In running a successful company, IT has become such a vital component that business owners often feel like they can’t spend any time away from their business. To keep employees working productively and efficiently, everything from individual workstations and software to servers and network maintenance needs to run smoothly together. Business continuity plans are a vital part of owning a business. Without the necessary safeguards and support in place, a company can be left crippled and unable to function effectively. Let’s look at the two main options for ensuring that a company’s IT division runs smoothly, in-house IT departments and IT consulting services.
1. In-house IT Departments
One of the biggest concerns for a business owner is ensuring that the company's IT needs are consistently met. Some choose to employ in-house IT professionals. When using an in-house IT department, business owners may run into difficulty if their IT professionals are unable to perform their roles. Perhaps the single IT professional on staff suddenly gets a new job and will be leaving the company. Are continuity plans in place to ensure the business doesn’t miss a beat? Is there a safety net whereby another employee holds the knowledge that the in-house employee holds? Even IT professionals taking sick days or paid time off can have huge consequences if another employee cannot step up and perform in their place.
So what safeguards can a business owner form to prevent the company from being negatively affected by a change or absence among its IT staff? Business owners must ensure sufficient cross-training takes place across the department so that the strengths and knowledge of one IT employee are shared across the others. In other words, the company must adhere to the idea that there is safety in numbers--the more people can function in different roles, the better. Think about how many IT-related assets a typical business must keep track of. As technology and its role in everyday business expands its reach, so do these assets and the information needed to access them. Even assets as basic as passwords to servers and other tools need to be shared across the department. Nothing is worse or more frustrating than the one IT employee who knows the server password being absent from work on the day a company experiences a server issue.
One of the advantages of an in-house IT department is that skilled IT professionals will quickly become familiar with the specific IT strategy of the business and formulate a comprehensive understanding of specific areas that can be improved. They can also advise on the best practices related to IT to ensure the business maintains its continuity. Ultimately, though, the onus is on the business owner to remain cognizant of exactly how their IT department functions and ensure the necessary measures are in place so their business is in a position to thrive.
2. IT Consulting Services
Alternatively, business owners may choose to employ an outsourced IT consulting service. In this case, a specialized company handles any and all of a business's IT strategy. The convenience level for business owner is clear. They do not have to concern themselves with any of the overarching management that comes with an in-house IT department.
With an IT consulting service, all the safety nets and cross-training that are necessary with an in-house department are already in place. A business has access to help desk support composing a team of IT experts, all intimately knowledgeable in the business’s IT strategy. As a business owner, the guesswork about whether their company can truly maintain continuity through an IT crisis is substantially reduced. No longer is there a necessity to arrange processes of knowledge transfer throughout a department. In fact, employees needn’t have much knowledge about IT at all: the owner can rely on the expertise of the consulting service.
Since an IT consulting service coordinates IT services for a large number of clients, their experience and knowledge-base often exceeds that of even the largest in-house IT departments. Additionally, because of their expanded pool of assets, tools, and knowledge, IT consulting services have the ability to proactively monitor the performance of IT services and alert the business owner to potential issues before they strike. This can often be too much for an in-house team to get out in front of.
Ultimately, business owners must think about which of these options best fits their needs. Odds are that a crisis will happen at some point, but those businesses with a comprehensive IT continuity plan or outsourced IT consulting service in place should only be minimally impacted.
Have you had experience with an in-house IT department or have utilized an IT consulting service? If so, what was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.
If you have any questions about the process of insuring IT business continuity or have any other questions about IT as part of a comprehensive IT support strategy, contact us today to speak with an IT expert.