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Last week, in our blog “Does My Company Really Need IT Support?” we discussed how to determine if your company needs a Help Desk or IT Support, sometimes referred to as Managed IT Services. If you concluded that you do need some kind of help desk you now have to decide whether or not to bring it in-house.
At first glance this may appear to be strictly an economic issue, however, the analysis is slightly more complicated than can you afford to pay someone. The first question that must be asked (after you have decided the cost of not doing anything) is do I have enough problems to warrant someone doing this full time? If the answer is no, you probably want to seek a managed IT services company. If the answer is yes, then you have to decide what skills and expertise are required?
What Kind of IT Support Expertise do I need?
IT has never been a discipline where generalists prevail. Even a standalone computer requires knowledge in multiple disciplines to support. If you are connected to the internet, as most of us are, things become even more complicated. Let’s examine a single site company with no remote users. Here are the various items that need to be supported:
- The physical plant, with all of the jacks and cabling
- Workstations, laptops, desktops and handheld devices
- All the associated applications
- The network infrastructure of switches and routers
- Security appliances to defend against breaches
- Servers for a host of required services including network authentication, file sharing, communications like telephony, email and instant messaging, update services, database management, etc
- Wireless infrastructure
- Anti-virus and anti-malware applications and services
- Some kind of backup and disaster recovery schema.
Each of these requires their own expertise and while many talented IT professionals are knowledgeable in multiple disciplines, none know all of them well. Additionally, you may require specialized knowledge to support your servers or edge appliances.
If you plan on hiring someone in-house, then you need to identify what your needs are today and what are you likely to grow to tomorrow. What are the must-have, nice to have and do not need now disciplines? Once you know this you can look at your budget. Assuming that you have minimal needs, basic network without any servers, you can probably hire someone with desktop support capabilities for $40K to $60K per year, depending on where in the country you are located and how much experience you want. If you need server level support, then you are looking for an engineer that will command a significantly higher salary in the $80K to $100K+ a year range.
Assuming you have the budget to make such a hire there is one more point to consider. A single in-house technician can only be in one place at a time. It would be awfully nice if issues occurred sequentially and only after the previous issue has been solved or is close to being solved. Unfortunately, life never works that way. Issues come in waves and there is a hiatus between them. Additionally, your engineer or technician will usually get involved in project work like upgrading or replacing workstations and servers. Issues will occur at inopportune times and something will have to be sacrificed. Lastly, what about vacation and sick time. In contrast, Managed IT service providers usually have multiple technicians and engineers staffing their help desk. Rarely are they in a position where they can’t respond in a timely fashion to a support request. If your budget permits, it makes sense to hire more than one to cover each other and to provide expertise in the various disciplines. If you only have the budget to hire one technician, you are probably better served outsourcing your helpdesk or IT services needs to a reliable company.