COVID-19 has hit businesses incredibly hard – and perhaps one of the most challenging aspects for companies has been ensuring their IT infrastructure is suitable for the home-working changes needed to keep businesses afloat. Of course, this needs to be done against a backdrop of many IT teams simply being unable to work.
With the traditional in-house IT team not always being suitable in these unprecedented times, it’s worth looking at structuring your business slightly differently if you want to make sure you can meet changing business needs going forward.
One alternative that you may wish to consider is outsourcing your entire IT operation to an external supplier. Typically this is done by engaging the services of what is known as a Managed Service Provider, or MSP. There are a great many benefits to be had from doing this, and it is worth considering just a few of them:
Save on the costs of recruitment
Recruiting an entire IT department is likely to prove an incredibly expensive and time-consuming process, which is an especially unwelcome distraction just as your business finds itself having to recover from a damaging pandemic and lengthy lockdown. IT is a specialist discipline and the right recruits will need to be identified and engaged. Agency fees will be as substantial as they are inevitable. And when a departing employee needs to be replaced, that process will need to be revisited once again.
An MSP will take care of all its own staffing issues and provide you with the support you need. Once you have outlined your requirements and instructed the provider as to what it is you need, the heavy lifting will be done by the contracted party and the requisite personnel will be made available to you according to your needs. Any re-recruiting issues will likewise be handled on your behalf, with any new staff being provided fully trained to ensure a seamless transition.
Avoid Training Costs
IT staff almost by definition need to be trained. Although you would expect anybody who came for an interview to have the required skills, your own systems and records will be unique and successful applicants would still need to be acquainted with them. And as your systems are upgraded and developed further training and accreditation will inevitably be necessary so that your employees can keep up to date with the requirements of your system. Once again this is a costly and sometimes laborious process.
Engaging an MSP places all the responsibility for training and updating skills onto the service provider. Your role is simply to inform the contractor of your requirements and the MSP’s is to deliver them to your satisfaction.
Presuming you have an ongoing, fixed-cost contract and that this is all taken care of within that agreement, it’s job done.
Negotiate a service package which suits your specific needs
Although a service contract between an MSP and yourself is a two-way street, any discussion is all about your requirements, and the contractor’s ability to deliver them. It is important that the provider is able to meet the needs which are special and unique to your operation. You pay the contractor’s fee as agreed at the time, and you call the shots.
Of course, an MSP does not have to provide the entirety of your IT operation unless that is what you specifically want. You may have an in-house team that requires some expert help in particular areas, or there may be aspects of your set-up which are the domain of specialist technicians whom you don’t have. The important thing is that you decide the level of support that you need and then ask for it.
Once the terms have been agreed you and the provider will enter into an SLA, or Service Level Agreement. Your MSP will undertake to deliver the service that you have asked for, and that is covered under the terms of the contract.
Ensure 24/7 availability
Technology can need attention all the time, not just during work hours. It is important that your systems are up and running at any time of the night and day, every day of the year. If yours is a 9 till 5 operations, this can present a problem if everything is managed in-house.
To maintain a permanent out-of-hours team is a big financial undertaking. But because your MSP will provide for more than one client it will be able to operate economies of scale, and offer a service to you for a fraction of the cost that you would otherwise have had to pay.
In the present climate, with businesses having been out of operation or running below potential due to lockdown, it is especially important that unnecessary outgoings are not incurred.
Peace of mind
Quite often all the support you need can be delivered remotely, without the need for a technical expert to visit your premises and physically attend to malfunctioning equipment. In all likelihood, any problems will be identified at a central source and dealt with expeditiously.
This is particularly the case if you are operating with an SD WAN infrastructure. A good MSP will attend to any issues and advise you when they have been properly dealt with.
Maintain consistent outlay
One thing you certainly won’t need at this of all times is any sudden, nasty shocks when systems go down and expensive repairs or upgrades have to be made. Often this can happen when least expected, leaving you with a hefty invoice to pay and often impacting upon any plans you may have had for future growth.
When you engage a Managed Service Provider this doesn’t happen, provided it is properly covered in your agreement. Instead, you will have a fixed fee to pay, usually monthly, which will account for any such eventualities.
You will also not be vulnerable for any seasonal or cyclical variations in service or cost which may arise from such things as staff absence, holidays, bouts of sickness or individuals leaving the company unexpectedly.
When using an MSP your outlay is usually fixed and you are guaranteed an agreed level of service in return. Any dip in the quality of that service will always be the responsibility of your provider and can be challenged under the terms of your SLA.