Outsourcing – contracting out of a business process – is a great way to get professional tech support services at a fraction of the cost of full-time professionals specializing in information technology (IT) support. Some larger companies have a full-time on-board IT department but still use outsourcing to handle specific projects from time to time. Small to mid-size companies are usually outsourcing entire tech support and information technology functions to dedicated IT firms.
So, you know your business needs tech support, but are you making the right decisions when it comes to bringing in the IT pros?
3 Most Common Mistakes in Small Businesses IT Support
A lot of decisions are based on assumptions. Being aware of them would help you avoid costly mistakes.
Mistake #1 Assume that if your business is small, you just need “A Computer Guy”.
It seems that a lot of small business companies have a preconceived assumption of what IT support means for small business. A proverbial “IT Guy” with “Break/Fix” hourly support model is still much of a stereotype. This model is not applicable to most companies today – small and medium size businesses no longer just have a computer or two in the front office with maybe a simple printer – we have servers and networks, a slew of inter-dependable desktop and mobile devices with software, apps, and operating system versions that seem to be evolving at the speed of light. We have all these goodies within our offices as well as in the cloud. Hardware and software makers go in and out of business, absorb each other and what seemed like a good solution yesterday may be obsolete today. Yet again, what seemed to be technologically impossible yesterday, is now available for grabs in every store. How do you keep up with all this change? How do you decide what is the best hardware, most efficient software, who is the most reliable vendor of goods that you need? Just because your business is small, and a computer guy can “speak geek”, he or she may not be able to provide adequate support for all you needs.
Practical Advice: please read this before hiring a new IT guy.
Unlike most of independent computer technicians, fully staffed IT companies have number of technicians with various skills and a larger pool of resources to acquire and utilize most modern computer diagnostics and maintenance tools. Because some of those tools are used across the clients’ networks, it actually brings the cost of services down, and it accumulates into significant savings over the period of time. It allows for more affordable services, without compromising the quality of the work. Having an option to lease hardware versus standard purchasing may also be attractive for some of the businesses, – and it is something that is typically available through an authorized VAR (value-added reseller) company but not through an individual “guy”.
Mistake #2 Assume all is safe once IT company takes over.
Assuming everything is iron-clad perfect going forward is like assuming your clothes would always stay clean and dry since you got new washer and dryer instead of hand-washing your stuff. Let’s get real. You’ll still have stains, spills and wear-and-tear between washing cycles.
Remember: computers are not yet self-aware and they do not maintain themselves. What happens to our devices depends on various factors. There are occasions when there are acts of God (for example, power outage), user errors (someone deleting function files), inappropriate use (anything from dropping equipment, using CD-Rom as coffee cup holder), hardware failure (manufacturer’s defects or damaged equipment), software corruption (viruses, conflicting programs or invalid user input)… Many reasons may be responsible for things going wrong at any given time. Sometimes it may seem that after you brought the IT company over to take care of your environment, your computers may even have more issues. It’s like going to the doctor: my aunt used to say that she refuses go to the doctor because she may find out that there is something wrong with her. Same with computer network: when IT support pros run diagnostics and address your computer network for your specific business needs, you are usually made aware of issues you did not pay attention to, (or chose to ignore fearing addressing them will increase your budget), and now you have to face the facts and invest in new technology and labor to have it done right. Be realistic. Even after the dust settles, there will be situations when tech support is needed in addition to scheduled monitoring and maintenance that should be performed on regular basis.
Practical Advice: be prepared for ongoing maintenance and support.
Just like at the doctors office – you understand that there may be a need for diagnostic tests, and it may cost you time and money. You are not blaming the medical professionals for discovering a hidden condition and a need for a treatment. Just remember that your IT support provider is like a doctor or a therapist: our job is to find out if anything is wrong, to come up with the healthy plan, and to build on positive going forward. Just as you would continue with recommended treatment even if you don’t like the taste of the medicine, you should trust your IT adviser when it comes a realistic health assessment of your computer network. And keep up with the healthy routine going forward, addressing possible issues constructively.
Mistake #3 Assume that you only need tech support for times when something is wrong.
Many small businesses are trying to keep costs down. That is understandable – and it is important, so you may be tempted to assume that “IT Guys” should make sure that everything is up and running, and they can step out of the loop… you don’t need to pay them for a service plan when you can just call them back if there is an issue. Right? Wrong!
This is not the way to cut cost. To keep with my medical analogy, you are making a mistake treating all health professionals as ambulances. This approach will cost you more – financially and emotionally. You should not skip health checkups or disregard healthy lifestyle just because an ambulance is only a phone call away. If disaster strikes, and your business is not prepared – will you survive? Is your mission-critical data protected at all times? Would it be too late to recover your data if you did not have a backup procedure in place? Would you be able to stay open and continue business as usual? In addition to on-demand support, IT professionals usually offer regular maintenance to keep your network in check, and plans that protect your business data for when it’s time to implement a strategy to get your business back on track as soon as possible.
Practical Advice: Formulate both a short term and long term technology plan for your business.
Ask your IT support company to explain to you how their maintenance plan or managed services benefit your business today, and how it is going to be of benefit tomorrow. Keep your IT company informed about your plans for your business and your network environment, and consult with them when making decisions about hardware, software, licensing and user access needs going forward. And, when preparing for a disaster, make sure your IT support company is involved in decisions that affect your critical products, services and operations.
Here are several useful resources for the topic of disaster preparedness, specifically for business and industry in our state of New Jersey:
- [pdf] National Fire Protection Association 1600 – Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuty Programs, 2004 Edition [recommended by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the US Department of Homeland Security]
- Emergency Management Guide for Business & Industry
- U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance Homepage – includes business
emergency preparedness information
- Institute for Business and Home Safety “Open for Business” Disaster Recovery Plan and “Openfor Business” Disaster Planning Toolkit
- Business Executives for National Security — “NJ Business Force”
Looking to save money on your IT support?
We can recommend 7 Simple Ways to save on IT for your business
IT Support company is on on your side. Or job is to make sure that your computer network services your business right.
Is your computer network support done right?