Every company has some sort of information technology (IT) needs, and those needs are influenced by what your business does, the tools used, and the size of your company. Should you hire a full-time IT manager? Or would it be better to hire an outside IT consulting company? Before you decide to hire an employee or a company, you should first determine if you need full-time IT support.
Many small businesses don’t have a full-time IT employee. Those tasks have fallen to the person who is not afraid of computers, servers, or software. Perhaps that person is younger, tinkers with computers, or is a hobbyist.
Here are a few signs that you might need to hire a full-time IT employee or consultant.
- The person who handles your tech needs has little to no billable time.
- Your business can’t get work done efficiently because of your tech.
- Your equipment is aging.
- You have many software issues. Consistently.
- Clients suffer because of your tech needs/issues.
- Your tech just gets in the way.
There are two very viable solutions to dealing with your company’s tech needs. One is to hire an IT expert in-house. Another option is to hire an IT consulting company to do the heavy work. This option is often referred to as “managed services.” Both solutions have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages.
In-House Employee. Hiring an employee provides several benefits that you won’t get from outsourcing your IT needs. A direct hire is immediately available during business hours. You will not have to wait in line or fight for time from your service provider. This person can also fix simple issues, such as printer paper jams, a dead keyboard, or a flickering monitor due to a bad plug. Because you have a dedicated IT person, they aren’t pulled away from a billable project. Direct employees also care deeply about you and your needs. You are their only “client” and the only one they have to keep happy. They work on a daily basis with your employees and work closely with your various departments. This intimate relationship means they understand what your other employees need and can invent clever ways to help them accomplish their daily tasks with solutions tailored to their individual needs. Having a direct employee also means that you will not have to plan ahead for extra IT labor costs—their salary has been planned and budgeted already. New software and hardware will always cost you more money. But a good IT plan and budget will help eliminate many surprise costs.
Outsourcing a Consultant. There are several reasons why you might want to outsource your IT needs to a managed service provider. These companies have a larger pool of resources than that of an individual IT direct hire. They have multiple employees that can assist you during a time of need—if your IT manager is sick or on vacation, your company can still continue working when a printer catches fire. There are no training costs to keep up with the constant change of technology. If agreed to ahead of time, an IT company can monitor your systems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If there is a problem, they are alerted to it immediately and can fix it before the office opens in the morning. Monday mornings often bring weekend server failures that can cripple the start of the workweek. A managed service provider can help to minimize this.
Either IT solution has its advantages over the other one. Both can successfully fill your IT needs. An employee is more dedicated and knowledgeable about your daily needs. A consultant has more resources. Consultants don’t necessarily understand your unique needs, but they also don’t have the costs that come with an employee (vacation, insurance, sick time). Consultants are likely to cost less—far less in some cases—but an employee has greater potential to better understand exactly what you need.