Retaining IT professionals is extremely hard when the tech industry has the highest turnover rate among any other industry. So, if you lost your IT guy, you are most certainly not alone. This might be the 2nd or 3rd time this has happened to you. If so, now might be the time to make a business policy change. You might even want to outsource the IT function altogether. Consider answering the following questions around trust, documentation, and hiring options for the business operational function of Information Technology.
The scariest thing that could happen with an IT professional leaving is a lot of intellectual property leaving with them. Put all cybersecurity aside; this is the single greatest security fail point.
To know the level of risk your computer network is in immediately, you need to ask yourself this simple question:
Do I trust my departed/departing IT person? If you trust the IT professional and they have done an excellent job with documentation, you are in great shape and have little cause for alarm. But anything less than this should make you at least a little concerned.
Do I trust my IT person?
If the answer is "NO", you should immediately open conversations with IT vendors. Even if you choose to hire an internal staff member again, you need some guidance as to handle a situation like this, and IT vendors like Managed Service Providers or IT Consultants should be able to offer some of that 3rd party guidance. The key at this time is to have a lot of conversations and figure out how to handle this.
If you engage an IT vendor, make sure that they can have a business-level discussion with you. About business technology and potential risks and countermeasures to ensuring that your business technology is intact and not vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. They should also help you understand wasteful IT spend on break/fix, what IT infrastructure is best given your business model, and provide you a positive return on the investment of IT at various price points.
If you have reason to believe that your old IT guy has stolen passwords, hard drive backups, or created a back-door access into your network environment for later malicious hacking, you can have the person charged for theft. Look at Terry Childs, who attempted to make himself an indispensable employee of the City and County of San Francisco (Forbes story & legal case), he was found guilty. Talk to your lawyer if you have reason to believe that this is happening or has happened to you.
This route is never fun and usually expensive. So, if you can work it out with the current IT employee or consultant before suing, you should.
Do I have adequate documentation?
Every IT network should be documented on paper (or computer files). You should have a safe and secure place with configurations, usually in a piece of software or in a secure file on your securely encrypted server.
You will want two types of documentation that will come in handy when picking up where the previous IT guy left off, configurations & issues history.
Your configurations are the keys to your information technology. The first thing you will want to do after your IT person leaves is disable his access to your IT network.
Configurations are where you will find login credentials, licensing keys, technology access, encryptions, network diagrams, software lists, inventory of equipment, etc. These are crucial for understanding your environment and though whoever takes over the management of your network will create their own. This initial documentation will save time, energy, and uncover strange things in the environment, such as back-doors, coding or software that allows re-entry into your company network after someone is fired or quits.Your configurations are the keys to your information technology. The first thing you will want to do after your IT person leaves is disable his access to your IT network.
Issues history refers to any current, known, or resolved issues in your IT environment, hopefully dating back to the time you got your network environment set up. These are any break/fix jobs, IT projects that have taken place, installs, and anything else that would happen on an IT support desk.
Both should be in a contingency plan. A contingency plan is a document or process created by your IT person/vendor or a 3rd party consultant that will help you make sure that if anything should happen to your IT guy, you know what to do and where to find things. You may not formally call it a contingency plan, but hopefully, you have a written (or typed up) plan on what to do should you lose your IT guy.
If you don't have any of the above documentation, the new vendor or IT guy may have to start from scratch. At the very least, you have someone who has some administrative IT access to your network.
Moving forward, your technology needs solid information technology documentation.
Who do hire next?
Next, you will need to figure out if you want to hire an internal IT person, IT consultant, small MSP, or large MSP. Here are some things to consider for each --
Considerations when hiring an IT employee
Whether you hire a part-time IT person who has little experience, a young sharp full-time professional with a couple of certifications under his belt, or a seasoned professional who has been in the industry since the dot com bust, you are going to want to supplement that individual with some redundancy from an IT consultant or IT vendor.
