If you ask the average owner of a Connecticut small to medium-sized business (SMB) why he or she doesn’t outsource his or her IT support, he or she can cite dozens of reasons: ”It’s too expensive,” “outside IT support doesn’t understand my business,” “outside IT support can’t respond fast enough,” “I would have to cut my IT staff,” etc. The fact is, the right IT managed services provider (MSP) can save you time, money, and resources while making your IT staff more efficient. It’s all a matter of how you use your IT MSP and how well you integrate it into your team.
A mistake that many Connecticut SMBs make is trying to maintain total control of their enterprise infrastructure by hiring their own IT staff rather than outsourcing. Having IT expertise on staff may make sense depending on your operation, but enterprise systems are complex, and even in-house IT staff can’t be experts at everything. IT support demands tend to change daily, even hourly, and you may find that your in-house IT staff is stretched too thin to deal with computing emergencies. And hiring IT staff is expensive. The average Connecticut IT manager earns more than $130,000 per year. When you do a cost analysis, is it really more cost-effective to hire more IT experts rather than outsource to an IT managed service provider?
Your best approach is to strike a balance—determine what type of IT expertise your operation truly needs and what IT services and functions are more cost-effective to outsource. You also need a strategy to make your IT MSP part of the team to maximize the value of its services.
Here are some tips on how to make your MSP an extension of your IT team:
Divide and conquer – Before you make any staffing decisions, map out your IT needs. Be sure to break down routine maintenance requirements such as workstation provisioning, managed print services, and systems backup, as well as strategic initiatives such as installing a new WAN system or upgrading network servers. Once you inventory your IT requirements, you will be in a better position to identify your real staffing needs and determine what services are best managed in house and what you can or should outsource.
Checks and balances – Prioritizing and delegating specific IT tasks is the first step. You also need a reporting structure in place to track IT activities. When you hire an MSP, you typically include performance metrics as part of the service-level agreement (SLA). This is a good place to start when it comes to developing a reporting system. Report on the metrics in the SLA to ensure your MSP is performing according to its contract with your business. You also can develop other reporting systems to track activities such as performance alerts, malware detection, and backup schedules. It’s best to automate reports wherever possible and track only those activities that are important to IT operations. If reporting becomes too time-consuming or complex, it defeats the purpose.
Outsource the routine stuff – As a general rule, it’s more cost-effective to have your MSP manage regular tasks such as data backup and performance monitoring. Considering the average cost of IT salaries, you don’t want to pay your in-house IT staff $65 per hour to run system backups.
Benefit from the MSP brain trust – If you only use your MSP to handle routine system tasks, then you are wasting a valuable resource. Your MSP has expertise in multiple areas, keeps track of the latest technology, and maintains relationships with technology vendors. It can help you develop an IT strategy to support company growth. It also can help broker services such as cloud computing resources and provide guidance regarding budgeting and time to deployment. Collaborating with your MSP on future plans will give you a better perspective on your real needs and possibilities.
Call 911 – Disaster recovery is where most MSPs really prove their worth. When disaster strikes, it’s all hands on deck, and your MSP should be on the front lines correcting the problem and restoring backups. It’s important to work with your MSP to create a disaster recovery plan, including procedures for identifying the source of the problem, securing the network, and switching over to mirrored servers or restoring backup data to restore operations as fast as possible.
Review and revise – Be sure to review your IT support strategy and MSP agreement regularly—at least once a year. There may be gaps in the organization that can be filled by your MSP, or there may be new protocols that need to be implemented or procedures that need to be changed. A regular review of your IT operational plan will reveal how you can get the most from your MSP contract.
Your MSP is your strategic IT partner. It understands computing as it relates to your business needs and can help you create the infrastructure you need to reach your business goals. The more closely you integrate your MSP into your daily operations, the more valuable it becomes, and the more cost-effective. Embrace your IT MSP and use it as a collaborator, not just another service, and you will find the return on your MSP investment will come back to you many times over.