So your business is growing. Whatever sector you’re in, your IT is critical to your success. You need to keep your technology up-to-date and your data secure, and minimise any down-time.
Have you reached the stage where you are thinking about employing your own in-house IT person – or do you engage an IT support company?
If you employ someone to look after your IT in-house, you will be paying them a full-time salary plus associated employment costs.
Experienced IT engineers do not come cheap, but there is little point in paying a lower salary only to get someone without the expertise you need.
In contrast, most IT support companies these days operate flexible contracts, where you buy just the amount of time you need and can roll over unused hours to the next month.
Or you can pay a fixed monthly price for maintaining your network and supporting your staff.
Although you will be paying them more per hour than you would an employee, you should only be paying for only a few hours a month.
You could strike lucky and find an employee who wants to work part-time, or one who is willing and able to combine IT management with another job in your company.
But people with the right breadth of skills are few, and probably in so much demand that they might not stay long.
In a nutshell, until your company is big enough that you have a network supporting about 100 staff, outsourcing your IT support always works out cheaper than employing someone in-house.
So why, you may wonder, would anyone even consider employing an IT engineer, when engaging an IT support company is so much cheaper?
The answer really boils down to control. If you employ someone, they basically have to do what you tell them to (within reason).
They are on site almost all the time. And, particularly if you are the owner/manager, you get their undivided attention whenever you demand it.
With an IT support company, you will be one of a number of clients. Engineers will respond to problems according to the severity of the problem and its impact on the business – not according to how senior you are in your business.
However, most IT support companies offer Service Level Agreements, in which minimum response times are guaranteed, and all but the most serious issues are usually resolved within a day.
Unless you own a very large company, you can usually only justify employing one IT engineer, who has to become something of a jack-of-all-trades.
IT has become such a wide-ranging and complex task that there are bound to be issues that go beyond the scope of a single person.
If you outsource your IT support, you are tapping into the knowledge and skills of a team.
They will each have areas of expertise, keep up with the latest developments, and challenge and support each other. Also the team will have an experienced and knowledgeable Technical Director supervising their work should they encounter problems or new situations.
With only one IT staff member in-house, you cannot offer them much of a career path. There is no clear promotion route, and few ways for them to earn more money. As a result, they will move on fairly quickly and you are left to start again.
With an IT support company, your relationship is with the company. The team will share knowledge of your business so that, even if your regular contact is on holiday, for example, the service you receive will be seamless.
You don’t have to worry about providing training, conducting appraisals, or assessing the quality of technical work about which you know very little yourself.
And it’s a lot easier nowadays to terminate a support contract than an employment contract if things don’t work out or you need to cut costs quickly.
Do you have anyone in the business to supervise and control the work of an IT engineer?
In my experience there are a number of situations where an in-house engineer has spent his time and the business’s money building an over-complex and bespoke IT system that is difficult for anyone else to understand and fix once the engineer leaves.