For most companies, IT underpins everything. Even if your core business doesn’t involve a desk, there’s almost always a team of people backing up your efforts – sales, marketing, accounting, payroll – and so on.
The trouble with IT is that it doesn’t really do a good job of looking after itself. Sure, you might have someone who knows there way around your router and has the patience to talk to your internet service provider – but the complexities of an IT network will require specialist professional support – and that support can often be costly if you want it in-house.
With more businesses turning to managed service providers to support their IT infrastructure, are the days of an in-house IT team numbered?
Recruiting your team
The first thing to think about when you’re expanding your IT support is simply finding the right people. This can be tricky – since IT is unlikely to be your core business. As a result, you’ll probably need to turn to a recruiter to track down appropriate candidates.
Make no mistake; recruiting is costly and labour intensive. It’s estimated that the recruitment process involved with finding one middle-management level employee will cost a small business somewhere in the region of £5,000 / $6,500 in terms of time, money, and resources used. That said, your spend will find you someone who you can be at least somewhat certain will fit in with your company culture.
Training your team
Unfortunately, you can’t really ‘have a shot’ at support a business IT network – even if you’re a skilled amateur. IT professionals need the appropriate training – and, even if they come with certificates and qualifications coming out of their ears, they’ll need those renewing at fairly frequent intervals to ensure their knowledge (and therefore your network) is up to date.
Once again, training and accreditations cost money – and while that spend obviously returns on the investment when your network is running smoothly, it can often feel like an enormous amount of money to spend on one or a small number of staff – especially when you’ll almost certainly need continued investment in the activity that brings money into the business on a daily basis.
Maintaining your team
IT doesn’t take days off – which can be prove to be awkward, as IT teams do. Generally, this means you’ll need a team that can cover a rota, especially if it’s important that your IT systems are up and running at all times. So, while you might think that one or two people could confidently manage your tech infrastructure, reality often dictates that you’ll need more – often three or four people if you want to make sure you’ve got adequate cover for holidays, sickness, and the expected churn of staff.
Of course, just because an IT team is on the payroll, it doesn’t guarantee that they’re not going to be exploring the job market – so you need to be ready to go back to step one and be ready to recruit again at a moment’s notice if you do lose a member of the team.
Outsourcing your IT support
In truth, there’s nothing simple about creating and maintaining an in-house IT team – so it’s no surprise that many businesses choose to sidestep this requirement and enlist the support of a ‘Managed Service Provider’ (MSP). In essence, an MSP is simply an IT team that you buy in and share with a host of other companies – and while it’s a model that comes with a lot of benefits – it’s not without its concerns for small businesses.
What’s good about MSPs?
MSPs exist because of the in-house IT team issues we’ve listed above – and, for the most part, they understand these issues and provide a service that mitigates them almost entirely.
Firstly, your recruitment worries are completely removed. Aside from possible meetings with a handful of MSPs to help you pick the right one, you’ll find that managed service providers will bend over backwards to impress – so there’s far less legwork on your behalf. When you do find a supplier you think will fit with your company, you start your working relationship knowing they have the experience and qualifications needed to fully support your network.
Of course, you also sidestep the management that surrounds an IT team when you use an MSP too. While you might get an instant headache if you get a call from your IT manager saying there’s no cover for the day, this headache is handed off to your MSP if they have a staffing issue. You’ll never find yourself unsupported – especially since most MSPs have a decent size team that allows for some flexibility.
Always current best-practice knowledge
As well as the sheer logistical weight that an MSP removes from your plate, employing an MSP also allows you to sleep easy, knowing that their working knowledge is right up to date. When you bring an in-house team onboard, you may find that there’s no incentive to explore the IT world more widely for them – as they simply need to ensure your system is running smoothly.
On the other hand, MSPs need to ensure a wide-range of client systems are running well, from complex SD WAN systems and the kind of sophisticated hybrid networks that modern businesses run, to MPLS traffic management setups and a host of managed telephony services – so, if problems occur for you, there’s significant working depth to the knowledge you’re accessing.
What do you need to be aware of with MSPs?
It’s hard to argue that the right MSP doesn’t represent a better value proposition than an in-house IT team – but they’re not without their drawbacks. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to MSPs, so, if you want to find one that’s going to be right for your business, you’ll need to do a little homework. Before setting your sites on an MSP, make sure they’ve worked with businesses like yours, and, importantly, have the ability to grow at a rate that at least matches yours.
All MSPs will look to confirm their agreement with you using a Service Level Agreement (SLA). This is your way of making sure they will deliver what they promise – contracting their services to you for a period of time. As job markets continue to change, a contracted period of working with an MSP might even represent better security when compared to an in-house team.