Modern businesses – across every sector – have IT requirements. From website design, social media engagement, SEO and customer management software to everyday internal communications and administration. Even accounting and human resources will have some level of IT at the core, and the smallest technical issue can bring your operation to a standstill.
A business’ IT system needs monitoring and maintenance to ensure your business can perform efficiently and effectively. The decision that every company faces at some point is whether to keep this responsibility inhouse or to outsource it to an external IT support company.
We’ve compared the options to identify the advantages and disadvantages so you can make the right choice for your business.
Inhouse IT Support
Advantages of Inhouse
Investing in Your Business
Employing your very own IT support team or help desk could be viewed as an investment in your company. The individual or team will build up a deep, specialised knowledge of your company’s IT setup. This is particularly relevant if your business is build on unique or bespoke systems which take time to get familiar with. If this is the case, contracting IT support on an ad hoc basis may prove to be time consuming and expensive as they take the time to get to grips with the setup.
Quicker Response & Resolution
An inhouse team is also perfectly positioned to identify snags or recurring issues in your systems which are affecting efficiency and can respond with a bespoke solution that an external IT support company may not be able to provide. In the event of a real emergency or security issue, there may not be time to find and contract an external company and explain the issue to them. An inhouse team is available immediately to deal with the problem and get your business back up and running.
Keep Your Technological ‘Edge’
Not all IT professionals are equal in their skills, experience or creativity. By keeping your IT specialists inhouse you are securing a bank of talent which could differentiate your business from the competition. In addition, some argue that a salaried employee has a personal investment in your business’ success and so may be more likely to ‘go the extra mile’ to get a job done right.
Disadvantages of Inhouse
Firstly, employing IT support staff will obviously require a substantial financial commitment in terms of salary, pension, benefits, sickness cover etc. Competent IT professionals will expect at least £28,000 per annum and this will only increase with their level of experience. It’s worth bearing in mind that IT specialists are in high demand and so rates of pay are competitive; you should prepare for the possibility that you may need to increase pay to keep the best people working for you.
In addition, training an inhouse IT team is an ongoing task which costs money. Technology is constantly evolving and it is crucial that your IT systems adapt and change to keep up with the competition. You may need to fund exams to ensure they are qualified to the latest industry standards. Depending on how many staff you employ you may also need to consider out of hours support or a contingency plan for sickness cover.
IT is a huge subject which encompasses more than any one person can cover; even the most experienced specialists will have knowledge gaps. By outsourcing your IT support you can call on specialist expertise as and when it is needed.
Outsourced IT Support
Advantages of Outsourcing
No Large Financial Commitment
An inhouse IT support team will usually consist of at least 2 salaried employees. Obviously, the bigger the company the more employees you will need and this quickly becomes a significant financial commitment for the business. By using an external IT support company you can avoid this and simply pay for the support on an ad hoc basis. If and when a problem arises, you can employ a specialist with focused expertise in that area until the issue is resolved.
Get the Right Tools for the Job
Some IT issues will require specialist equipment or software. Outsourcing the task should mean that the contractor will provide everything that’s needed within their fee and you won’t need to to pay a large lump sum for something you may never need again.
To retain the services of an IT support company – rather than finding a new specialist when something crops up – you will often pay a monthly fee. This is usually based on a per user basis and will include a range of services e.g. managing your company server, hardware and software. This ‘all in’ fee should help you to manage your budget and avoid surprise costs.
Bring in the Experts
By outsourcing your IT support you will have access to a wide range of skills, experience and qualifications. A inhouse team may be familiar with your system and everyday processes but not equipped to deal with developments or unexpected issues. A competent IT company should be able to find you the right person for the job, no matter what.
Take the Pressure Off
Small companies and startups often rely on a staff member to act as their ‘go to’ IT person. This is someone who has another role in the business but also has the best working knowledge of IT and how to troubleshoot issues. The problem is that as companies grow this becomes a real drain on this person’s time and results in their actual responsibilities being pushed to the side. Outsourcing IT support means your staff can focus on their real role which will actually help you to grow your business.
Guaranteed Service Quality
Contracting an external IT company to provide your support should include a service level agreement (SLA). This will outline expected response times which, should they fail to meet them, will incur financial penalties. This provides you with some assurance that your needs will be met efficiently which may not be the case with an inhouse team who will be paid regardless of how long they take to fix an issue.
Disadvantages of Outsourcing
If your IT system needs managing regularly then it’s worth bearing in mind that hiring a freelance IT specialist will usually involve a much higher hourly rate than an internal employee. Over time, it may be more cost effective to take on an employee to manage that area of your business.
When an issue arises, it can be time consuming to find an IT professional with the right skills and experience who is affordable. This is made even more difficult when you’re not actually sure what the issue is and therefore what type of expertise you should be looking for! While you’re spending time looking for help, your business could be suffering or even at a standstill.
There is an argument that inhouse employees have a greater personal investment in the success of your business and will therefore be more likely to do the job to a higher quality. They may also have a greater familiarity with your company’s needs and priorities and so could respond to issues with greater efficiency.
If you’re relying on an external provider for IT support as and when an issue arises, you can’t budget for the costs accurately. A salaried employee will keep your IT system running smoothly for the same cost regardless of the complexity of the issue or level work required.
What About a Hybrid?
Many companies choose to adopt a combination of inhouse and outsourced IT support. For example, you could employ a small team or individual to manage the day to day operations and tasks but keep an outside provider on call to help with troubleshooting, development, design or anything outside the expertise of your team. This can be a more cost effective solution which delivers the best of both worlds.