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Outsourcing IT needs could be the key decision in helping your business maximise its potential ; Mark Dryden at Orchid IT explains how smart firms are using outsourced IT services in order to reduce costs, and also what you need to look for in an IT partner.My View THESE days, IT isn’t quite the same black art it used to be.
Business owners were often under the impression that IT was so complex that they would need to employ a fulltime member of staff to look after it.
This is no longer necessarily the case today.
A typical small-to-mediumsized business would historically have employed a dedicated IT person.
He or she would be responsible for looking after complex server set-ups, software updates and general day-to-day issues. Businesses would rely heavily on one person, which in itself would be a dangerous thing to do.
However, now that technology has become more mainstream and readily available, and providing that your IT systems are set up right in the first place, you can quite conceivably outsource your ongoing IT support needs without always needing costly in-house IT staff. As well as the obvious cost savings, outsourcing to an external IT partner will enable you to benefit from a wealth of skills and specialist experience. And crucially, in these difficult economic times, you won’t have to worry about what will happen if your inhouse IT employee is off sick. Outsourcing does away with any other employee-related issues such as pay rises and redundancies. There area number of things to look for in an IT provider.
Your IT provider should provide you with service level agreements and guaranteed response times.
That means you will have the peace of mind that somebody is always available to look after you in the event that something goes wrong at any time.
In addition, a good IT support partner should also provide you with excellent customer service.
This should hold both when things are going well as well as when they do go wrong! Furthermore, a key skill that many IT professionals neglected in the past is communication. That is, the ability to speak in layman’s terms, simply and plainly offering explanations to clients without baffling them with “tech speak”. Likewise, the use of simple and flexible billing methods should always be employed to allow you to budget IT costs over a given period of time.
A wide variety of companies can outsource their IT, ranging from small single sites to larger businesses that are spread over multiple sites, or have complex systems that require 24/7 support. There are still those that have little in-house IT resource or are struggling to support their existing IT infrastructure.
Sadly, in the current climate, those that need to reduce operating costs and do not want the overhead of IT experts.
Despite outsourcing being the preferred option for many businesses, it may not always be the best option.
In some cases, companies need an instant onsite response and dedicated skills. In areas such as bespoke software maintenance, for example, what often works best is a hybrid model combining both employed staff and outsourcing.
Another option that is developing at a dramatic pace is cloud computing.
This is an area of technology that is set to revolutionise the way that we run our IT. In its simplest form, cloud computing means accessing your IT services and systems through the internet.
In the future, you will simply open up a web browser and be faced with your desktop which can be accessed from almost any location through many devices, providing you have internet availability. All the business’s IT systems and data is hosted at a data centre somewhere and the need for in-house IT support will diminish still further. Be warned, however, you will need to have an excellent internet connection with a service level agreement in place and you will also need to ensure your data is held at a secure location.
If you run complex resource hungry software such as AutoCad, then the “cloud” may not work for you.
Finally, you need to consider backup and disaster recovery – how do you know your data is safe? Are your backups happening as they should be? Does your data get stored offsite as well as onsite and how quickly can your business be backup and running in the event of a server failure or disaster? Can your IT partner deliver a business continuity solution that will give you a maximum downtime of 20 to 30 minutes? If you are still using tape then you should seriously review your back-up procedures. Reviewing your IT infrastructure and the way that it is supported should form an integral part of your business strategy. Technology is about business benefits and should be away of leveraging more business for your company – make sure that your business maximises its potential.