The IT support function comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. From full-time employees to IT consultants to managed service providers, it's hard to tell if you are paying too much for what you are getting. To fully answer the question about whether or not you are spending too much, you need to know exactly what you are getting.
What kind of IT support solution do you currently have?
Each company chooses to manage its technology in a way that makes sense based on industry, business model, size, etc. Technology is moving at an exponential rate.
Rather than taking a passive stance to IT strategy --
- "We've always used this IT guy, and he's just fine."
- "We've always hired internally for our IT support."
Get curious and ask questions --
- “Are we paying too much for what we are getting?”
- “Do we have the right IT support solution or service for our business?”
- “Is there a better way to be managing our business IT?”
When you are here in a place of curiosity, you can begin to ask the question of whether you are paying too much for what you are getting. First, take a look at how your technology is currently being managed, then take a look at what features are important to you.
Employee vs Consultant vs Managed Service Provider
Let’s look at IT support function from a holistic view and include proactive maintenance, troubleshooting, planning, and even special IT projects.
Using internal IT support technicians
Imagine a 100-person law firm. They have three full-time IT staff members. A senior IT systems administrator and two junior IT support technicians. They occasionally bring in technology consultants for special projects as well as IT strategy around security and technological alignment.
They feel that they are paying too much for IT support in terms of what they are getting. Sure, they are getting a completely tailored solution, and they are getting high touch IT troubleshooting. Nonetheless, they are paying the salaries of three full-time staff members, including vacations, and other benefits.
Occasionally they bring in IT consulting services when they are unable to do the work. This is probably the most expensive way for a 100-person law firm to manage their IT. And this is still common, but since the innovation of the MSP in the early 2000s, the internal IT staff for small businesses has slowly been phasing out.
Using an IT consultant
Let's say the law firm’s Senior IT Systems Administrator quits, so they choose to outsource the IT function to a consultant, who is highly skilled at information technology management. Though the firm intended to keep the two junior IT support technicians, both get jobs at Google. But no worries, the IT consultant is a highly resourceful individual who spun up a help desk offering by hiring a few junior IT staff members of his own and outsourced the rest of the first-line troubleshooting to India.
In this situation, an IT consultant is taking care of the entire IT support services function. All IT strategy, security, maintenance, and help desk support is being handled through his service to the law firm. The cost of this is less than having an internal IT staff.
"Am I paying too much for IT support?” may not be the dominant question anymore, rather “Am I getting enough?”
Consider the hidden costs of using an IT consultant.
First, consider how much the IT consultant had to bend and restructure to take you on as a client. This is common when an IT consultant lands a new account and needs to make sure he has the bandwidth. Not only does the consultant usually have other pre-existing clients, but in order to scale the consultant is training junior staff, managing other accounts, and learning how to outsource critical functions like help desk overflow.
Secondly, be wary of when an IT consultant insists on outsourcing the help desk function. You need to vet 3rd party support vendors to be sure that they meet proper security standards, can provide excellent support, and have a good understanding of your business. Essentially, you are managing two vendors at this point, unless you give full control to the consultant who is then giving who knows how much control to a 3rd party.
Using a managed IT service provider
Managed service providers (MPS) typically cost less than in-house IT staff and may vary in comparison depending on how many IT consultants you utilize. The best managed service providers don’t outsource a single part of their core service offerings, especially the help desk. Though this might seem more expensive on a contract basis, it heavily reduces the risk of a crack in the security policies and procedures of a 3rd party service that your MSP might utilize.
If you feel you are paying too much for an MSP for the services you are getting, then you most likely paying for features that misalign with your business model. Perhaps you are paying extra for a highly customized solution when your IT needs are very similar to other businesses of your size and industry. Having your business technology built from the ground up by someone without a proven blueprint to work from will only drive costs upward.
Only a managed service provider who has been around for years and has experience in your particular industry will be able to forward on the cost savings from implementing policies and processes that leverage the lessons from previous experiences in those industries. Be careful of the high cost of unique solutions when you can hire an IT provider who has already built and manages IT infrastructure that looks a lot like the infrastructure you require.
Are you paying too much for certain IT support features?
Let's now focus exclusively on the outsourced IT services offerings and look at features. This will help you assess the value you are getting from the crucial parts of the service you are getting and what I call the nice-to-have features.
Must-have IT support features reduce risk
The area that should be non-negotiable for you in an IT solution is anything that puts your company at risk. Consider and make sure you have these things:
- The ability to mitigate cyberattacks through non-human policy
- The ability to protect your data and your customers’ data
- The ability to recover lost data through disaster preparedness & backups
- The ability to reach a computer support engineer when you have a computer problem
- Excellent password security such as encrypted password managers, limited access to 3rd party services, and multi-factor authentication for any sensitive IT
Nice-to-have IT support features reduce costs and increase profits
Next, you should look at anything that reduces the overall costs of IT and improves the profits of your company by increasing the productivity of your labor force.
- The ability to benchmark - draw on current trends and experience from your IT support technicians working with other peer companies in your industry
- The ability to reach support when you need it thereby maximizing billable hours and employee productivity
- Minor problems to be resolved in 1 hour
- Major problems to be resolved in 1-2 days - We're talking about nasty server outages, laptops falling into The San Francisco Bay, major data recovery, and other issues that require extensive time and energy from your support technicians
- Options to reduce lump sum spending on IT, thereby improving cash flow for your business
- Continual improvement on recurring support related issues aka root cause analysis programs, ultimately driving down issues
Discredit the IT support features you don't need nor use
Perhaps you are paying for features you don't even use. This can certainly make it feel like you are paying too much for IT support services. These might include things like:
- 24/7 IT support when you don't even work outside of business hours
- Grossly over-sized backup plans
- Oversized pricing packages relating to seat count, server count, or device count
- Onsite retainers that get exhausted each month whether you use them or not
The added price tag that your IT support company is issuing to you for any feature that does not either reduce your risk, reduce your cost of doing business, or increase your ability to earn should be discredited and if possible removed. If you are in negotiations for a contract or renewal, they are certainly worth the time and effort to get a price concession.
Finally, if you still feel you are paying too much for IT support services, then you should first try to resolve the situation with your current IT support provider. Know exactly what you are paying for and ask about other pricing models to keep you informed and your vendor accountable. They may even let you revise an old contract to something that makes a lot more sense to you. And if you are in the market for selecting a new IT provider, Endsight is always happy to have a detailed conversation with you, and offer you a reasonable quote.