Supporting your IT in-house can be expensive, aggravating, and time-consuming. It’s challenging and costly for small businesses to maintain an IT department and stay current with the latest technology. Companies are seeing IT expenses continually increasing on a month to month basis, and training staff to perform IT tasks takes time away from focusing on work that generates revenue. As a result, growing businesses are beginning to recognize the many advantages of outsourcing their IT support to a managed services provider.

Not enough small and medium-sized businesses (SMB’s) understand the benefits of a managed services provider. Aside from saving a significant amount of money, outsourcing IT support to managed services can provide a number of long-term benefits towards growth, scalability, and security into the future. Let’s cover the three most important questions that decision-makers have about outsourcing their IT support through managed services.

Can I Handle My IT Support Issues Myself?

The short answer is yes, but whether or not the effort will be efficient and effective will be determined by factors such the size and scope of your company, expertise of your staff, available budget, time, and willingness to risk encountering unexpected roadblocks that may be difficult for a less experienced team to solve. Your business needs to run as efficiently as possible. Organizations that try to do all IT Services in-house themselves can have much higher research, development, and implementation times – all of which increase costs. Some costs cannot be foreseen, such as lost time attempting to solve issues that occur unexpectedly during the course of a project.

Managed service providers have the capability of offering a much larger array of professional services that may not be available to an in-house IT department. These products include remote support software, server and database maintenance, network management, cloud services, and security solutions.

Without a solid foundation and working knowledge of the most important facets of today’s technology you risk spending costly hours familiarizing yourself with new tools before your business can implement them, and even more time troubleshooting problems and issues that may occur over time (from “why are my files not syncing?” to “how can I get a signature added to my outgoing emails?”), and roadblocks will occur and always at the most inopportune moments.

What Are The Advantages of Managed Services?

A qualified systems administrator can easily cost in the neighborhood of $60k per year in salary alone, and it’s important to keep in mind that qualified does not equal experienced. Very few problems are new to a managed services provider maintaining multiple clients with varying needs of support; while an in-house IT staff may lead an isolated existence regardless of how much they train. If your business plans to pursue a strong online marketing and social media presence then it is even more important for the implementing team to be up-to-date on current trends and analytical changes. A proficient managed services provider will be able to handle all of these for you.

The benefits of implementing fully outsourced managed services include reduced costs, access to external expertise, intellectual property, and improved operational performance. A holistic outsourced model can also allow organizations to better allocate internal resources on strategic projects and core business operations. Businesses have limited resources, and every manager has limited time and attention. Outsourcing can help your company stay focused on your core business and not get distracted by complex IT decisions.

Most small businesses can not afford to match the in-house support services that larger companies maintain. Outsourcing can help small companies act “big” by giving them access to similar technologies used by larger corporations and the expertise that those companies enjoy. Economy of scale and an independent third party managed cost structure can give your company a competitive advantage.

What Are My Options?

So you’ve decided that managed services is the right next step for your growing company. A very important first step as a business is to familiarize yourself with the right questions to ask the managed services providers that you interview. Some questions you should ask include:

  • – What level of support does each of your managed service plans provide?
  • – What kind of backups do you have in place in case of equipment or service failure?
  • – What security measures do you have in place?
  • – How customizable/adaptable are your managed service plans?
  • – How do I access my data on your servers?

Kathleen Fealy, president of KF Multimedia & Web, Inc., wrote a fantastic article entitled “18 Questions to Ask a Potential SEO Consultant.” While the article itself is primarily focused on SEO (Search Engine Optimization, which involves how well your website ranks on search results), the questions themselves are quite adaptable and should be able to be answered by your managed services provider. Kathleen drives home the point very well when she states “I often tell my clients that it’s like hiring a contractor to renovate their kitchen. If you ask enough questions and check references, you’ll learn who is qualified, who will do quality work, and who will leave you with a mess.”

Once you are familiar with the types of questions to ask, the next step is to determine how up-to-date and involved your managed services provider is with trends and changes in the industry. This is important because IT and managed services is a field that is constantly evolving. Does the company attend seminars? Is there ongoing training for their staff? Do they stay up to date on new technologies and trends? The answer to these questions can reveal quite a lot about a company and how dynamic and responsive they may be to your future needs and requests.

By outsourcing IT support and managed services you can reduce risk, level the playing field, and focus more time on building your business.