Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen major shifts in how companies handle their Information Technology.
In the past, every company had its own IT department. As the company grew, so did their IT infrastructure. Desktop computers, servers, networks – it all required financial investments, logistical support and staff to maintain it all.
Today, companies are opting to outsource their infrastructure to managed IT service providers. Many, though, still maintain their own datacenters, hardware, staff and corporate firewalls. Even with private clouds, they bear the full cost of all the equipment and expertise required.
Managed IT service providers can relieve you of some or all of that burden. But can you really trust someone else to protect your IT systems and data?
Just how manageable is IT?
Managed services is the practice of outsourcing your IT configuration, maintenance and execution. The breadth of services you choose depends on your company’s situation. Whether your infrastructure is physical or virtual, on or off premises, or the skill level of your IT staff all affect the level of service you require.
With most service providers, customers can off load only those functions they prefer not to handle themselves. You can mix and match individual services a la carte, such as hardware procurement, network security or application and database management.
Some companies take this all the way. They contract a third party to provide and manage each and every one of their IT needs, including the staff. The services partner performs most IT functions remotely. This includes everything from hardware and software licensing to desktop and user management. This gives you, the customer, a complete, virtual IT department.
Looking on the bright side
Managed services have come a long way, but your own IT needs are unique. You still have to weigh the pros and cons of letting someone else take even partial control.
First let’s look at the advantages of outsourcing to a managed services provider.
- Cost savings. Datacenters, servers and networking are capitol investments. With managed services, you lease only the virtual resources you need. And you get technical experts, without the cost of a full IT staff.
- High availability. The provider keeps your solution running 24/7, and you get service-level guarantees to ensure prompt action in emergency situations.
- Expertise. The provider maintains its team’s certifications – so you don’t have to keep retraining your staff.
- Focusing on your core business. You focus less on IT and more on growing your business and revenue.
Is there a dark side?
Of course, without proper execution, outsourcing IT can have drawbacks, too.
- Quality of service. It isn’t your own staff, so if they don’t do a quality job, you’d better have an expert account manager.
- Dedication. They may be technical experts, but they may not always be as knowledgeable or dedicated as your own staff might be.
- Elusive cost savings. Low price doesn’t always mean savings. Watch out for hidden “extra” costs. If quality issues affect your customers, your cost savings can disappear.
- Loss of control. Outsourcing means trusting someone else. If your provider doesn’t earn your trust, you’ll end up more stressed than before.
You can avoid these pitfalls by selecting your IT services partners with care. Check their track record and references – not just the bottom line of their proposal.
If you’re reconsidering, do your homework
For most companies, IT is a necessity, not a specialty. An in-depth assessment is the best way to determine if outsourcing some – or all – of your IT makes sense for you.
Outsourcing can have considerable advantages. Cost savings is an obvious advantage, but calculating ROI is more than comparing staff and facilities costs with their virtual counterparts. Removing technology headaches lets you focus resources on building your core business. And that can translate to increased revenue.
Insisting on an expert provider with a proven track record can help you avoid potential pitfalls. With the right provider, you really can trust your IT infrastructure to someone else.