What to Look for in an IT Partner for Your Biotech Start-up

Posted by Steven Vigeant on 12/6/12 7:42 AM

Biotech ITO evaluationThe moment when your startup gets its seed funding is one of the most critical in the life of your business.  In any industry, but particularly in biotech, one of the most important decisions you make at this moment is how to manage your IT needs.  Even if you have employees with IT expertise, you’ll benefit from a consultation with an IT outsourcing provider (ITO), a company which employs experts in a range of different platforms and technologies and has experience in designing and managing IT systems.  You’ll be calling on your ITO more than you might expect in the first couple of years, here’s what to look for to find a trustworthy partner.

Onsite and Remote Support

For a startup, it’s crucial to have both remote and onsite support. A close cousin of the ITO is the Managed Service Provider (MSP) which provides remote IT system support. Some ITO’s will have this MSP function as part of their offering.  An MSP can monitor your network 24/7 from a Network Operations Center that will alert them to potential problems—often before you see any kind of malfunction.  MSPs offer monthly contracts to maintain and update anti-virus and malware programs or to put in place an automatic Backup Disaster Recovery storage system.

These are valuable services; your system should be constantly monitored and the data backed up.  But in the chaotic environment of a startup, remote support isn’t enough.  If you hire two new scientists on a Thursday, you want them working on Friday, which means partnering with an IT company that can send someone to your office or lab is a big benefit.  Every day counts.  Look for an ITO that has the remote tools of a MSP, but is also happy to send its employees out to your company when needed.  Some ITOs will even offer a regular onsite IT employee for one or more days a week, biweekly or monthly while you’re getting your business up and running.  When your business is just getting set up or in an expansion period, onsite support is invaluable.

Flexible and Available

The right ITO for a biotech startup offers flexible support and rapid response.  After the initial expansion, you may want to scale back the expense of an onsite employee.  On the other hand, a fresh influx of investment might have you ramping up the data on your system. You need your ITO to respond quickly to meet the changes your company is undergoing—sending out a support person or adding capacity to your infrastructure.

It’s also crucial that your partner be available to you for emergency support in order to protect the productivity of your company.  If your scientists are running experiments at midnight and there’s a system failure, will someone at your ITO be willing and able to fix the problem that night?  Do you have a clear contact person that you trust to get to work on the issue immediately?  Make sure you know how available your ITO will be before you make a commitment.

Biotech and Startup Savvy

The principal value an ITO offers your company is its experience—both in IT and in the biotech industry.  What equipment should you invest in?  What kind of support will your system need?  An ITO whose employees know the unique situation of the biotech startup—its heavy dependence on data, the need for strong security measures, and its tendency to grow and contract quickly—is best positioned to advise you.  An ITO that’s been in business for any length of time within an industry knows its particular challenges, has devised reliable solutions AND has seen a fair share of bad decision-making in the companies it’s worked for.  You can learn from all this experience as you set up your IT infrastructure. Find out what other companies the ITO has served and how long it has been in business. As you talk to the ITO’s representatives, listen for a depth and range of knowledge that assures you the company will be bringing significant value to the partnership.

At no time in your company’s lifecycle is IT consultation and support more important.  Wisely choosing your ITO partner will ensure the much needed continuity your biotech startup needs to be successful.

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Topics: IT Outsourcing, Biotechnology Startup, ITO