Putting all the weight of your IT function (essentially the internal communication, trade secrets, and intellectual property) on the shoulders of a single person is extremely risky. We always recommend that if you have an internal IT staff member, to make sure that you have an IT vendor who can stay current, benchmark against best practices, and serves other clients in your industry. This ensures that documentation is in place and accurate. If you are planning on re-hiring in-house, read this article about how to hire an IT professional.
Considerations in hiring an IT consultant
This can be a fantastic route for small companies in the 1-15 employee range, looking to get some quick fixes on an as-needed basis. However, we are reluctant to recommend ongoing monthly IT management support from individual IT consultants alone. Here is why --
If they do all the troubleshooting work, the response time to getting an issue addressed is usually slow. Most IT consultants will select 2-3 VIPs in your user base to be quick to respond to and will treat the others with a "will return your call by the next business day" sort of time frame. This is not good if a handful of your user base is having issues at the same time.
Also, we know an IT consultant who will mostly support businesses that are 1-15 computer users but will mobilize a team of IT professionals if he lands an unlimited support agreement with a company with 100 people. He doesn't care where he gets the IT people if he has the contract first. This is extremely risky. You might trust your IT consultant, but you may not trust the IT professionals that he just quickly hired in a moment's notice to serve your mid-sized business and handle your passwords.
Considerations in hiring an MSP
IT consultants were cutting edge three decades ago. Managed service providers (MSP) were cutting edge two decades ago. In short, a managed service provider is an IT services company that manages the IT infrastructure and IT processes for clients.
Every year, more small to midsized businesses choose to work with MSPs over the traditional ways of managing their IT. Also known as managed IT providers, MSPs have become the gold standard.
Companies love the MSP option because of people redundancy. MSPs have several IT professionals managing any given customer's IT network. When an IT person quits, it doesn't affect the client's network that much. All documentation, process, and usually trust are still present after the IT guy leaves
Not all MSPs are the same. The easiest way to tell the difference between a robust MSP versus a hodgepodge MSP made up of a small group of IT consultants is the number of local employees.
An MSP that has 40 or more computer engineers in your local geography, such as the Bay Area or Napa Valley, is worth looking at. These companies have many engineers with IT degrees and IT certifications across a wide range of general skills and many with specialties.
These larger companies have built-in benchmarking of metrics in their support. They have teams that can support your network (Technical Account Manager, Help Desk Account Specialist, Help Desk Team that knows your technology intimately, and an Executive Sponsor for higher-level business discussions). The Bay Area has only a small handful of these firms, and if you want, we are happy to provide you a shortlist.
Giant Managed Service Providers tend to be a pearl necklace of smaller managed service providers. They have gobbled up small MSPs and are constantly going through a painful standardization process trying to wrangle these small IT shops into a cohesive unit. These, in our opinion, should be looked at as small MSPs because of how they tend to operate. And when one pearl in the necklace snaps, the whole company suffers, like it did for this global MSP.
The Bay Area alone has thousands of MSPs that fit this demographic. They are hungry for new business and will take any job no matter how big or small. Usually, they are still trying to prove concept as a large handful of them have seed money because they are conservative startups hoping to get acquired by a national/global MSP.
These are made up of 1-2 senior consultants, usually the President and Vice President of the company, and many junior consultants. They usually price lower to get the bid but will make sure to get their profit by other means. They must stay in business.
If you go this route, make sure to ask if they outsource their IT support help desk or any other critical functions. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a five-year contract with an IT consultant who calls himself MSP but doesn't have any employees because he outsources nearly his whole business. Make sure to know why they are so much cheaper than a robust MSP option. You should have a list of questions that you can ask to help you select the right IT vendor.
Learn your options and make a good choice
The silver-lining in losing an IT guy. You, now, get to choose the next for you and your company in solidifying an IT environment that helps your people thrive.
Whatever option you choose, we highly recommend that while in this transition period, you learn as much as you can about your options. Speaking with IT vendors is the fastest way to get your questions answered, but make sure that you spread your risk by engaging more than one IT vendor and seek to understand your options.
A good IT vendor will help you understand the pros and cons of vendor options. If you would like to have a conversation with us, we are happy to provide a free IT assessment to help you find the best option for you, whether it is Endsight or a better fit elsewhere.