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Types of Outsourced IT Support Services: Which Model is Best for Your Business?

Whether your company has 15 employees or 50,000, it is imperative that your technology consistently works how it’s supposed to. You need a clear vision of where technology is going in your business, and you need to get rid of roadblocks that are holding the company back from achieving its goals.

Choosing the right combination of IT services for your company is an important decision; the technology landscape changes quickly these days and staying ahead of the game is a challenge. The good news is that the results companies need from their IT function remain constant, whether your business chooses to maintain an internal department, or outsource to a third party.

Researching outsourced IT support options will likely leave you more confused than when you started with all of the different features available, so here’s a high-level look at common outsourced support models.

Time and Materials (T&M)

In the IT business, we refer to this as “break-fix” or “as-needed” services. Basically, when something comes up, or “breaks,” you call your IT provider to come “fix” the problem at their hourly rate.

Oftentimes, businesses that select this option for their ongoing IT support needs don’t end up with ideal results. The reason for this is two-fold.

First, this arrangement works entirely in the IT vendor’s favor. When they are being paid hourly each time there is a problem, there is no incentive to implement a solution that will prevent problems from happening down the line.

Second, without ongoing involvement in the ins and outs of the company’s IT infrastructure – the changes have been made to it, how everything integrates, etc. – how will they know which “fix” is going to be best to support their long-term goals? This method is akin to a doctor treating symptoms rather than a diagnosis.

Software Vendor IT Services

Many software vendors will offer limited IT support services to companies that use their software for an additional fee.

It’s often a very narrow scope of services, like help desk or remote support, and only for issues related to their application – not your entire network.

For example, if you can’t get a report to print correctly, the software vendor will help you troubleshoot the functions in its own software that might prevent the report from being generated correctly. Once it’s determined that the software is working correctly and the problem is with your computer, printer, or network – their support generally ends, leaving you frustrated and without a solution.>

These software maintenance and support contracts are important to make sure critical applications that run your business remain stable and productive, but they are generally not enough to support your entire business’s technology needs. Integrating enterprise software applications is one of the smartest things businesses can do, but when it is difficult to see where applications begin and end, it sometimes makes it hard for individual vendors to identify the location of problems.

Managed IT Services

In this IT services model, businesses contract with an IT company to take on the role of their IT department, or act as an extension of an in-house IT team.

In this arrangement, businesses pay a flat monthly fee for their IT support. This usually includes support over the phone and on-site when needed, security, backup and disaster recovery, end-user support, and many other services to make sure the network is being constantly monitored and maintained for optimum performance and security. When a problem arises with your business software or internet service provider, the IT provider will coordinate with these vendors to ensure the problem is resolved.

In this sort of arrangement, the managed IT services provider is involved with the network on a daily basis, so they’re able to see trends, increase operational efficiencies, and diagnose problems quickly. Managed IT service agreements also generally include consulting services like strategic technology planning, IT roadmaps, and long-term budgeting to set the company up for success, and to minimize surprise IT costs.

Every business is different, so the same approach doesn’t work for everyone.

Whether you insource, outsource, or create a hybrid strategy, make sure it works in your favor. You should be getting the results you need from IT to ensure technology is a tool to accomplish your business goals, rather than something that hinders your success.

As featured in the October 25th issue of The Press-Enterprise.

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