My work involves business development for an outsourced technology services provider so I frequently speak to small business owners and managers about their technology support needs. Many of them run companies that are highly dependent on technology but haven’t grown to the size and revenue needed to justify an in-house expert.
Recently I spoke with the owner of a 50-employee manufacturing company. He uses an outside vendor to monitor his network and alert him when there is a problem. However, when something breaks he fixes it himself and considers this “cost effective”. This approach to technology reminds me of a client who for many years only used us for new projects and specialized work, and preferred to manage the majority of the network herself. As a professional she enjoyed the challenge of solving IT issues because it offered her a change of pace from other work. At every project meeting we would discuss options to lighten her load by relieving her of the technologies duties and for a long time she resisted. But as the business grew, she realized that too much of her valuable time involved technology support. Several years ago we began a fully-managed relationship with her company and she has never looked back as she reaps the value of this approach.
Is your business ready for Technology Management services?
- What would happen if everyone’s computers were down for an hour? A day?
- Do you have in-house staff (either designated to IT or not) that can immediately apply critical software patches, quickly handle desktop issues and repair a server outage ASAP at 9pm on a Sunday?
- Does anyone on the staff have the ability to create security policies and a disaster recovery protocol?
- Is the network designed for maximum efficiency with all devices under warranty or is it a patchwork that includes several obsolete components?
Using a technology service provider allows small businesses to take advantage of experienced IT professionals. Instead of hours of research and hard lessons from failures, these professionals draw from experience and a vast network of resources to perform quickly and effectively. They have the tools to access networks remotely and respond to IT issues immediately, which saves time and money.
Ease security concerns
The news is full of cybersecurity dangers and the damage that breaches can cause. Although the Equifaxes of the business world get most of the press, small businesses are under constant threat with surveys showing that in the past year hackers have breached half of all small businesses in the US.
The proper way to protect today’s business is to apply security patches as soon as they are issued. All businesses must stay on top of patches by knowing every software application used by every employee. There needs to be a process to continually check for software updates for each of the applications and apply new updates shortly after they are released (often monthly). In addition every computer on the network that runs the application has to be updated.
The reason this exhaustive approach is required is because every application represents a potential access point for attackers. If one application has a vulnerability, it becomes an entry point to your entire network.
A mature technology service provider has the tools to constantly track all software updates. They immediately and quietly update all of the software at a time of day when potential computer disruption will least affect operations. And nobody at the office has to spend valuable work time on this issue.
Choose a true business partner
Your choices for support are endless, from a guy you know at the gym to a national vendor. In between you have the spectrum from lite monitoring to full management packages. There are pros and cons to each approach. The single tech choice may be your least expensive but sacrifices availability and provides only a limited range of knowledge. The small support company may also be inexpensive but they may not have the level of tools needed to automate important processes. The bigger more established local technology support companies offer the best of everything and provide a better long-term value.
One of best tests of the right vendor is how easy they are to reach. Does a phone call always go to voicemail? When you call with an issue does the tech have any knowledge of your business and can they help you immediately? Or, if you are transferred multiple times within a call, do you have to re-explain each time?
The best option for a small business is to look for an outsourced provider that approaches service delivery as only a piece of a broader partnership engagement with the top level of the firm. The right partner will push your company to fully use the technology investments, provide tools that lower costs and engage in technology planning and budgeting to set the stage to grow and prosper.