Almost by definition, small business owners and entrepreneurs cringe at the concept of outsourcing. Those who start their own companies generally like having control and autonomy, and the thought of outsourcing anything can make them uncomfortable. Unfortunately, that preference for control and autonomy may have some bad side-effects when it comes to IT.
Small businesses don't have the resources to fully support all of their IT infrastructure needs. The present in-house staff is most likely very busy putting out day-to-day fires. One statistic suggests 65% of IT budgets go to nothing more than keeping the lights on.
In short, staff is busy making sure the printer works or reloading a PC infected by a virus after an employee fell for a phishing email. This means that small firm's expenditures on IT are not improving operational efficiency, or enhancing productivity or competitiveness.
There is an alternative. Managed Service Providers are outside consultants you can bring in to handle the day-to-day tasks, so your own IT resources can be used more productively.
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HOW MIGHT AN OUTSOURCED MSP SUPPLEMENT YOUR IT EFFORTS?
24/7 operations center
Small businesses can benefit from, but simply cannot afford 24/7 internal monitoring of their IT infrastructure. Many of the issues that become costly business disruptions, such as hardware, software, and applications failures, are completely preventable if they're detected and addressed early enough. It is a reality that your systems run 24/7, but you can't support a 24/7 IT staff. A MSP, however, can use economies of scale to provide around the clock monitoring of your IT operations.
Small businesses have limited resources, so if there were to be a serious business interruption or data loss, they could be completely out of luck. However, risk assessments and continuity plans are likely outside of a small business owner's field of expertise. A MSP can be brought in to design a complete solution.
These are just two ways that a small business owner can benefit from passing along IT support to an outside source. In both cases, small business owners don't lose any control of the key parts of the business operation. Instead, the distractions of IT support are moved along to an expert, while the entrepreneur focuses on what she does best: running and growing her business.
Your IT person could probably use some help, too
Let's talk about Eric - your pretend IT guy. Everyone in the office loves Eric. He's the superhero we call when technology spits in our face. Whether it's a slow system, a bug that needs to be squashed, a website issue, or a crash that results in unexpected downtime and data loss, Eric is right there. Not only does he get to the bottom of any issue but he also rights the ship like he's some sort of miracle-working captain.
But business is growing and Eric is overworked. Eric has certain skills that you'd love to use to develop innovative applications and revenue-generating projects, but he's too busy running around fixing things that break. Or he's performing the most mundane and routine tasks day-in-and-day-out just to keep things secure and running smoothly.
You get a sense that Eric's overburdened and he's saddled with too many responsibilities. His demeanor has changed from pleasant to moody and you're noticing cracks in his work. You fear Eric is being pulled in too many directions and the reliability of your server, network, and applications, as well as the integrity of your data, are all at risk.
We're not going to fire Eric - that's no true solution. But we're also not going to hire a full-time salaried Robin to his Batman. We're going to help Eric by exploiting IT automation and outsourcing to a managed services provider to handle many of the monotonous tasks making Eric hate his job right now.
Let's help Eric...
- Focus primarily on cost-cutting and revenue increasing projects: First things first, Eric has to realize that he can't do everything himself. Where are his skills best used? Whether it's processes that help drive down costs or ones with the potential to raise revenue, evaluate the projects in the queue and rank them by what impacts the bottom line the most. Once that's done, look at the day-to-day processes designed to keep things running securely and efficiently. What can be off-loaded from Eric? Determine which of those tasks can be automated either through the cloud or managed services.
- Take to the cloud: Some IT people fear the cloud spells the end to their job security. Meanwhile, the cloud can actually help them take on a more prominent contributing role in the company's success. The cloud should be seen as another tool that further eliminates the mundane yet necessary daily drudgery from their workday. Those who work WITH the cloud will find that they have additional time to take on more meaningful cost cutting or revenue generating projects.
- Use a managed service provider: Using outsourced managed services not only alleviates much of Eric's pressure and stress, but also boosts productivity and gives the company a much improved ROI (Return-on-Investment) on their technology investment. While technology has gotten easier for the end user, it has become more complex on the backend with the advent of virtualization, cloud computing, and advanced infrastructure.
Using an MSP gives Eric access to other IT experts, a 24/7 help desk, remote monitoring and management tools, mobile device management tools, and much better disaster recovery and business continuity solutions. All without the overhead that comes with hiring more help. MSPs offer a consistency to not just your end-user but also your main IT guy who will certainly appreciate the help.