Benefits Of An Online It Firm Versus Hiring A Full-time Computer Tech

Anyone remember the “paperless office”? Computers were going to simplify business so much that we wouldn’t need file cabinets anymore. Didn’t happen. What did happen was that computers got more and more powerful, creating a whole new army of technicians, programmers, consultants and repair personnel to deal with every single facet of the evolving technology.

The march of technology created a few parallel tracks for many businesses, which had mainframes or minicomputers for some tasks and desktop computers for others. With the spread of networking technology, another layer of complexity was added, requiring another whole army of specialists. It is rare to find a small business today that does not have a substantial investment in computing assets, and a hefty ongoing expense for an IT pro, whether an employee or contractor. The bigger a business is, the larger the investment and expense for this requisite capability.

The network paradigm

Other developments have contributed to “high tech overload” in the last decade or two, not the least of which is the Internet. Now every business from Aunt May’s Quilts to U.S. Steel has a website, an Internet strategy and an ever growing need for IT expertise. Many companies bite the bullet and hire top IT professionals (at top salaries), believing they simply have to do so to survive in a competitive environment. However, if you take a moment to back up and think about it, you may reasonably wonder why the network paradigm has not been extended to IT support.

Ah, but it has. The constant churning and creativity that has driven computer evolution has driven networking, too, creating a “virtual” space that transcends geography and puts us in immediate contact with people a world away. An IT professional can monitor, diagnose, adjust, fix, repair or report on your computing, networking and communications “assets” from almost anywhere. No longer do you have to bring someone aboard in a full- or even part-time capacity to be on hand if and when something happens to impact your data processing or computer operations.

Virtual support

The advent of online IT firms, where you can get the support and help you need according to a variety of package deals, has been fairly swift. There is little control over who can call himself an “expert,” and you will need a bit of expertise yourself (and/or some help) just to separate the wheat from chaff among the different offerings. Once you have established that some online IT firms actually have certified pros on staff (Cisco, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, whatever kind you need), you can choose from among the candidate companies based on the references they provide, their track records and, of course, the pricing structures.

When you start crunching these numbers, you will see that carrying a full-time IT pro on staff is many times more expensive than arranging for just the amount of expertise and assistance that you really need. The key benefit, then, of using an online IT firm is the money you will save, and you will save money because you only need the expertise and assistance, well, when you really need it! For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), having an online IT firm is similar to taking out “computer and network insurance,” and you do not have to pay for any services you do not need. It should be fairly quick work to demonstrate the economic benefit of this approach, especially when you see the starting salaries of IT pros, not to mention the benefits you will have to pay for, the vacation time, sick days and all the rest.

On-call experts vs. employees

Another major benefit to using an online IT firm is that you maintain control of the relationship, and the IT company is a vendor. Employees are essential for many tasks, but you can emulate the Fortune 500 firms by outsourcing whatever you can, and whatever can be done just as well, to another person or company. It is a lot easier to change vendors than it is to fire an employee, economically, emotionally and legally. You can get yourself out of a lot of future grief by keeping your employee ranks limited to the right number of people, and contracting for the goods and services that you do not need on a 24/7 basis.

The online IT firms also have more incentive to excel than many employees do. Being in a competitive field, the IT firms have to stay abreast of software and hardware changes, updates, research and development. The companies know you can go somewhere else, and quickly, if they do not perform to your satisfaction. Every business owner loves having those kinds of employees, too, but it is unfortunate that not all employees have that winning attitude. If an online IT firm gets lazy, calls in sick or doesn’t come back from lunch, they’re history. That keeps you firmly in charge.

Bottom line? You’d have to have a lot for a full-time IT employee to do before hiring one would make economic sense. For most SMBs, an online IT firm would be a better choice. You would pay less, maintain control, be assured of state-of-the art expertise and free yourself of the many bureaucratic tasks related to your “human resources.” Do some research on the many available coverage options and deals, and it is likely that you will conclude an online IT firm is the way to go.

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