Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Kinds of Businesses Should Consider IT Support?

English: Cloud Computing Image
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fifteen years ago, IT support generally meant giving a staff member the responsibility to switch a PC off and on again - or make a call to an external expert every time a monitor lost power! But today, the majority of businesses are harnessing the power of technology to gain - and maintain - competitive advantage. From stock control systems through to CRM databases, websites and digital assets, paperless offices and cloud computing - the world is now heavily technological and businesses must adapt to keep up. 

Should you consider IT support?

Most businesses will require IT support of some description, unless they are very small in size and are staffed with competent technical specialists who are knowledgeable in the office and operational systems used! In all other circumstances, support will generally be necessary.

Without a support function in place of any kind, the only real option when difficulties occur is to bring in external help at the going rate. This can introduce business delays which impact the operation and also be highly expensive. However, for ongoing maintenance and support, there are two broad options to consider. The first is to have an in-house IT support team and the second is to outsource the work on a retained basis. Each approach has its pros and cons and the right approach will depend on the nature of the business, its objectives, use of technology and existing resources. Here are some points to consider.

The case for external support

Agencies provide access to the latest knowledge and expertise, an agreed turnaround time via a retained model or other contract and access to support when required by the customer. There is no permanent overhead or obligation on the business' part, although the hourly rate can be more expensive for the IT support Cheshire areas have to reflect the level of expertise that is being bought in. Hybrid approaches can work, whereby basic support is provided by an in-house generalist and specialist skill sets are built in for implementations and strategic developments, where IT is being used to enhance competitive advantage or deliver a high-level business objective. Again, in such instances the flexible service of an outsourced provider can be useful - along with their ability to work offsite via servers and cloud technology. The provision of expert advice is also another benefit of this model.

The case for in-house support

An in-house team are always on hand to take work requests and to deliver fixes quickly. They will be naturally integrated in the business and be able to work closely with the customer, without having other clients to manage and schedule. Their focus will be entirely on the business at hand and they will be able to suggest improvements and enhancements to the existing IT capability and take a strategic role in business planning. Their costs will be cheaper for internal re-charge and the service delivery managed to business expectations. However, the cost of having a full-time team servicing IT support can be too expensive for most businesses to manage and such teams can lack specialist and up to date knowledge.

Sophie Jamieson is a seasoned IT professional with experience of consulting in the SME market. She regularly advises small businesses on IT support in Cheshire and beyond, to support their operations and achieve greater gains.

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