I’ve been asked this question a lot recently – what is the value of working with an IT Services company? I’ve heard several business owners, clients, and end users ask about the benefits and risks of having a company of IT geeks come in and manage their computers, network, software, and anything else that runs on electricity.
First, a disclaimer: Yes, I work for an IT managed services firm. No, I have not always worked for an IT managed services firm. Yes, I have contracted an IT managed services firm before. No, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Remember this as you read on.
I used to be an IT manager for a geographically disperse, highly profitable company in the Midwest, focusing on retail, wholesale, and commercial services and distribution, as well as manufacturing. In practice, that meant I was the Level 1, 2, and 3 support person for an entire company of 250 users, across five Midwestern states, with only one other associate working with me. Trust me, I was busy. I spent quite a bit of my time traveling to distant sites, working on end user issues, and supporting our infrastructure, frequently from the road or from another location.
An associate of mine recommended an IT Managed Services company. I agreed, and brought them onto a 20-hour retainer for the next calendar year. The firm was friendly, but had a dreadful follow-up – I asked them for help on only two issues, and to date, only one was ever answered. I didn’t renew, and continued for the next few years running around trying to keep up.
I made a mistake. However, the mistake wasn’t necessarily the IT company I selected. Those lessons are what I would like to share with you, so you can make an educated decision on whether IT managed services is right for you.
Here are my top considerations:
- Be realistic about who is supporting your infrastructure. Some companies have Bob or Alice, who is the office resource in case anything breaks. Bob (or Alice) will come and take care of you – never mind that Bob is the CFO, and Alice owns the company, and have more critical issues than printing. If your entire network consists of three PCs and a printer, that may be fine; others may need to pass it off to someone else. Whether Bob is the CEO or receptionist is irrelevant; how much of his time is being devoted to IT issues is what’s important.
- Be realistic about your personnel needs, and what you can afford. Good system administrators are hard to come by these days, and they are not cheap. If you have a smaller, brand-new infrastructure, a system admin fresh out of school may be a great fit. If you have had your network for a while, or if you have unique setups in your network, a more seasoned veteran may be a better fit. If you already have an IT staff, and he is typically working 60+ hours a week, a newbie system admin may be a good fit to alleviate the load.
- Be realistic about your security. Any new hire into your organization will be entrusted with your most sensitive data. Be sure anyone you bring in has a reputation for excellence and ethical behavior with your infrastructure.
- Know what to expect (and what not to expect). Any system administrator needs to have a clearly defined role. I’ve seen admins brought into companies, where the role wasn’t defined, or the restrictions made the position a failure before the first day of work.
Based on these considerations, here are the top reasons why an IT managed services firm like 3coast (yes, I am biased) are a great fit for so many clients:
- Be realistic about who is supporting your infrastructure. 3coast’s Technical Assistance Center is a phone call away, and anyone can call (or only one person can call, it’s your choice). Our ENCOMPASS agreements allow for complete support of your infrastructure, from the most complex servers to the simplest desktops, including provisions for on-site support as needed.
- Be realistic about your personnel needs, and what you can afford. Most companies cannot afford their own IT staff, or have an IT person that is not prepared for the tasks ahead. 3coast’s TAC team is fully trained on a wide variety of platforms, including Windows, Linux, Mac OSX, and Sun Solaris; our training is open-ended, and always in development. Further, the average 3coast technician has 10 years’ experience in supporting diverse environments. Most importantly, 3coast’s clients are backed by a team of technologists with direct access to all the major manufacturers, not just “the IT guy”.
- Be realistic about your security. 3coast’s interview process for the TAC team is handled by 3coast’s Staffing division, which includes careful screening of potential clients to ensure that any environment we go into will remain safe. 3coast knows that anyone on the TAC team will be 3coast’s representative in the field, and we will ensure that the face is always pleasant, and working in the best interests of our clients.
- Know what to expect (and what not to expect). Any new client of 3coast has a detailed proposal and contract which shows exactly what our expectations will be – no surprises. If surprises do come up (something is not covered due to virus infection, accidental erasure, etc.), we have options for prepaid hours to make sure your business doesn’t suffer.
I think 3coast is a great firm, and a great fit for many clients, if you make them your partner, and a true extension of your business model. Don’t make the mistakes I made – talk to people and learn more about IT managed service firms that are out there. Discuss with other business partners, with team members from other IT firms, and your own team members.
I would love for you to come to 3coast, but that’s just me….