If you’re building your business, you’ll almost certainly need some IT infrastructure – and, when you have IT infrastructure, you’ll almost certainly need an IT team to support it.
The trouble is, IT teams are expensive – in fact, many companies find that in-house staffing represents over 75% of their technology-related running costs every year.
So, what do you do?
Do you persevere with bringing an in-house team onboard? Swallowing the costs for the reassurance that having the right people under your roof will bring?
Or do you outsource your IT support to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) – hoping that an external team will understand your business and network deeply enough to provide the kind of backup you need?
Here, we’ll look at some of the pros and cons related to each – as well as some tips that’ll help you find the right kind of IT support for you.
1] What is an MSP?
While an in-house IT team needs little definition or explanation, it’s worth getting a detailed understanding of what an MSP is, and how they work with businesses.
In essence, an MSP is an IT team at the end of the phone. Their primary role will be around the maintenance of companies’ IT networks – but their abilities will include network design, installation, adjustments, procurement – and much more. Generally, if it involves IT, an MSP will be able to make it happen.
2] Service level agreements
Your business is likely to be unique. Even if you follow a solid business model, there’s going to be nuanced differences between the software you choose, how your end users interact with your systems, who has access to data, and much more.
As such, there’s rarely a one-size package of IT that fits every requirement – so, most MSPs put together a specific working agreement with you. This plan is generally termed an ‘SLA’ or ‘Service Level Agreement’.
Your service level agreement will be a detailed document that expands on what the MSP is going to do for you (including any specifics), the rate at which any additional work is done – and the overall rate that you’ll be charged each month.
A good MSP will sit down with you and get a detailed understanding of your business before suggesting how they can support you. During this consultation, they won’t just be asking about the ‘nuts and bolts’ information relating to your technology – they should also talk to you about your business plans and where you see your IT requirements going in the future.
Building a good working understanding between your company and your MSP is a very good business move. It’s worth remembering that whether you’re planning on adding a printer, or rolling out a complex SD WAN system, having them around the table brings a crucial set of ‘IT eyes’ to any project or growth plan.
3] Benefits of an MSP
So, now you know a little about what an MSP actually is, it’s worth considering what they’ll add to your business that an in-house team might not:
Reduced recruitment costs
Recruiting one member of staff is estimated to cost somewhere around £10,000 ($12,000) in time and resources – so having a ‘ready to go’ MSP who doesn’t need recruiting can help to keep money for other projects.
No training requirements
The training and accreditation needed to work on complex network systems is usually costly and time-consuming – so, with an MSP, you sidestep a huge amount of this. Of course, all MSP staff will be appropriately trained – you just don’t have to worry about it.
Evolving best practice
MSPs usually work with dozens of clients – so their experience base is generally wide and ever-evolving; useful when you need innovative thinking for your own projects.
In-house staff are unpredictable. Beyond the time gaps caused by sickness, leave and resignations, you’ve potentially got skill gaps that you need an MSP’s input. By working with an MSP for your full IT requirement, you fix these monthly running costs – offering predictable cashflow.
4] Benefits of an in-house team
While there are a lot of positives about working with an MSP, there are definite benefits to be found from having your own IT team.
Most small businesses have a very solid working culture that’s intertwined with your day-to-day requirements, structure, routines and more. Also, an in-house team can build a far more detailed understanding of the experience that you want to provide to end-users – and the products you offer.
It’s hard to find an MSP that can immerse themselves deeply enough in your business to understand this in the same way an in-house team can – and proponents of the in-house IT team say it’s very difficult to replicate the kind of commitment and passion that an employee brings to their own company.
5] As your business grows
If costs were equal, then there’s no question that having people under your roof to get ‘hands on’ with your technology and business is the way to go – but, sadly, those costs aren’t equal – in fact, if cost is a consideration, then having an MSP onside is unquestionably the way you’ll want to look at going.
In-house IT teams frequently find themselves over-stretched – fighting to keep systems working while they’re being asked to apply themselves to changes required – or planning around new projects.
If you’re a small or medium-sized business decision maker, you’ll be well aware that there’s rarely an unlimited budget that allows for continual expansion of an IT team – so the vastly reduced cost of an MSP – and the budget-friendly scalability options they provide are often extremely attractive to people with their hands-on company purse strings.
6] What’s right for you?
Ultimately, choosing between an MSP and an in-house team will be a decision that fits around your unique business.
If you plan on talking to a managed service provider, it’s going to be worth asking if they’ve worked with companies in similar industries and of a similar size to yours – ultimately, whether you’re in-house or outsourced, in our modern digital world, it’s absolutely vital to make sure you’ve got a solid working relationship with the people who keep your IT network running smoothly…