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For small and medium size organizations, there are benefits and risks to consider when outsourcing information technology (IT) infrastructure, support, and maintenance.
If you are a business owner or CFO, you are probably looking at IT outsourcing first and foremost as a cost saving measure. Sophisticated technology and support solutions continue to grow in accessibility, and return on investment (ROI) can be excellent.
If you are a network administrator, you are interested in using tools that can automate repetitive, simple tasks so you can focus your time on higher level projects.
Either way, there are both advantages and disadvantages to outsourcing IT services. Weighing them properly for you specific needs is important for ROI and to guarantee that the tools and support that are in place bring value to your company’s bottom line.
For the typical SMB, the advantages of outsourcing IT come down to the essentials of time and money.
As a business owner or manager, when you have a solid service taking care of IT, it lightens your workload.
For example, if you are using an IT managed service provider, you can pay a flat-fee for all ongoing IT support and service. Your underlying technology platform is taken care of and the price is set, so decisions involved in these areas do not have to be made on a regular basis.
These solutions are designed to be proactive: your service provider will call you about a problem that was prevented rather than you having to call them to arrange service.
Depending on the size of your network, this type of service can save money. If your technology needs are great enough to require at least one full-time staff member for support, then outsourcing to a managed service provider should actually lower your costs.
If you use an outside contractor who comes onsite to do most network support, then you will only have to pay for services rendered. If you are lucky enough to have few problems with your network or your reliance on technology is fairly minimal, then using an outsourced, individual contractor will be the least expensive way to set-up support.
If you are a time-strapped network administrator, outsourcing to a service that has automated, Internet-based support architecture will allow you relegate low-level, time consuming maintenance and support to a data center with tools you would otherwise not have access to.
Security updates, data backup procedures, and low-level user support can all be done using remote access tools. This frees you to take care of internal, proprietary planning and support for your business network.
The risks involved with outsourcing mainly involve accessibility to service.
If you rely on an outside contractor who generally has to come onsite to support your network, then you live in a world where you simply hope critical services don’t go down at a time when your ability to conduct business will be interrupted.
Busy IT contractors may take days before they can come in to help, and this will likely be unacceptable if the problem is making it impossible for your staff to work. All the money saved by using a pay-as-you-go contractor can be lost with one serious issue within your network.
With remote IT support such as managed services, some business owners are uncomfortable with having less personal touch and immediate feedback. When you have your own network administrator onsite, you can call them into your office and get a report or have questions answered. A remote based service will never be able to match that level of personal touch.
Also, with remote based managed services, Internet conductivity is critical. The entire support structure relies on being able to maintain access to network nodes via the Internet. If conductivity fails, then the necessary maintenance and support cannot be delivered.
With so much IT infrastructure now being delivered via the Internet with significant cost savings, including many of the most critical software applications, most businesses are by default going to be outsourcing at least some of the IT infrastructure.
If you choose to maintain your environment completely onsite (meaning you own and maintain your own hardware and software as well as keep in-house staff) you will keep an element of control over your environment, but it will cost you. Every year, this option becomes more expensive when compared to outsourcing infrastructure and support.
If you have a very small network environment, you may be able to get away with using an outside contractor for IT support. This will give you the lowest monthly bill unless you have a major issue. Also, you will need a plan in place for how to do business should you have a network failure and have to go an extended period of time before the issue can be resolved.
With advanced data center level support, your business can access technology that is proactive, preventative, and predictable. For network maintenance that must be done on a regular basis, such as security updates and data backup, these solutions are effective, and redundancies with Internet conductivity will greatly minimize the risk of loosing service.
You may loose some sense of control over what is going on with your business IT, but that can also translate into time saved not having to think about it.
For most SMBs, outsourcing at least some IT infrastructure and support saves money, increases reliability, and comes with minimal risk.