This article appeared in print as part of “Ask & Give: Female Entrepreneurs Rally in Columbia” Growing up, it didn’t take long for Liz...
Dealing with technology issues is just part of growing a business, but technology can quickly become a big pain, even for small businesses. One of the biggest growth service industries is the outsourcing of information technology. But is outsourcing the right way to go? Let’s discuss the pros and cons.
Outsourcing pro: A dedicated in-house person will understandably be limited by his or her personal training and abilities. Outsourcing with an IT company gives you access to a team of individuals with wide-ranging skill sets devoted to troubleshooting and resolving network problems and glitches.
Outsourcing con: An internal IT staff member has firsthand knowledge of the internal direction of the company and its decisions. He or she may better understand how implemented technology will affect the end users and customers.
Outsourcing pro: An in-house IT technician will take time off for sick days and vacation, leaving you with little or no support during his or her absence.
Outsourcing con: Having full-time, dedicated IT personnel means you can direct their hours and on-call availability, and outsourcing for off business hours can be expensive.
Outsourcing pro: As in-house IT staff changes, new employees will bring their technology ideas with them. An outsourced IT company can provide you with a long-term tech plan that lays out your goals and solutions so you know what expenditures to expect.
Outsourcing con: Goal planning and direction may be more easily achieved internally. As an employer, you may find it easier to sit down with an internal staff member to plan your technology implementations.
Outsourcing pro: When IT is outsourced, your business simply has lower human resource-related costs. Outsourcing places the tax and benefit burden on the outsourcing company. Plus, you’re only paying for the services you need.
Outsourcing con: If an employee handles your technology, you have the right to define his or her job description and daily tasks. As the employer of the IT technician, you can task him or her with extra duties, lowering the employment costs of having separate people perform those tasks.
Solutions and future innovation
Outsourcing pro: An outsourcing company should devote time and effort to staying on top of technology innovation to advise you on new technology that will increase your productivity and efficiency. Plus, the buying power of an outsourcing company will make hardware and other products more affordable than if you purchased them on your own.
Outsourcing con: An outsourcing company will recommend the products and solution it supports, and it’ll be limited by the types of technologies it supports as a part of its business model.
Security and confidentiality
Outsourcing pro: Should an in-house person make a mistake and lose data (or, heaven forbid, steal it), you may have little recourse. Outsourcing mitigates that risk and places that liability squarely onto the outsourcing partner if it’s insured and protected in the case of theft or catastrophic events.
Outsourcing con: Outsourcing gives a third party access to your confidential information. You have no guarantee an internal employee wouldn’t breach your trust; just make sure an outsourcing partner performs background checks and has its employees sign confidentiality agreements.
What works for you?
When deciding if outsourcing your IT is right for you, make sure to examine all costs associated with both options. Also, think about the size and complexity of your network, the risk and liability of data loss or security breach and your future growth needs. You may need to hire another IT staff member but cannot afford to do so yet. This is a great time to look at outsourcing with a company to work with current in-house IT staff.
Regardless of how you manage your technology, some well-thought-out effort behind long-range planning and preventive maintenance will go a long way toward alleviating technology woes.