If you have ever bought something online, you understand that it’s not always necessary to work with a local business to get the level of service you want. This is especially true for information technology (IT), in which managed service providers (MSPs) can remotely monitor and maintain your IT infrastructure without ever setting foot in your office.
In the same way that online merchants have not totally replaced local retailers, however, there is still a value to working with a local IT provider. Depending on the type of business you run, and your plans for the future, a remote MSP may create more hassles than it solves.
Before you sign a contract with any IT service provider, think about your businesses' relationship with technology. What would be the consequences of a catastrophic failure? What kind of technology expertise do you have within the company? Finally, how do you budget for IT? Depending on the answers to these questions, a local support provider could be the right choice for you, or an unnecessary limitation.
Plans for Expansion
The IT needs of your company can change overnight. A large new contract, the opening of an additional location or a sudden R&D breakthrough may require you to completely redo your IT infrastructure. When you need to add technology to your business and do it in a cost-effective and efficient way, you will want to work with a company that can provide on-site support. Not only does this ensure that all the work is done correctly, it spares you from having to pull employees away from their jobs so that they can hook up monitors and read through instruction manuals.
Reliance on In-House Technology
If your business is reliant on in-house servers or applications, you will want to be able to get them serviced by a trained engineer as soon as possible. There are limits to the capabilities of remote support, and there may be no way for an MSP to provide you with the help you most need. If there are parts of your IT infrastructure that you can't do business without, make sure that you have a local partner who is prepared to get you back up and running fast.
Minimal IT Needs
There are many small business whose daily operation simply does not require a lot of technology. With a few computers and a wireless router they have all the networking and processing power they need. For small businesses like these, an MSP is a smart choice. They can provide system updates, IT security and data backup solutions that are scaled to the size and needs of the business. Plus, since you automatically have more choices when you don't have to look locally, you can comparison-shop and pick the MSP that quotes you the best price.
A Fixed IT Budget
IT is just one of the expenses in your budget. If you cannot afford to spend more on IT without sacrificing some other aspect of your operation, the fixed price model offered by many MSPs might be the ideal choice. You pay a set monthly amount in exchange for a defined level of service. You won't pay more than this unless you have unexpected needs. If your small business needs to keep IT costs in check, find an MSP that offers a fixed monthly price.
One of the best things you can do for your small business is to find the right IT service provider, regardless of whether it is locally based or an MSP. To learn more about evaluating your options and avoiding common mistakes, read our white paper “The Small Business Guide to IT Outsourcing.”