Clarinets have a beautiful sound and range, but when you listen to a clarinet play by itself for three hours, you realize that there’s a reason why they’re usually just one part of an entire orchestra. Your business may find itself in a similar situation with your IT provider. Unless you have the most basic of IT needs, using a one-person operation won’t give you the harmony your company needs. Today, we’ll discuss what to look out for in small business IT and why you may want to explore other options altogether.
The “Tech Wiz”
If you need help with electronics, the rule a lot of people use is to find the youngest person in the room to help you. That may work well with personal cellphones or laptops, but when it comes to your business, you need to be more judicious.
This is especially true because most people who have graduated from high school within the past twenty years will have computer skills. But having learned a few tricks in 10th-grade computer lab does not an IT professional make. Using or hiring someone based on being young also has another drawback: business IT needs are different from “pop tech.” Even someone qualified enough to work as an Apple Genius may not know their way around networking, servers or cybersecurity.
“I Know a Guy”
In a similar vein to the last section, it seems like everyone knows someone who knows everything about technology. When taking recommendations from a trusted friend or colleague for your company’s IT needs, make sure the person has actual qualifications. Remember that everyone’s mother is impressed when the WIFI is miraculously fixed, even though they just unplugged it and plugged it back in again. Also, the reason for an enthusiastic recommendation might have ulterior motives — such as getting an unemployed brother-in-law off his back.
This is perhaps the most obvious solution to having something better than a one-person operation, and for good reason. For starters, you’re working with a team that is dedicated to your company’s IT needs and are available if any problems come up (and they will). Unfortunately, this option comes with its own downsides.
For instance, now you have to worry about new personnel and management responsibilities. In addition, there’s very little flexibility if you’re trying to keep your costs at a minimum. For instance, what If your needs are heavy at times and then slow at others? You can’t keep hiring then laying off employees — you have to keep a fully-staffed department at all times, whether or not that makes financial sense.
Some people will try anything when their computer isn’t working, and searching for help online is usually a desperate act. The problem is that anyone can say they can repair a computer, install WIFI, or connect your network. But the truth is that you won’t know for sure until you hire them. By then it may be too late!
I’m not saying that there are no well-trained computer experts who advertise their services online. I’m just saying that you need to be careful when you’re hiring someone who can make or break your business IT on the same day you need help. Do your research. Use your best judgment. And, most of all, when you find a good person who does a great job, make sure to keep their contact info!
The Online Computer Repair School Grad
This may be your most dangerous choice. Not only will a recent grad have a head full of non-relevant information and little to no experience, but they will be super eager to show you everything they’ve just learned. Everyone has to start somewhere, but it takes time to get to know the endless issues, set-ups, and complications that small businesses face every day. Give a new grad a chance to learn if you can pair them with a mentor, but be careful not to let them loose too early.
Managed Service Providers give you an option that ends up being the best of both worlds: the professionalism of a dedicated IT department with the freedom that comes from hiring a single contractor. You hire the company, not individuals, so there are no HR issues to worry about. MSPs typically offer comprehensive Service Agreements where, once everything is set up, you pay a monthly fee, (usually less than the cost of one full-time IT person), and they’ll come in on an as-needed basis to resolve any issues that may arise. Plus, they’ll often monitor your site around the clock. That’s something most small to medium businesses cannot afford.
Yet another benefit is understanding that MSPs are business technology experts and focus on educating themselves on the latest, ever-changing technology landscape. When you have an MSP in place, you can take IT off your plate and focus on your area of expertise, and they can focus on theirs. In that way, you create a partnership where everyone is focused on your company’s success.
A one-man band may be fine for a coffeeshop concert, but it won’t sell out stadiums. If you truly want your business to grow, using an MSP can take you from the local underground to an international superstar!