Outsourced IT vs In-House IT: A Small Business Guide

Nowadays, the vast majority of businesses will have some form of IT requirement. You may have started off with just one or two PCs, but as your business grows, it’s likely your needs will become ever more complex, as you add more computers and setup a cloud or local server based network. With an increasing reliance on IT, you will need to make sure someone is on hand to manage, service your systems as well as provide IT support to your workforce.

Is getting an in-house technician or IT manager the right solution, though? Or would you be better served outsourcing your IT services? There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches and in this article I want to look at both. Let’s start with in-housing IT.

In-Housing IT Services

Keeping your IT within the organisation means that you’ll always have someone available when you need them and they’ll build up a detailed knowledge of your system requirements over time. This can save valuable time when there’s a problem that needs sorting out in a hurry. It also allows you to keep control of your costs, as you won’t suddenly be presented with a large bill for doing an upgrade or sorting out a virus infection.

As your business grows and your infrastructure becomes more complex, having someone who has seen your systems evolve and has an in-depth understanding of how everything is put together can be invaluable.

The downsides to this though, is that training the right team can quickly become very expensive. Additionally, there’s always the risk that when you’ve invested time and effort in training someone, they’ll go off and work for someone else for more than you can afford to pay.

Outsourcing IT Services

The big advantage of outsourcing your IT is that you have access to specialist skills that might be needed to undertake specific tasks, but which it wouldn’t be cost effective to employ in-house. It also means that your IT service provider is focussed on the job at hand and won’t get distracted by other things that are going on in the business.

A further benefit is that there’s no need to invest in specialist equipment and training. The outsourcing company will be able to supply diagnostic tools and so on. You also have the benefit of availability, with no need to worry about staff holidays and so forth. In the modern era where staff are often mobile or work from home, having access to out of hours support is also something that an outsourced solution can make available in a cost effective way.

Outsourcing is also useful when it comes to delivering on specific projects. Designing a website, for example, is something you won’t be doing every week, so it therefore makes sense to outsource these specialist functions, as it would be hard to justify having the skills in house.

On the other hand, outsourcing can lead to your paying a higher price for specialist skills. However, you should be able to balance this against the fact that you’re not employing staff full time. It pays to take care when drawing up a service agreement with an outsourcing company, so that you ensure transparency in what you’re paying for.

If you get it right, outsourcing can be an effective way of keeping control of your IT costs, without sacrificing anything in the level of service you receive. You do need to take time to find the right solution for your business. This means talking to a number of different IT service suppliers to find the best fit for your needs. This requires creating a comprehensive service level agreement so you and the provider have a clear understanding of what is expected and any services that will incur additional costs outside of the contract.

 

The Best of Both Worlds?

There is of course a third way, which is to adopt a so-called ‘hybrid’ approach. This means keeping a small core of in-house IT staff, but outsourcing more specialist tasks where it wouldn’t be cost effective to have the skills in house all the time.

This approach can also have the advantage of allowing in-house staff time to concentrate on particular projects without getting interrupted by routine requests for support. Outsourcing help desk and basic network management functions, for example, can minimise downtime and make for better prioritisation and handling of routine calls. As well as this, it also makes it possible to provide a service for users outside of normal office hours.

Whichever option you end up choosing, always be aware that it’s the knowledge that’s indispensable, not the individual, so you need to ensure you have systems that are properly documented to allow someone else to take over the reins.

About the Author: Dave Blackhurst is a Director at UK based IT Support Company Evolvit. He has many years’ experience helping businesses, across a wide variety of industry sectors, setup and develop their IT infrastructure. You can connect with Evolvit on Google + or LinkedIn.

 

Author: Eddy

Eddy is the editorial columnist in Business Fundas, and oversees partner relationships. He posts articles by others on various topics related to strategy, marketing, supply chain, technology management, social media, e-business, finance, economics and operations management. The articles posted are copyrighted under a Creative Commons unported license 4.0. To contact him, please direct your emails to editor.webposts@gmail.com