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As a small business grows and opportunities become larger, so do pain points, bottlenecks and expenses. In most cases, one of the most complex divisions is IT: while departments like sales and administration can scale more easily, the growth of personnel, coupled with the ever-increasing expansion of technology, results in an increased need for IT support.

Making the jump from “calling Joe, who knows a lot about computers” to having your own IT staff does not need to be immediate or scary, but it does require some thought about the pros and cons of outsourcing your IT processes vs. having in-house service.

The questions are multiple: should you train someone internally, to maintain your network and technology? Should you have multiple vendors available to set up and maintain your servers? Should outsource some of your IT needs and handle the rest in-house? Or should you have your staff handle network setup and maintenance?

Why you should outsource your IT department

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Outsourcing your IT management allows you to decide whether your business is best served by an on-demand contract, with expenses commensurate with your needs and problems, or if you want to invest in a service that allows you to call whenever you want, no matter what the problem.
  2. Outsourcing allows you to focus your capital investment on other strategic initiatives: increase market penetration, expand your product or service line, or any other long-term activity that adds to your top-line revenues.
  3. You are not going to be able to train one employee to take care of all your IT needs: IT processes go beyond setting up a computer and wi-fi. When you’re networking several devices, and if you have additional technology like networking printers, field sales representatives using CRM software, etc., compatibility issues arise often. You want to make sure you have a specialist at hand, who understands your network holistically and has training and knowledge to ensure that fixing one issue does not cause cascading problems.
  4. Vendors that specialize in technology are usually better at identifying emerging trends and comparing them against your current and projected needs; keeping you ‘ahead of the curve’ might save you money in the future, make you more competitive and add to your brand value.
  5. Larger IT Networking companies have direct access to fast-track product and service support from vendors: you usually won’t have to wait as long, when a part is out of stock or the server manufacturer needs to be involved in the setup or maintenance of your system.

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Why you should keep your IT department in-house

  1. If your company is large enough, having full-time employees at your disposal might actually save you money, especially if your network is so complex that you’d need to involve several companies to manage it.
  2. If response time is essential to you, and waiting three hours (or more, depending on the vendor you choose for outsourcing) is not an option, having an in-house IT department is the way to go. Just remember that, to ensure uptime 24 hours a day, you’ll probably still need to contract with an outsourced service.
  3. In-house IT departments understand your strategic initiatives, since your IT manager is usually part of management meetings, and can grasp nuances of a project that an outsourced IT service might not get quite as clearly.
  4. If you have a complex business architecture, ongoing collaboration beyond network setup and maintenance is an important ingredient to your growth. Process knowledge, the ability to socialize ideas in an organic format, and pass-through ideation are definitely a byproduct of an in-house IT staff.

So… which one is right for me? Should I outsource my IT services or bring them in-house?

To answer this question, ask yourself what your key pain points are: are you going at a rate faster than you can keep up with? A scalable solution through outsourced IT services is probably your best bet. Are you a law office or small business that does not know anything about IT infrastructure? Let an outside service guide you through decision processes that can save you a lot of time and headaches. Do you have very complex processes that require in-depth knowledge, and are you starting to rely on your outsourced IT services on an ongoing basis? It might be time to start to bring that knowledge in-house. Does your business rely heavily on customized technology? In-house IT services might be the right choice for you.

Make sure you understand the cost of each decision, both from a financial and strategic perspective. Try to forecast where you will be in the next 24 to 36 months, when it comes to IT services bandwidth and technological growth, so you can predict when it might be time to progressively blend in-house IT services to your business. Most importantly, as you search for your solution provider, interview them: ask for a consultation and sit down with them as if they were interviewing for a job. Do they have the ability to bring a consultative approach? Will they be proactive in suggesting what YOUR business needs, in a way that will allow you to be more competitive and more efficient, and let you focus on running your company? Do they understand your bottlenecks and opportunities?

At the end, you might decide that a hybrid approach is what makes most sense, by having a staff that handles day-to-day activities, and outsourced IT experts that can handle larger projects by coordinating your in-house staff and providing critical guidance and outlook.

At the end of the day, network solutions and technology will continue to be ‘silent rockets’, working in the background to fuel a lot of your growth. How they operate within your business should be your choice.

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