For many entrepreneurs, the thought of hiring IT support is daunting. It can be difficult to judge how qualified a candidate is when you're not well versed in the technology yourself. Additionally, hiring IT technicians that work full time for your company is expensive, which is why many small business owners outsource IT support entirely.
There are different approaches you can take to ensure your business's technical needs are met without building out an in-house department. The path you choose should be determined by the type of IT expertise you require, how integral technology is to your overall business plan and how large your business is.
Product-specific and one-off IT support
If you run a small business with limited staff, you may not need a full-service IT department. The rise of SaaS (software as a service) products has made it affordable for SMBs to get professional-grade software, and many upgraded SaaS subscriptions include technical support. Likewise, most leased hardware includes a service plan. For many SMBs, this level of support is adequate, and it's significantly less expensive than hiring a full-service remote IT support company. [Read related story on our sister site, Tom's IT Pro: Which IT Services Are Right for Your Business]
There are also one-off IT support services, which can be useful for microbusinesses and self-employed people who only need technical advice occasionally. Examples of these types of services include come-to-you companies like Geek Squad as well as brick and mortar destinations like the genius bar in Mac stores.
However, services like these are intended for general technical support. If you have questions regarding a specific business software product or want help with regular weekly tasks, these services aren't the best fit for you. On the flip side, if one day your laptop doesn't turn on, or you get a virus and don't know what to do, they can probably help.
This type of IT support style, where you combine SaaS tech support and leased hardware maintenance plans with occasional one-off services, is best for people who are comfortable with the technology they use on a regular basis.
If you frequently have questions about doing basic tasks in Microsoft Excel, running updates, using administrator controls, backing up files and maintaining the systems you use, you will benefit from more comprehensive support.
Full-service remote IT support + IT project management
As your business grows and the diversity of the software products your team uses increases, full-service remote IT support may become necessary. Investing in a full-service IT solution allows SMBs to consolidate all tech support in one place, rather than having a different contact person or support number for every piece of software and hardware. [Read related story on our sister site, Tom's IT Pro: 5 Best Managed IT Service Providers]
Good remote IT support solutions will match you with tech pros who are well versed in the products your business uses, which means they'll be able to troubleshoot problems as they arise. Additionally, they'll implement a general management plan for rolling out updates, backing up information, managing permissions and maintaining business-level security. Most remote IT services will also take over your MDM needs and streamline the onboarding process for new employees, which is a huge timesaver for companies on a hiring spree.
In addition to handling day-to-day problems and maintenance, many IT support services offer IT project management services, usually for an additional fee. While it can be quite expensive to hire a consultant to manage your IT projects, it can save a huge amount of time and energy in the long run. Many SMBs fail to get the most out of the products they purchase because of poor implementation processes.
Mistakes like giving too many people the ability to edit databases, failing to establish a standardized nomenclature or file structure and general lack of accountability can result in serious issues in the long term. A system is only as good as its data, and when data starts out compromised, even the best system becomes worthless. Employing an outside IT project manager takes the guesswork out of software implementation and ensures that every product you use is implemented and used correctly.
There are several alternatives to building out an in-house IT department, and thanks to remote desktop capabilities and smarter AI chatbots, it's never been easier to receive remote tech support.
Your best bet is to start small, with just the support you need, and gradually scale up over time. If you eventually decide to hire in-house IT techs, programmers, designers, or other tech pros, and you have no idea where to begin, hiring a consultant may be prudent.