What’s The Best IT Solution for Your Small Business?
Just like big companies, small businesses rely upon technology to run efficiently and be successful. Software programs for accounting, operations, scheduling, email and intra-company communications are instrumental in the operational and financial health of a small business. However, unlike larger companies, small businesses generally cannot afford to employ a full-time IT Director or team to set up and manage a small business network and technology needs. There are a handful of possible IT solutions for small business that can be considered, although most come with some inherent risks.
The interesting thing about small business IT is that it is not always a case of “you get what you pay for”. There are a few typical outsourced models of IT Solutions for small business and each has it’s pluses and minuses. The truth be told, there are winners and losers in both categories so the ultimate goal is to find a company that has the right balance of competency, professionalism, availability, honesty and fair pricing that suits the needs of your business.
Either way, it is essential that every business have competent and present IT support. It is not necessarily the case that that support be used on a regular basis, but the correct setup of your IT infrastructure is paramount and in the eventual case that something happens that requires support, it is essential that every small business have a quality resource to call upon to address those issues when they arise.
Inhouse vs. Outsourcing
Many small businesses, particularly those using cloud solutions, will opt to try to handle things themselves. While this may work for a while, if your business does not have an IT professional on staff to set up devices, configure and manage a network, establish multiple backup protocols and run updates on softwares, there is a high likelihood that one day you will face a technology crisis that your team cannot handle. In this case, you may find yourself needing IT support NOW and scrambling to find a company as quickly as possible without the luxury of time to make a good choice. This can lead to bigger and more expensive problems. For this reason, it is important to at least have an IT partner that you can use on an on call basis available to your business.
With that said, this present a reactive rather than a proactive approach to IT management which is not the right approach to a healthy IT infrastructure.
The Importance of Updated Technology and Proactive Support
Running your business on outdated servers and computers that are incapable of supporting software updates or running out of CPU and memory represents a ticking time bomb. Aside from the possibility of crashes and lost data, the disturbance to the operations of a small business when a network is down, computers aren’t functioning or even worse when important data has been lost can represent significant losses to revenues and lost customers.
Procuring the right hardware and software solutions as well as managing and monitoring your network is the job of a professional company that provides IT Solutions for Small Business. This means taking a proactive approach to evaluating business IT solutions, running timely updates to softwares and regularly checking devices to make sure they are running properly and capable of supporting the needs of the business and its users.
Unfortunately, not all IT Solutions providers for your small business offer these services in the way they should. Regardless of price and business model not all IT companies are created equal, so it is important to understand the different models that exist and the potential benefits and pitfalls of those models to your business…
Break/Fix or Managed IT Services: The Pros and Cons
While there exist more than just these two IT solutions for small business models, they are the most common so let’s take a look at them to understand how they generally position themselves and what they have to offer.
Most common amongst smaller IT companies is the “IT Guy(s)” who practices a break/fix model or a pay-by-the-hour structure that allows you to use them only when you have an emergency. Many small businesses want to bring in an IT consultant or company to make repairs and changes only after something has gone wrong. Your network receives little or no monitoring but is available for cleaning up the mess after disaster has already struck.
The break/fix approach used to be a more viable alternative but today with small businesses so reliant on their technology this type of IT support is simply not a healthy approach to maintaining your network. This is the equivalent of servicing your vehicle only after it breaks down. As you know, this generally means bigger, more expensive issues that take longer to repair.
Pros of Break/Fix Providers
These small companies are usually priced at a low hourly rate and, in most cases, allow you to use them only when needed so this eliminates the expense of IT support services on a monthly basis as long as there are not ongoing issues.
No Contracts or Monthly Fees
Most Break/Fix companies will allow you to use them whenever you want and as such if you are not happy you can find another IT solution for small business without having to dispute a contractual agreement.
Cons of Break/Fix Providers
Reactive, Not Proactive
An IT provider that uses a break/fix approach is designed to fix something that is broken, not to design a system that is less likely to break down. Once your systems go down or you’ve suffered a virus or ransomware attack, you’re already facing expensive downtime, data loss, and even loss of business. Your business can’t afford to simply react to technology when it breaks down; you have to take preventative security and data-saving measures.
With these providers there is usually little interaction between IT company and client to discuss and design systems that are built to meet the present and future technology demands of the business. They are likely not as well-versed on the range of technology solutions that exist and are prone to offer cookie cutter-type solutions that fall within their knowledge base but may not be the best for the needs of your business.
When you work with a break/fix IT provider, they may offer a tempting lower hourly rate, but you are often getting a skill set that matches that price point. This may lead to unnecessary breakdowns of your network or problems that require many hours of support but never quite seem to be resolved.
