Learn how to get the right technology support for your business, including what options you have, how to choose between them, and the questions every business owner should be asking.
What are the types of business IT support?
Internal IT is taken care of completely in-house. Depending on the size of your business, this could mean anything from a single employee dedicated to IT, to a multi-person team. Without having someone dedicated to this role, technical issues fall to the owner or whoever is available and hopefully able to solve them. This is risky, since these employees won’t have the specialized skills needed to thoroughly manage your IT. When work becomes busy, which it always does, IT security can slip through the cracks. Also, internal IT staff need to devote a significant amount of their time to their own training and development to stay current with changing technologies.
Outsourced IT: time and materials vs. managed services
Outsourced IT support falls into two key categories. The first is time and materials, which entails hiring outside IT support that’s invoiced based on time spent fixing a problem. Think of it as paying for hourly work rather than paying for a service. This method can be useful for handling one-off technical issues, but it generally doesn’t include an all-encompassing long-term IT security plan. If you have an emergency, these businesses may not be able or willing to drop everything to help you, and you may not be covering all of your cybersecurity needs.
The alternative option is an IT service, where a third-party known as an MSP (Managed Service Provider) is responsible for most or all of your business’s technology needs. MSPs offer a range of services that are designed to be preventative. They take a proactive approach that doesn’t wait for problems to show up before they get to work. MSPs work with businesses to optimize their IT infrastructure, and create ongoing cybersecurity, backup, and recovery procedures.
Benefits of hiring a managed IT service provider
Leveraging a highly-skilled team of engineers from an experienced MSP provides unparalleled peace of mind. You don’t want to find out after it’s too late that your backup protocols were not up-to-date or that you could have done more to secure your clients’ personal data. This will also be the far more cost-effective solution, unless your company has the resources to hire and regularly re-train its own team of IT experts.
- Equals an entire team of in-house IT staff
- Saves money in the long-run through prevention
- Avoids wasting employee time on technical issues
- Ensures your data is recoverable should the worst happen
- Prevents you from being blind-sided by a cyberattack
- Demonstrates your dedication to security to clients and staff
- Delivers round-the-clock support and security
- Facilitates meeting compliance obligations
How to choose the right MSP for your business
Consider your budget
When considering the budget for an IT service provider, ensure you factor in all of the variables. What are the costs and what are the savings? What are the potential costs of an unsecure system?
No matter the size of your company, if you’re not managing your cybersecurity, or if you don’t have an up-to-date backup disaster recovery plan, your business is at risk. Without the necessary protections in place, your data and systems are exposed to the threat of cyberattacks, hacking, and data breaches. If you can’t manage these important business security protocols on your own, it’s time to bring in an external service – the cost of data loss or compromised client information is simply too high.
Although it is tempting to allow your IT management to be handled by your more tech-savvy employees, remember that this is a false economy, as any time spent solving tech issues takes them away from their other work. An employee without the proper IT experience may take far longer and cost much more in the long-run than bringing in an expert early on.
Search within your network
A quick Google search of “managed IT services near me” will pull up a list of local MSPs, but before you jump in blind, start with the people you know. Reliable, first-hand accounts of what it’s like to work with a specific company can prove invaluable when selecting your provider, so take time to scour your own network for people with experience in this industry, either as a provider or as a client. Reach out to mentors, industry peers, and colleagues to see if they have any recommendations or horror stories to share, and learn from their successes and mistakes.
Compare MSPs to find the right fit for your business
Don’t jump into business with the first IT services company you encounter. You should gather a selection of recommendations and compare IT services until you’ve narrowed your search down to two or three companies. Once you have a shortlist, reach out to these MSPs to assess their customer service, expertise, and overall fit for your business. You will be working closely with this company, and they’ll be your first line of defense should you suffer downtime or a cyberattack, so trust is essential.
Ask the right questions before making a final decision
Questions to ask yourself and your team:
- What is our current IT budget?
- Do we have adequate cybersecurity protocols in place?
- What are our backup and recovery procedures? Are they up-to-date?
- What MSPs are experienced in our industry?
- What MSPs specialize in working with businesses like ours?
Questions to ask potential IT service providers:
- What types of services do you offer?
- What does success look like to you?
- How do you measure the effective results of your services?
- How do you document your processes against best practices?
- How do you prepare for and implement new technologies?
- How does your team communicate? What is your response time?
- How can we reach someone in an emergency?
- How will your services give us a competitive edge?
- Are you able to scale with us as we grow?
- Can you provide accreditations and customer references?
It’s time to leverage your business technology
Although we’ve covered a lot of information to help you make smart hiring decisions, you’ll no doubt still have questions about costs and service delivery. We explore all this and more in our Managed IT Services Buyer’s Guide.