Now that you know about the different kinds of IT services providers, how do you know which is right for you? An hourly provider? Project-based? MSP? In this chapter, we’ll offer some specific criteria to use as you make your decision.
Hire an hourly provider if...
You have a very small company and/or one with minimal technology use.
By “very small,” we mean there are fewer than nine people working for the company, and by “minimal” technology, we mean you don’t have or need a server. (In this age of bring-your-own-device, you may not even have or need a full complement of office computers.)
Under these circumstances, you’re not likely to need more than a couple of hours of IT help every now and then. So break/fix service from a qualified hourly provider may be the best fit for you.
Consider an IT project provider if...
You only rarely have IT projects surface and have minimal IT needs otherwise.
Maybe your business is relocating, and you need someone to set up a small IT operation – desktops, connectivity, other basics – on a one-time basis. Or you want to get set up to switch from traditional phone service to VoIP.
We could go on with examples, but the point is that you’re running a small business with minimal IT needs, and the project you need done is relatively small and self-contained.
If, on the other hand, you have a major project within a more complex IT environment, chances are excellent that you would benefit from having an MSP to handle your ongoing IT needs and any projects that come up.
IT project providers simply don’t have knowledge of the larger IT issues that might influence decisions about a specific project – or pertinent knowledge about the business as a whole, for that matter. Because they’re project-based, they’re not in a position to get to know the business strategy, culture and processes – all of which can have a profound effect on project recommendations and decisions, as well as on the ultimate success of a project.
If you’re running a business with even just ten employees and a server, we almost always recommend that before you undertake any major IT project, you consider
starting a relationship with an MSP first. Let them get to know your needs, your network, your business – and then start working on the project.
Go with an MSP if...
Technology is a vital part of your business that at least ten people depend on.
If you’re looking for someone to provide IT services to your business, and the business has a significant investment in IT, hiring an MSP is almost certainly going to be the best path.
Let’s say you have one or more servers, and a dozen (or a hundred, or even more) employees. Let’s say, too, that IT is increasingly becoming more of a strategic asset than a necessary evil in your business. In those circumstances, it makes no sense to try to cobble together what you need by calling in hourly providers to troubleshoot problems and then engaging project providers to carry out larger projects with no previous knowledge to guide them.
Instead, look at hiring one experienced source of expert support to handle everything. This gives you the advantage of getting help from someone who will become increasingly knowledgeable about your IT environment and your business over time; having one central point of accountability for everything that goes on with IT; and incurring a fixed, predictable monthly cost for all of it. In short, you’ll have everything you get with an in-house IT department.
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Bill McCharen, COO
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