As IT estates grow and become more complex, organisations are discovering that in-house IT support – if they have any – isn’t enough. They’re turning to third party suppliers to fill the gaps.
So, if you’re a smaller business with no in-house IT resource or a small, stretched team, you almost certainly need some form of support. But even larger businesses with sizable IT teams might need outsourced IT support during peak periods or when transitioning to new platforms or systems.
In this guide, we’ll let you know what to expect from an experienced IT support partner, as well as looking at three different business cases, for operations of different sizes, and the types of outsourced IT support they may require:
So, before we start getting into the details, let’s make sure we’re all on the same wavelength…
What is Business IT support?
External IT support is a fairly broad term and can mean different things to different operations, but is an increasingly popular standalone service.
In short, an IT support service means giving another company ‘the keys to your kingdom’ and giving them the responsibility to ensure your business systems are secure, optimised to your needs and fully functional. You might also be able to take advantaged of 24/7 support, guaranteed fix-times and possibly, an IT consultancy service to help you plan and implement a proactive IT roadmap.
Why is IT support so beneficial?
Well, if you have in-house IT staff, it frees them up for more creative and profitable tasks. If you don’t, it allows you to offload all the complications of running and securing your own network, so you don’t have to – again so you can focus on growing the business!
You don’t want to lose your morning to researching how to prevent phishing attacks, or troubleshooting an internet connection that refuses to work. All that time means lost money and getting you back online as fast as possible should be the main aim. Again, the technical knowledge and experience of an established external IT support team reaps rewards here, with many guaranteeing fixes to issues within a specific timeframe – usually a few hours.
They also make sure you’re considering other aspects of your online presence such as security, back-up and disaster recovery, so that even if the worst should happen, you can be back up and running in no time.
IT support use-cases
No matter the size of your business, there’s only so many hands to hold all of your IT responsibilities. That’s why outsourcing IT requirements is becoming so popular.
Whether you have no IT support whatsoever, some internal capability, or you’re part of a large business with a large network footprint, there’s rhyme and reason in getting some external support.
No IT support
Businesses with no in-house IT capabilities tend to be on the smaller side, growing organically with little complexity in their network operations. But that doesn’t mean small businesses can’t benefit from external IT support.
To get a measure of that, think of what an IT admin would do within your operation…
They would need to monitor your expanding IT estate and make sure every element is secure, updated and fully functional. They would also need to be on hand for any simple questions or urgent issues that need resolving, all while maintaining strong cybersecurity within your IT stack, and staying on top of any unusual network behaviour.
So, you can quickly see how managing even a small network can quickly become a full-time job. But considering the going rate for an IT admin worth their salt is about £30,000 (ignoring any significant benefits such as a company car), the argument for outsourcing IT support becomes a lot louder.
Outsourced IT support should be able to offer a comprehensive basic service that essentially replicates the responsibilities of an in-house IT team, and all for an affordable monthly fee, including:
- 24/7/354 availability
- Unlimited helpdesk support
- Unlimited on-site visits
- Monitoring of servers and devices
- Data backup
- IT roadmap
- Account management
It’s a service designed for your peace of mind. Comprehensive enough for you to stop worrying about IT and get on with all the other things a small business owner has to worry about!
Run a small business?
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Some in-house capability
As SMEs grow they tend to invest in – and rely on – an ever-expanding technology stack. VoIP and video conferencing are commonplace. Because of the importance of technology to the future of the business, many growing SMEs also invest in some in-house IT expertise. This often takes the form of one IT professional, but it might also be a small team.
And while it’s true that in-house professionals will know a lot, they’re unlikely to have in-depth knowledge in every area. Cybersecurity is one example of an area that often requires more detailed, specialist expertise.
In other words, your IT team probably needs help, and with a dedicated team behind you, you’re not limited to a single person, as you would be if you hired an extra head internally.
Say for example, you’re still using a legacy PBX for your calling – the right IT support partner will advise what system would be most appropriate and cost-effective for your needs. They can then design, deploy (and possibly even train staff) without taking time away from the internal IT support team’s other responsibilities. And they’ll still be available 24/7 to the rest of your team for any how to questions or other issues that could be offloaded by the in-house staff!
All told, even businesses with some in-house IT capabilities should have external IT support at their disposal, for those unexpected time. And if there isn’t a knowledgeable and experienced IT professional within the business already, outsourcing your IT support needs is the best option!
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As businesses reach medium size and above, they tend to invest in an in-house IT team. That’s perfectly sensible. By this point IT has become central to business success.