Conclusion: While the IT Guy or Break/Fix company is not always a bad option, the risks often outweigh the benefits because the primary advantages of this type of company are low costs and the personal touch they provide as a one-man show or with a small staff.
Managed IT Services
A Managed Service Provider, or MSP, provides your business with personalized IT monitoring and support, generally at a fixed monthly cost. MSP’s are designed to help with both ongoing support needs but to help design strategies to keep your business from facing the kind of emergencies that you’d prefer to live without.
A competent MSP will monitor your systems to catch any potential problems before they arise. They provide help desk support to your users remotely as well as onsite support services when needed at your business. They should also provide you with services like data protection, cloud storage, cybersecurity, risk assessment, backup and recovery, and hardware and software consulting.
Pros of Managed IT Services
A Managed Service Provider is supposed to care and take responsibility for your IT so that you don’t have to worry about it. Here are a few of the best benefits that should come from Managed IT Services:
Proactive Approach/Monitoring and Management
Managed Service Providers are designed to take a proactive approach to your IT by setting up systems to prevent as well as monitoring for potential threats and acting to prevent costly disruptions like system failures and cyberattacks before they happen. Consistent system monitoring and updates can significantly increase your cybersecurity and help prevent expensive downtime caused by system issues.
Personalized IT Plan
Rather than a one-size-fits-all plan for your business’s tech needs, a well-run MSP will take the time to get to know you and your business so they can provide specific solutions for your situation, business model and IT needs.
Other services provided by an MSP include data backup and recovery, troubleshooting support, business compliance, email services, and project management support.
With Managed IT Services, you get the advantage of a team of experts for around the price it would take to hire a salaried IT technician. You don’t have to worry about costs going up or down provided there are no special projects or major purchases that need to be made.
Peace of Mind
Knowing that you have a qualified team of IT professionals that are there to support your needs gives a business a sense of security
Cons of Managed IT Services
While the benefits listed above sound good there are many reasons that MSP’s are not a fit for every business.
Most MSP’s charge pretty big monthly fees for their services. These fixed costs include desktop support, user licenses and other services like cloud storage. These costs are built into the monthly fees being charged and the more users and services your business needs the higher the monthly cost. In most cases these add up to several thousand dollars per month which is often not affordable for a small business. To boot, special projects and things that fall outside of the service terms of your agreement are not included and charged at very high hourly rates.
Most MSP’s will ask your business to sign on for a year, if not 2 or 3 years. If things are not working out the way you had hoped, you are pretty much stuck in that agreement. Once an MSP has you in a contract and know you’re with them for a while, they are more likely to show less urgency in resolving your needs.
Most of the 3rd party services recommended and provided by the MSP come with fairly hefty markups on fees. This becomes a profit center for the MSP but is not so great for your business.
While to be fair this is an issue with both IT models, often times the licensure and passwords for your network are controlled entirely by the MSP and many of the solutions you are paying for you may not have access to. This only becomes a problem when you start looking to transition away from the provider and they show no interest in sharing this critical information that the next IT company will need to service you. This is done to make it painful for you to leave and many companies rather than fight just resign to avoid conflict. This is not an honest business practice.
Built for Profitability
Yes, that means their profitability, not yours. When an MSP knows you’ll be paying a fixed cost every month they are motivated to do as little as possible to earn your money. By using lower level, inexpensive resources for most support needs and only allocating the real pros in rare instances, MSP’s are designed to earn as much profit as possible. This is not to say that many are not honestly run businesses, but the business structure does not incent the MSP to provide the best service possible.
User Friendly Technology Services: The Best of Both Worlds in Small Business IT
User Friendly Technology was built to integrate the best features of these two IT Solutions for Small Business as described above. We understand that most South Florida small businesses need professional, proactive support that they can use how they want to use it and with terms and pricing that makes sense for their business.
With a fully-staffed team of IT professionals that offer both on-call remote support and onsite support, User Friendly offers all the benefits of an MSP at “IT Guy” pricing. With No Contracts or Monthly Fees, our hourly rates are 30-40% lower than the average MSP.
We offer FREE Monitoring and Management services as well, something that is unheard of in the IT business.
While we prefer to take a proactive, consultative approach with our clients, we allow our clients to dictate how they want to use us which gives us the ability to play an MSP-type role or that of a break/fix provider. Either way, our clients enjoy the reliability and professional support that they need when they need it.
Contact us today to find out why hundreds of Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Boca Raton, Weston, Pompano Beach, Hollywood, Coral Springs, Pembroke Pines, Doral, Sunrise and other South Florida companies rely on User Friendly Technology Services for all their small business IT needs
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Linked In