Pat Delany often fields questions about effectively managing IT services in medium-sized businesses. Unfortunately, most offices with between ten and fifty computers find themselves in a sort of “no man’s land” with regards to IT support. Smaller companies, such as an independently owned bookstore or a small real estate brokerage, can simply treat each system like a home computer. If a computer problem arises, one person might be out of action, but the rest of the office should be able to function normally. Having tech support on a per system basis is relatively costly and inefficient to support, but such an arrangement is often the most effective solution on the small scale. On the other hand, companies with over fifty computers find that the economies of scale allows them to hire a dedicated technician or outsource to an IT services company who can keep someone on-site. A large company will require enough maintenance and day-to-day upkeep to justify the retention of such an employee or team full-time.
Pat Delany realizes that the IT needs of a medium-sized company must be addressed as well. At companies like this, employing a dedicated computer expert would be unjustifiably inefficient—such an expert wouldn’t be able to find enough work to earn his or her keep. On the other hand, calling in outside help each time a computer breaks down (indeed, waiting for a computer to break down or a system to fail before calling in help) is expensive and throws a wrench in the company’s daily processes. Luckily, there are solutions.
Pat Delany advises against skimping on IT by hiring a cheap or entry-level technician. While these employees are often excellent at solving basic computer issues, they tend to lack the server, network, and specialty application skills necessary to maintain a company’s internal system (such as a contract management system or customer relationship management system). In fact, these entry-level hires often use their free time to learn more about their field by tinkering with their employer’s systems, a practice which often leads a novice IT technician to create more problems than he or she solves.
Pat Delany suggests that companies consider outsourcing their IT needs. However, he precautions them to thoroughly research their options, including learning more about managed services, fee for service, pre-pay service, and rollover support hours, among other factors.
Pat Delany recommends engaging some level of routine on-site support—just a few hours a week to deal with the quotidian tasks of setting up new employees or fixing malfunctioning printers. Preventative face-time is indispensible and should complement all remote support programs. Companies that only call in tech support when a system failure occurs inevitably pay more in the long run.
Pat Delany also recommends obtaining level pricing. A flat weekly or monthly rate that includes a set number of support hours per week is often sufficient and can include emergency responses to critical incidents like downed servers, internet outages, or the immediate removal of a terminated employee from server access. This type of service should be included in a flat price.
Pat Delany believes that one of the most important aspects of any agreement with a support company is a firm contract that lays out all the necessary contingencies, including an out clause in case the business relationship does not work.