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High-tech ventures are not the only companies that need IT support. Nor are complex IT systems limited to the Fortune 500. Even local brick-and-mortar businesses rely on complex integrations of hardware and software to manage client relationships, organize internal processes, and handle accounting tasks, among other jobs.

The increasing reliance on software by so many companies has emphasized the value of IT support for business. A network crash or faulty server can hinder the work of nearly every employee. For example, a brief Internet outage may stop all incoming calls through a VoIP system, truncate a virtual presentation to a client, and prevent employee access to a browser-based customer relationship management system.

These potentially costly outages may justify an investment in remote or onsite IT support to solve small issues quickly and prevent bigger issues entirely.

What Holds True for Remote or Onsite IT Support

Before addressing the unique advantages of remote or onsite IT support, it’s worth noting that some elements remain constant across both vendor types. For businesses looking to choose an IT support company, keep these considerations in mind:

Research the company needs first. What problem does an outside vendor need to solve? The internal needs of a company can go a long way toward finding the right IT support solution. By taking the time to assess internal needs, a decision-maker gains a better understanding of which features will provide the most business value. Additionally, internal research provides an opportunity to uncover IT needs from other departments. A complete understanding can ensure a contract includes all the necessary services.

Get answers about experience with specific software and hardware. Every IT solutions provider should have general expertise. However, the value of that expertise may vary based on the specific systems and integrations they’ve handled in the past. By taking the time to ask IT companies about their specific experience—rather than their general knowledge—a decision-maker is more likely to get answers that will help differentiate one vendor from the next.

Ensure contracts address all needs. Service-level agreements, or SLAs, play a crucial role in a successful relationship between an organization and an outside vendor. Industry experts typically recommend that companies include all services in an SLA so that a vendor cannot claim a project to be out of scope after signing a contract. SLAs may also include the required response time to a request. However, the rigidity of an SLA may also work against a company, as some vendors use an SLA to exclude an issue that is not mentioned explicitly.

Remote IT Support

The remote IT market has continued to grow, with expectations of a nearly 6 percent increase through 2019. Remote IT services operate as the name implies: Technicians access client machines through a browser-based application or remote access software. This provides the necessary access to address many common IT problems.

While some may feel unfamiliar with remote IT support, many use it already. For example, when a home Internet connection ceases to work, a call to technical support usually begins with a technician pinging the home router to assess the issue—a simple remote IT diagnostic.

The Benefits of Remote IT Support

A primary benefit of remote IT support is immediate access to a solution. There’s no need to wait for a technician to arrive at a location. This ‘anywhere access’ to a technician is particularly valuable to businesses with offices in many locations or with a geographically scattered staff. Rather than seeking out local support in every location, remote IT support allows all employees to get access from the same source.

Often, a remote IT support solution includes lower costs. Technicians do not spend time or money traveling to and from an office location. Those savings are usually passed on to the consumer. For businesses seeking to manage many basic IT issues, remote IT support can be an efficient solution. Further, the ready access to IT support for small issues can help prevent larger IT issues.

For companies selecting a large remote IT support vendor, they may benefit from around-the-clock access to technicians. Remote IT support companies can staff technicians in different time zones, expanding the available service hours without requiring technicians to remain on call in the evening hours. Companies that conduct business outside traditional work hours may find it a persuasive benefit as well.

The Limitations of Remote IT Support

For managers who value face-to-face interactions, remote IT support has an obvious limitation. A face-to-face interaction may have greater value than simply building rapport, too. The more time a technician spends at a location, the better that technician may be able to understand the full IT infrastructure of a company. A deeper understanding, in turn, may lead to IT solutions that provide greater long-term stability.

Additionally, remote IT support can diagnose and resolve only those issues that do not affect network connectivity. If a machine cannot connect to the Internet or fails to boot entirely, a remote technician will be unable to access and resolve the issue. The same challenge is true for machines that have suffered physical damage, have power supply issues, or have become infected with certain computer viruses.

Businesses that handle sensitive information may also have security concerns about remote IT support. A screen share with a remote technician may reveal proprietary or personal information, and the exchange of login information presents the potential for added vulnerability. To a lesser extent, some have raised concerns about scam artists who pose as remote technicians to gain access to company systems.

Onsite IT Support

Onsite IT support is the in-person management of IT issues. Onsite IT support can be classified into two categories: remote onsite support and dedicated onsite support.

Remote onsite support involves an outside technician who travels to a location to handle a specific issue or perform maintenance on an established schedule. Dedicated onsite support places an outside vendor at a company location for a set number of hours.

The Benefits of Onsite IT Support

Onsite IT support has the potential to diagnose and resolve a larger number of technical issues. In addition to the issues a remote IT support technician can manage, an onsite technician can also handle issues that affect network connectivity or physical damage to a system.

Also, a subset of issues—such as hard-drive failure—can be diagnosed more effectively in person. For example, a hard-drive failure often generates a “click of death” sound that would be undetectable by a remote IT technician.

Over time, an onsite technician may develop a better understanding of a business, especially if the technician operates as a dedicated onsite representative. If the IT support needs of a company justify the added expense, the ever-present IT support may be able to take a more proactive approach to IT management and help a company escape the break-fix cycle.

The Limitations of Onsite IT Support

For many small businesses, the cost of onsite support is a primary drawback.

The need for remote onsite technicians to travel to a facility can also increase the total amount of downtime for a business. If even a few hours of downtime may cause a significant loss of productivity or revenue, a purely remote onsite solution may not be appropriate.

The available service hours for onsite IT support may also influence a decision. Many remote IT providers can offer a wider range of support hours or the same extended range at a lower cost. After-hours onsite support may also require the physical presence of a technician and a company representative, whereas remote support may solve an issue without requiring either person to be present.

A Blended Solution

While remote and onsite IT support each have benefits and limitations, companies do not need to choose a single solution; an in-house IT team may be able to provide the onsite component while getting support from a remote service.

In the end, choosing the right solution requires having a full understanding of company needs, a thorough vetting process, and a careful review of the IT support contract. From there, companies are well positioned to know whether their most common issues can be handled remotely or require a physical, onsite inspection.

Businesses with an eye to the future may also consider which type of support or blended service will help them scale efficiently for years to come.