In-house IT vs. managed services: Advice for small businesses

In-house IT vs. managed services: Advice for small businesses

Most business owners have a modicum of understanding regarding the impact of information technology on the people, processes, and products that comprise a new operation. However, very few are aware of just how much attention IT solutions need in both the short and long term.

Imagine it’s the first week your business is open. Would a full-time technician be sitting around twiddling their thumbs, waiting for something to do? Or would they be overwhelmed by the tasks of setting up, configuring, and supporting new IT systems? Based on our experience working with small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), both are likely scenarios.

When you rely solely on in-house technicians, you usually have to hire at erratic and uneven paces that make it hard to keep things running efficiently. It’s hard to justify two technicians when you have only 60 hours worth of tech support needs per week and it might be tempting to ask a lone technician to bear the extra burden. That’s a recipe for frustrated employees, customers, and managers. The managed IT services model is an excellent alternative but it’s no silver bullet. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both options.

The in-house-only approach

Before cloud technology made remote IT support possible, businesses were forced to choose between in-house technicians or third-party contractors. The latter rarely turned out to be the better option. Relying on contractors puts you at the mercy of their schedule and their price, whereas you have total control over how your staff prioritizes projects and budgets for new hardware and software.

Related article: Cost cutting? Here are four alternatives to hiring additional IT staff

Employing full-time technicians does have its drawbacks though. For example, IT needs in the education industry are subject to extreme seasonal fluctuations. Tech support requests pile up during the school year only to dwindle to almost zero during the summer months. Another drawback is that one person can only specialize in so many technology solutions; placing too many varied tasks, from VoIP phones to network security, in the hands of one person is extremely risky.

Ultimately, an in-house IT team will struggle with flexibility and responsiveness until it reaches certain economies of scale. If you can afford to hire at least three technicians — around $50,000 per year per technician in New Jersey — keeping everything in-house might be your best option. But even then, there are still reasons to consider the managed services option.

Managed IT services

The most obvious difference between IT contractors and managed IT services providers (MSPs) is that MSPs charge for their services as a monthly subscription rather than a project-by-project quotation. Instead of an eye-popping repair bill after something like a downed server has been fixed, MSPs charge the same monthly rate for a host of reactive and preventive solutions.

The subscription model incentivizes MSPs to get to the root of deep-seated problems because surface-level fixes will lead to recurring problems, which lead to more support calls. And since the monthly service fee stays the same regardless of how many issues need to be fixed, more support calls mean less profit per client for MSPs. In many cases, providers will even offer recommendations and IT consulting to improve overall efficiency.

Providers, like Online Computers, prioritize preventive maintenance so your systems run smoothly and you rarely have any IT issues. Our team improves on this model further by employing a variety of specialists so you never have to worry about a jack-of-all-trades cutting corners.

Related article: Tips to help you get the most out of a managed services provider

There are times when managed services are overkill, but they’re rare. As a rule of thumb, if you could run your business, for a week, without much more than a phone and a laptop, a third-party contractor might be all you need.

Which approach is best for your business?

Although we are confident that managed services are almost always better for SMBs, we understand that reading a blog post isn’t likely to change your mind. Why not download our free eBook for more detailed information about how our support model works? Of course, if you’re ready to skip straight to the part where we lay out our services, you can request a customized plan.

Don’t know what technology is right for your business? Read our comprehensive post about the 8 Most common IT mistakes, and how SMBs can avoid them. In today’s business environment, SMBs need to be tech-savvy in order to get ahead of the competition. But you don’t have to be a geek to be knowledgeable about technology. At Online Computers, we strive to educate our clients of the power of technology and how they can utilize it to enhance their business. Want to be smarter about IT? Get in touch with us today.

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