The image of IT departments existing in air-conditioned rooms is alive and well, except today, those rooms are much larger and more likely to exist as a section of a remote data centre.
IT outsourcing encapsulates more and more enterprise functions with every new incarnation of software because vendors prefer to sell subscriptions rather than licences and businesses like the ‘pay for what you use’ model. Both benefit from a low-cost entry into the market. This is a primary driver for the expanding use of cloud storage; hosted applications and IT support services that no longer reside on-premise.
The fact that no two businesses are the same matters little because large IT investments are essentially yesterday’s headache. That doesn’t mean IT costs nothing today, but it does mean we can largely do-away with months of planning and the expense it brings because it’s simple for any business to deploy a remote server or hundreds of machines to act as a test-bed with very little outlay. If it works – great. If not, you can change your mind, reconfigure and redeploy. If it is that easy, why use a specialist IT service provider? Here are some things to consider:
Pro 1 – Data Regulations
If your business handles sensitive data, you can use the knowledge of an IT service provider to ensure you comply with data protection laws or regulations. Your obligations as a data controller change periodically, which makes maintaining compliant security, plus Identity and Access Management systems, a critical feature of any IT setup. While every case is different, specialist IT services will undoubtedly be better prepared that most businesses.
Contra 1 – Training
Even with adequate systems in place, you may need to provide training for staff with the privileges to access and edit your data, even if only to ensure best practise. Training to ensure compliance is something that should take place in any business, but in an environment where BYOD is growing, the temptation to accidentally expose your business data is very real.
Pro 2 – Cost
Although mentioned above, it is hard to overemphasise the impact outsourced IT services can have on your bottom line. Remove almost all capital expenditure, depreciation and in-house IT experts that are ‘just in case’ necessities and your business is instantly more profitable and better able to invest where it matters. A good IT services company will know your business and act as though they are another department within your organisation.
Contra 2 – Vendor Reliability
It is important to choose a good provider. IT outsourcing is a growing market and many service providers are competing on price rather than service. This is where due diligence is as important as it was when investing in IT infrastructure.
Pro 3 – Extended Capabilities
In the most competitive businesses, everything from HR and accounts, to procurement and distribution exist in a cloud or hosted IT environment. Whether that is a complete Enterprise-class CRM with modules that synchronise your data across all departments, or it is a single-purpose SaaS application, hosted IT’s available everywhere feature increase productivity. You can see an earlier piece I wrote about hosted IT solutions to give you an idea about how organisations are using them to get ahead.
Contra 3 – Controlling the Cloud
There is one fear that constantly worries CIOs – the availability of a quick solution. Wherever a department sees an obstacle, there’s likely to be a specialist IT service capable of solving it. To ensure your business maintains data security, you need to restrict anyone who can expense a service from doing so – even if the need is immediate and the solution appears simple. Any new application, remotely hosted machine or sharing of data with external providers, must go through a pre-agreed process to ensure compliance.
Making your Mind Up
To some degree, the use of specialist IT service providers is inevitable in all businesses because it is almost impossible to compete in any business if you have to learn and maintain systems and skills internally. The critical factor has to be, in which provider do you place your trust?