Business technology is full of constant changes and the daily development of new threats, this means computer networks of all sizes require ongoing maintenance from highly-trained consultants to keep the barrage of viruses, spam, spyware, slowness, user errors and data loss at bay. It is not always feasible however for a small to medium business to hire a full time IT support person. There are three options for businesses that can’t yet justify hiring an IT manager:
Option 1: Ignore IT and do nothing.
While this isn’t the most intelligent thing to do, we run across it almost every day: businesses that ignore the care and maintenance of their computer network until it stops working. They are then forced to call in an expert to diagnose then repair or replace whatever caused the problem.
This all too common, reactionary model of network and computer support is like ignoring your car’s need for oil and filter changes until it starts smoking. An approach like this is a surefire way to downtime, data loss and excessive IT related expenses, not to mention the “soft costs” such as disruptions in staff productivity, lost sales, delayed production, and customer service issues. Like your car, even though it appears to be working fine, there are many tasks that must occur on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to keep your system running and secure. Just a few of these include:
- Spyware detection and removal
- Server and desktop optimization
- Employee policy creation and monitoring
- Network backups and disaster-recovery planning
- Spam filtering
- Security patches and updates
- Virus scans and updates
- Intrusion detection, prevention, and mitigation
If your organization runs any specialized customer relationship management, production or practice management software, or if you have multiple locations, a wireless network, highly sensitive data (any medical or financial organizations?), or other specialized needs, the list only gets longer. Keep in mind, your voice and data network is just like your car our house. They all need regular maintenance.
Along with your phone system, your computer network and the data it holds are one of the most important tools in your office. When they become unavailable, all work comes to a grinding halt. Disappointedly, most business owners are under the impression that regular computer support is not necessary, only calling in an experienced IT consultant when something inevitably goes wrong, adding unnecessary, excessive computer network expenses to the problem.
Option 2: Take care of it yourself.
Better than ignoring your computer network, this option still puts your network at risk. Typically, the most technically-knowledgeable person is made the makeshift IT manager, only bringing a qualified IT consultant in when you run into a crisis which you can’t solve on your own.
The issue is that you end up pulling these people away from their real job, the one you hired them to do. Along with that, unless they keep up to date on the latest happenings in IT support, management and security, they won’t have the skills and time needed to maintain and secure your network, in some cases actually making the problems worse. Inevitably, the result is an ill-maintained and unstable network, leading to excessive downtime and over spending.
One other common variation of this is to get your neighbor’s kid or brother-in-law to give you computer support part-time. There are two major drawbacks to this solution: One, they may not be qualified to handle the job- they can make things worse. They might be able to fix the short-term problem, but may never find the root cause of the problem. Two, they probably will not be available when you need them. If your network or server goes down at 9:00 AM, they may not be able to look at it until later that evening or later, causing you to lose a full day or more of productivity.
The are, as mentioned earlier, reactive support solutions. As is life and business, it is far less expensive to prevent problems than to clean up after them.
Option 3: Outsource your IT support to a competent and professional consultant.
Outsourcing is going to be your business’ best option for computer support. With the number of computer repair companies popping up all over the country, it can be very difficult for a business owner to know which consulting firm to work with. Today there are basically five types of IT support companies.
- Vendor support
- Computer support hotline services
- Part-time techs just getting started
- Major-player IT support companies
- Independently owned computer consulting firms
Next time, we will discuss the five types of IT support companies, but keep in mind the organization you choose to support your computer network should be large enough to provide backup support and fast response times, and small enough to provide personal service.