Whether you're a small business, a mid-sized organization, a large corporation, or even a solo entrepreneur, most businesses rely on some sort of technical expertise to run their businesses. You need help finding the right IT systems and solutions. Then, you’ll want an expert to configure and install it. And you want to be sure and protect your investment by ensuring your equipment is properly maintained and updated. Lastly, when the inevitable problem occurs, you need someone knowledgeable and accessible to get you and your team back up and running.
Information technology (IT) support is critical to today’s businesses. However, there are various ways to accomplish it. The types of IT services models to support your business, regardless of its size or sophistication, break down into 3 different approaches:
- Internal IT
- Outsourced: time and materials (T&M) IT service providers
- Outsourced: managed IT services providers
Each model has its own advantages and drawbacks. There is no one-size-fits-all IT solution, but by understanding what each model entails and comparing it to what your business needs are, you can determine what approach is right for you.
Internal IT Support
Internal IT support means that you have an internal technical employee(s) on staff responsible for all technology support, troubleshooting, installation, maintenance, and so forth. Large, or enterprise, businesses often choose to have an entire internal IT department to handle their network infrastructure, help desk support, technical projects, and IT planning. They value the intimate, in-depth, and specialized knowledge an internal team solely dedicated to their network can provide. An internal IT support team knows your unique business processes and benefits from an insider’s understanding of your specific technology configuration.
For small to midsized businesses (SMB), the expense of having an internal IT team is typically not possible. However, some do choose to have one or a few IT employees. They value the benefit of having someone onsite with personal knowledge of their business to handle IT issues immediately. However, an IT support staff salary is expensive and hiring the right person with the appropriate expertise can be difficult and often confusing. And, with only one or two resources, ensuring your business has access to IT support services during vacations and time off can be problematic. For most SMBs, relying solely on internal IT support is neither desirable nor possible.
Outsourced: T&M (or Break/Fix) IT Support
The philosophy behind a break/fix IT support model is quite simple. When it breaks, fix it. This outsourcing approach consists of you hiring an outside IT specialist or even an IT support company. When a problem occurs, you report it to your service provider. They will either come onsite or work remotely to address the problem. Once resolved, you are billed for the time the technician took to resolve your issue and the materials required to fix it.
Most of the billing is done reactively after the work is completed within the break/fix model, however there are also scenarios where you can buy blocks of service hours over a certain time period. Still, the basic premise is the same. Once you report a problem, your outsourced IT provider fixes the issue, and deducts the service hours from your prepaid block. When the block runs out, you replenish it.
The main benefit of break/fix support is that it’s a pay-as-you-go model. Some small companies value the convenience of no ongoing expenses and believe that it is more cost effective.
The chief drawback to break/fix is inherent in its very philosophy, when it breaks, fix it. And if it breaks again, fix it again. And again. And again. You never know when something will break, and what impact that will have financially on your business. There is also no incentive for your IT support provider to get to the root of the problem. Their main goal is simply to fix the issue immediately in front of them and move on to the next problem. They have accomplished the goal of fixing the immediate problem, but if there is an underlying issue, the problem could recur or even worsen. This leads to an unstable environment and unpredictable costs. In the long run, break/fix will often cost a business owner significantly more.
Outsourced: Managed IT Services
The philosophy behind a managed IT services support model is to prevent things from breaking in the first place. This outsourced process consists of hiring a managed service provider (MSP) who proactively monitors and maintains your IT infrastructure to stop problems before they start and minimize technical disruptions to your team. Many issues can be identified and corrected proactively without any impact to your business. When a problem does arise, the provider receives a notification in the instant at which it occurs and can address it either remotely or onsite. You pay a monthly flat fee for the service regardless of the number or severity of issues.
A managed services model aligns the interests of the managed service provider and your business. Both parties want network security and stability because they both lose money when anything goes wrong. Although you do not pay for the technician’s time to resolve a problem, you do experience lost productivity when issues occur. Likewise, your provider is negatively impacted. MSPs lose their biggest resources – technical support time -- when problems happen. Therefore, MSPs put a lot of effort into working proactively to ensure that your network is stable, secure, and high performing.
In addition to this synergy, there are additional benefits to working with an MSP:
- Predictable costs and consistent budgeting with a fixed monthly fee
- Accessible, reliable IT support with unlimited help desk, remote, and onsite support hours
- Stable operating systems and minimized downtime with proactive maintenance and monitoring
- Increased protection from cyber threats with cybersecurity and data backup tools
- Increased visibility with high quality network management systems
- Faster response time with defined service level expectations
- A technical team of resources dedicated to keeping you up and running
- Reliable processes for disaster recovery
- Someone to turn to when you have issues with your software programs
- Quicker resolution for your team when using cloud services
The main hesitation that some small businesses have with the managed IT services model is the regular monthly cost. You pay the same rate regardless of the amount of support requests you make or problems you have. However, you also get all of the advanced tools and expertise a managed IT services provider can bring.
Although there is an ongoing cost, the enhanced stability and data security of your network results in less downtime and more productivity for you and your team. What’s more, it takes technology off your plate. You no longer worry about IT and can instead focus on running your business.
Choosing the right IT support for your business depends on a variety of factors. Size, industry, resources, the sophistication of your technology needs, and your business goals all influence the decision.
SMBs are increasingly turning to managed IT services. The outsource model allows them to leverage expert technical support and employ systems they might not have access to on their own. And the proactive approach helps stop problems before they start. Which model is right for your business?
For more information on choosing the right IT model for you, read our complete Business Guide to IT Support.