When should a Small Business Outsource IT?

by Josh Biggs in Business on 25th August 2019

Many people associate the concept of outsourcing business services with large enterprises. But in fact, lots of smaller businesses do so too. They routinely outsource their accounting and legal requirements, for example, because they don’t have the expertise to do these things themselves.

Information technology is another area in which smaller companies may be able to get a better service and improved value by outsourcing. So, what do you need to think about when deciding if outsourcing IT is the right choice for your business?


Staff Needs

In most smaller companies, there are one or perhaps two people with the expertise to look after IT systems. As the business grows and systems become more complex, however, this may become unmanageable as they may lack expertise in some areas and there’s always the problem of what happens when they go on holiday or leave altogether. In addition, smaller concerns may not be able to afford to pay the market rate necessary to attract experienced IT staff.

Recruiting and training IT staff is a constant problem for small businesses. Even once you have someone trained to understand your systems, they may well want to move on in search of a higher salary or a more fulfilling role. This is one of the key challenges that can be alleviated by outsourcing your IT support to a specialist. They will take care of ensuring that the right staff are available and keep their expertise up to date so that you don’t have to worry about it.


Support Models

Businesses commonly outsource areas such as help desk operations, security, network maintenance and disaster recovery which require specialist skills. Some take the position of calling for help only when something goes wrong, but this can prove costly and means that you may be left waiting to get help with a problem that is severely affecting your business.

A better solution is to look at a managed services provider which will contract to look after your needs in exchange for a monthly fee. It’s important to select an outsourcing provider carefully. You are looking not only for expertise in technology, but also an understanding of businesses that are similar to yours.


Security and Compliance

Before you hire a service provider to handle security tasks or look after systems with sensitive data, you need to conduct a thorough risk assessment. It’s vital to ensure that they take all of the necessary steps to keep your data safe – remember that you are still responsible under GDPR even if you outsource the processing to someone else.

Your business may be subject to other regulatory requirements, in the healthcare sector for example, and it’s vital to choose an IT support supplier that is aware of these and will help you stay compliant with them.

It is, of course, essential that your systems are protected from the many cyber threats that exist too. Smaller businesses can often be an attractive target for criminals who see them as not having the resources to devote to keeping their systems secure. By outsourcing, you have access to a higher level of security expertise, but remember that the ultimate responsibility remains yours.


Service Levels

Outsourcing contracts are subject to service level agreements. These set out what level of support you will get, together with the timescales for fixing problems. It’s always important to understand what you are signing up to. If possible, see if you can talk to other customers to determine how happy they are with the service. Look too at how many other clients they have; are they at risk of being overstretched?

Of course, pricing is important here too. You’re looking for efficiency in outsourcing but that doesn’t mean that you should cut corners. If your business relies heavily upon IT, then going for the cheapest solution may prove to be a false economy. Look at how the charges are levied too – per user or per device for example – and think about how this will affect you as your business grows and your needs expand.

The key advantage of outsourcing (and this applies to any service, not just IT), is that it allows you to concentrate on your core business. You can do what you do best while someone else takes care of the complicated technical activities. Ultimately, that helps you to serve your customers better and therefore become more profitable. However, you can only do this if you have the right service provider that is in tune with your needs, so it pays to take your time to choose the supplier carefully.

Categories: Business