This includes staying up to date on the latest security patches, but it also means defragmenting hard drives, running virus scans, and monitoring alerts and error messages. MSPs also fix problems, but issues are usually minor or often prevented entirely.
In addition to constant monitoring and maintenance, many MSPs also help you plan for future technology needs, like the purchase of new computers or other hardware.
At Technical Action Group we work with our clients to create a Technology Road Map that outlines our vision for the business’s technology needs for the next 3-5 years. This keeps our clients’ networks ahead of the curve, while ensuring they always have the most up-to-date, stable hardware and software.
Controlled Operating Costs
Hiring internal support staff adds overhead to your business in the form of payroll taxes, health insurance costs, and other employee benefits.
While outsourcing IT support services to a traditional provider can help alleviate these costs, your IT budget will vary depending on the health of your computers and network. Some months you’ll have serious issues. Other months you’ll end up spending less.
When you work with an MSP, you pay a fixed, monthly fee based on the size of your network and your specific needs. That brings predictability to your IT budget and helps you avoid large, unexpected expenses. This not only controls your operating costs, but can help you budget for upgrades down the road that further improve your network.
No matter how big or small your business is, proper IT security is absolutely critical. Hackers and cybercriminals are quickly learning that it’s far easier to circumvent the meager security often found at smaller companies than to attack more complex systems at larger corporations.
Internal staff and traditional IT support companies often spend most of their time cleaning up the fallout from the latest virus attack, instead of taking steps to prevent problems in the first place. This puts your business at greater risk for viruses, malware, and data theft, which can cripple your business and expose critical data.
MSPs, however, are focused on security from the very beginning, analyzing your network for vulnerabilities from day one to keep your data and your network safe. Constant monitoring also catches inevitable breaches more quickly, limiting the potential damage they cause.
Managed IT Services Providers s further reduce your risk by setting up a complete disaster recovery plan that includes backups of all your critical data and systems.
Higher Level Support
If you work with an internal IT team, your business is limited by the knowledge and experience of your staff. Traditional IT companies, too, may only have a handful of techs available to help. That means limited knowledge and resources for troubleshooting some problems. One tech might be great at troubleshooting issues with Microsoft Outlook, but be out of their element when faced with a complex router problem.
MSPs typically have more resources and a wider variety of technical expertise at their disposal. They tend to hire staff who possess greater experience, along with specialized training, knowledge, or certifications. This means they are better equipped to handle a wide range of IT problems from the mundane to the complex. Plus, the collective knowledge of the group often brings solutions to light that would escape any one tech.
In addition, MSPs often have expertise in:
- Data storage, backup and recovery systems
- Hosted email
- CRM applications and other backend software
- Industry-specific compliance requirements for HIPAA, PCI DSS etc.
MSPs also have the resources to research new technologies and often have partnerships with PC manufacturers and other vendors that can make new hardware and software purchases more economical.
Strategy/Planning to Fuel Business Growth
While an internal staff or a traditional IT support company are busy keeping up with day-to-day operations, MSPs focus more of their efforts on strategic planning that leads to business growth. With the basics under control, MSPs take on the role of CIO (Chief Information Officer) helping you turn your network into an asset, rather than a liability.
Here are just some of the ways that MSPs can help you streamline your current operations and create new opportunities for business growth:
Taking advantage of cloud computing
Reducing your reliance on internal servers by transferring email, accounting, or collaboration tools to the cloud can improve efficiency throughout your organization, while reducing ongoing maintenance and hardware costs.
Enabling remote work and collaboration
Utilizing the latest technology can improve efficiency by giving employees the ability to work from virtually anywhere, safely and securely.
Better data collection and analysis
Are you taking advantage of all the data your business collects on a daily basis? Investing in technology for better data analysis can help you better position your business in the marketplace, improve your product offerings, and even monitor and improve your online reputation.
Streamlining processes for greater efficiency
Technology can also be used to automate processes that once needed to be handled manually. It’s also possible to make connections you might not have seen before, such as connecting your ordering system with your CRM software.
Cons of MSP Providers
We’ve discussed a lot of advantages that MSPs can provide for your business IT support. But there are a few downsides to keep in mind as well.
MSPs are Typically More Expensive than Traditional IT Service Providers
If you currently rely on a traditional, break-fix IT support provider, you may find that your MSP charges more than you are used to paying. Because MSPs handle your entire network and don’t simply fix problems when something breaks, their rates tend to be higher.
However, it’s important to weigh the value of consistent, proactive support against the inconvenience, loss of productivity, and stress that comes from waiting for the inevitable to happen before calling for help.
For businesses that have 10 computers or more, the added cost of an MSP is often offset by increased employee morale, more efficient operations, and greater productivity overall.
The Need for Trust
Handing over the “keys to the kingdom” to an outside provider can be a scary prospect to many business owners. This is especially true if you already have internal staff that manages and supports your network.
That’s why it is so important to carefully vet any MSP that you choose to work with. You need to be certain that their goals and objectives mesh well with your own. You’ll also need proof that their methods for handling your network follow IT management best practices.
For more information on vetting MSPs in your area, including Toronto, download our FREE report - Consumer Awareness Guide to Choosing an Honest, Reliable & Competent Computer Support Company.
Loss of Control
Even when you’ve vetted your Managed It Services Provider and established trust, it can still be difficult to handle the loss of control that comes from relying on an outside provider for your IT services. Unlike an in-house team that you can observe on a day-to-day basis, much of what your MSP does for your network will happen behind the scenes.
Many business owners are also concerned about issues surrounding the confidentiality of their data. You may also have concerns about the viability of your disaster recovery plan when left in the hands of a third party.
The key here is weighing the risks that come with loss of control against the expense of managing your own IT systems internally. You should also feel free to discuss any concerns you have with your MSP and even request more frequent updates or additional documentation for greater peace of mind.
There’s no doubt that handling the technology needs of your growing business gets more complex with each passing year. Deciding whether to utilize internal staff, a traditional IT services provider, or an MSP will depend on many factors including your current budget, your tolerance for risk, and the value you place on strategy and planning versus taking care of issues as you go.
At Technical Action Group we’ve made it our business to help small and medium-sized businesses in Toronto, Canada get rid of frustrating IT problems once and for all, while streamlining processes and improving the bottom line. Let us show you how technology can be a power tool that fuels your business growth. Contact Technical Action Group today by calling 416-489-6312.