If your company uses any type of technology – from laptops and printers, to network routers and phone systems – then you are going to need some type of technical support. It doesn’t matter if your company only employs four people, or if your workforce is several thousand strong.
However, while the size of your company won’t determine whether or not you’ll need technical support, it can play a role in the type of technical support that you use. However, the type of support that you use is not always the best choice.
Types of Tech Support
There are several tech support options available and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.
In-House Tech Support
In-house tech support can be anything from a dedicated department or team, which handles all of the technical needs of a company – from desk-side computer support and installations to network and website administration – to that bookkeeper who is also really good with computers.
The advantage to having in-house tech support is that you have someone who is a part of the company on-site to address your needs. You know them by name, or at the very least you know them by reputation. Because they are a part of your team, there is a certain degree of trust because you know that they are not only familiar with your machines and equipment, but that they are also familiar with your company culture.
The disadvantage to having in-house tech support is that the quality of support you get depends on several factors including:
- The technical knowledge of the people that you put in charge of your IT; and,
- The amount of money that you have available for your IT person or department.
For example, that tech-savvy bookkeeper might know a lot about building SQL queries and synching databases, but next to nothing about network administration. If you have a dedicated IT department, then you have to trust that the person in charge of managing the department knows enough to hire the right people for all your needs. Also, handling all of your IT in-house means having the resources to buy the equipment, software, and training that you need to keep things running smoothly.
Vendor Tech Support
Vendor tech support is where the company that provides your equipment, processes, or software also handles the support for those products.
The advantage to vendor tech support is that they are the most familiar with their product. For example, a technician with a software company will be the most knowledgeable about how the software works, any updates or patches, and what to do if the software malfunctions.
The disadvantage to vendor tech support is that they only know their own product. If you are in a situation where it appears that one vendor’s product is the issue, and it actually turns out to be another vendor’s product, you will then have to speak to multiple vendors to reach a solution. Often, the problem is a combination of issues where one product isn’t playing well with another, and you either end up bouncing back and forth before you ever reach a solution. In the meantime, not only are you not getting anything done, you could end up spending a lot of money contacting several different companies.
IT Contractors usually work for staffing companies; and your company would hire them directly from the staffing company
The advantage to IT contractors is that you have the benefits of having an in-house IT person, without having to worry about all the paperwork and administrative stuff associated with hiring your own people – such as screening, benefits, and employment taxes. Another advantage is that you can use IT staffing solutions for long- or short-term projects, as needed.
For example, if you are planning to upgrade all of your computers, you can hire contractors from a staffing company and then let them go once you have completed the transition.
The disadvantage to IT contractors is that no one person could possibly know everything. If you are looking for long-term IT support, and that you could end up having so many contractors that you could be better off just hiring them instead of using contractors. You also need to make sure that the recruiters with the staffing company are savvy enough to properly screen their contractors.
IT outsourcing is where you hire a third party to handle your IT needs. Often, these companies provide technical support over the phone for a variety of issues, and can also manage some of your systems such as your network.
The advantage to IT outsourcing is that you can get support for a wide variety of issues just by calling one phone number. These types of services are often available 24/7 which means you can get support at any time of day.
The disadvantage to IT outsourcing is that you don’t have as close a relationship with them as you would with someone on-site. You also don’t have much control over the product. In fact, some of these companies outsource their services to companies in other countries, which means you could be calling someone down the street or someone halfway around the world.
What’s the Best Solution?
Actually, there is no one solution to IT support for your company, and many companies use a combination of solutions to meet their IT needs.
For example, you could have someone in-house who is in charge of your technology and that person could handle some issues on his own, use an IT staffing company for large technology rollouts, use vendor tech support for proprietary software, and outsource after-hours support.
Ultimately, the type of support you use depends on your company and your unique technological needs.
Photo credit: Jacob Botter / Flickr