Nevertheless, many larger businesses also rely on outsourced IT support, at least some of the time. An outsourced service is an invaluable stopgap during the recruitment process, for example. It can also be crucial during periods of peak demand.
When you’re transitioning services to the cloud, or implementing a new digital communications platform, for example, IT may not have time for the routine monitoring and maintenance of networks and services.
That’s where outsourced IT can take the strain, if only temporarily. Good IT staff are hard to come by, and even more so if you just need them for the duration of a project or a period of expansion, such as:
- Installing a complex new system
- Transitioning from an on-premise solution to a cloud service
- Expanding quickly and need new staff up and running asap
- Moving office. opening a second location or need local support for satellite offices
- Experiencing a seasonal peak in business and need someone in house to make sure your systems are robust
Outsourced IT support is a growing sector because it’s a crucial one. In our wide experience, few small and medium sized companies have the in-house IT resources they need to keep vital systems and services secure and working at the most optimum level.
That’s a concern, because businesses rely on technology more than ever. When IT drops out, so does your ability to conduct business.
Happily, the solution is readily available. Good outsourced IT support can be the IT team you don’t have, but it can also be flexible to meet different goals, moulding themselves to your requirements and offering a considered, consultative approach when needed.
Outsourced IT support is our cup of tea.
Learn more about our services by reading our blog.
What to look for in a new IT support partner
Just like any industry, there’s a sliding scale of quality – from wheeler-dealers looking to make a quick buck, to diligently professional, always-on services that won’t let you down. To help you differentiate the princes from the frogs, here are a few things to look out for when you are deciding who to work with.
Accreditations from manufacturers that you use within your operations (Microsoft, Cisco, 8×8, etc.) will help you gauge whether they have the technical know-how to support your hardware and services.
Businesses like to shout about their wins, so have a read through any testimonials or case studies to see what their level of support is, and how happy they’ve made their clients. You could even reach out to one of the businesses and try and get a first-hand account of their experience.
Whether it’s pricing, services, callouts, location, or any other factor, having a flexible partner that can work with you to find solutions to issues is a must. Many support operations will say they’re flexible, but may stutter when you ask what that actually means day-today!
If you’re a small business, you’re probably not going to need a ‘Harrods’ level of support, though conversely, you probably won’t want a ‘pound shop’ experience either! Some IT support businesses will offer the same level of service no matter the size of the business, which is always a plus… just depends how much they charge!
From first impressions, to signing on the dotted line, you can’t ignore your gut feelings. Maybe the person you’re speaking to feels more like a ‘Del-boy’ than a trustworthy partner, or asking a couple of technical questions panics them, these are both signs that you should listen to your gut and look elsewhere.
All these questions will help narrow down your search for the perfect IT partner. And another one is asking them what they would recommend in terms of a business continuity plan…
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that business continuity planning is no longer something any business – of any size – can ignore.
Threats to your organisation’s ability to function in a profitable way can appear almost overnight. And we are not just talking about once-in-a-century global pandemics. Anything that affects your ability to operate normally could be considered a business continuity issue.
The list would include fire, theft and vandalism. It would certainly include the kind of extreme weather events (like flooding and extreme heat) that climate change is making more likely. But even a harsh, snowy winter that stops your team getting into the office could be considered a business continuity challenge.
Then there are cyberattacks of course, which are a real and growing danger for businesses large and small, and could do a significant amount of damage to your IT infrastructure. We could go on, but suffice to say that business threats are not rare, one-off occurrences. Taken together, they are common and growing risks, which is why every business needs a business continuity plan.
What is a business continuity plan?
A business continuity plan is simply the process of putting contingencies in place to avoid damage from these kinds of incidents in the first place, or to recover quickly from them if that is impossible. You do not have complete control over the former, but you do over the latter.
The exact contents of your business continuity plan depend to some extent on your size, sector and vulnerability to common threats. But all plans share many of the same general elements. With that in mind, here is what you need to do to put a basic business continuity plan in place, and what it should include.
- Assemble your team
- Identify your risks
- Calculate impact
- Draw-up your plan
- Define what you need to do now
- Educate your employees
- Test and revise
Ultimately, if you do not have a business continuity plan you cannot be confident of surviving the next local, national or international crisis.
There is no doubt that disaster recovery, and the implementation of resilient IT and cybersecurity measures, are a fundamental part of any business continuity strategy. As a vastly experienced outsourced IT provider, Cloud & More can help in those areas.
But whatever you choose to do first, the main thing is to do something. Assemble your team and start identifying your risks, and then take it from there. As you start down the path to resilience, you will begin to realise just how important business continuity planning really is.
Want to get your business continuity
plan in place?
Read the full breakdown of each point here.