As your small business grows, so too does the scale and complexity of your IT environment. Unsurprisingly, you reach a point where IT costs and efficiency concerns start diverting critical attention away from your core business.
Does this mean it’s now time to outsource – or instead double-down on an in-house IT department?
There’s no simple solution for every business. A good start is taking a 10,000-foot view before looking at specifics. In this article aimed at small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in South Africa, we explore the pros and cons in-house IT. We also take a quick look at outsourcing as a possible option.
The Advantages of an In-House IT Department
Extensive Familiarity with Internal Infrastructure
Unlike an outsourced company, in-house IT staff are embedded in your business’ workflow and will directly experience the day-to-day of your IT environment first-hand.
They will develop a practical understanding of the various systems and quirks that make up the ins and outs of your internal infrastructure across the company. This allows internal staff to become better equipped at diagnosing underlying issues and identifying recurring problems at a fundamental level.
In-house IT staff will also be conversant with your core business and unique requirements. When it comes to aligning technology and business goals, an in-house department will provide invaluable expertise on aspects of process, planning, and strategy. Outsourced IT providers will endeavour to gain that same understanding of your core business. However, it cannot be expected to be equal to the level of an internal department.
High Onsite Availability
Whilst many issues could be solved remotely, it’s sometimes easier and quicker to deal ‘face to face’ when employees need support or if an IT disaster suddenly breaks business operations. In-house staff are physically accessible with minimal response times and can begin work immediately if a task requires in-person, on-site attention.
This is unlike outsourced IT arrangements where you may need to troubleshoot over the phone, and then wait hours for an on-site technician to arrive.
Of course, the benefits of onsite availability only apply during business hours. What if a primary server corrupts over the long weekend? We cover caveats like these later on in this article.
The Disadvantages of an In-House IT Department
An in-house IT department comes with all the financial and HR requirements of hiring, firing, managing, and maintaining a set of full-time staff.
Just like any employee, hiring IT personnel means an investment in desks, stationery, and office coffee. But there’s also pricey workstation and software investments required when managing IT internally. For example, a full suite of cybersecurity, device monitoring, and ticket management systems. This type of software is not necessarily exclusive to in-house arrangements, but it does mean that your business has to carry the full cost.
The rate of change in IT and vendor platforms (such as Microsoft 365 and server software) also means substantial expenses for employee skills and development training. Particularly, the stack of essential CompTIA, Cisco, and Microsoft certifications which expire every 1 to 5 years.
Limited Skillset and Lack of Expertise
The experience, skillset, and expertise of in-house IT staff are restricted to the personnel you employ. In contrast, your world of business IT is deep and complex. It ranges from cybersecurity to vendor management and from business continuity to cloud computing, to name a few areas.
A small business in-house department usually can’t cover every IT base across your entire environment truly effectively – mostly due to lack of know-how and obvious workload constraints.
One solution is hiring more IT staff with explicit roles and areas of expertise, but it can become cost-prohibitive very quickly. Your HR Department will also find it difficult to identify knowledge gaps in your business when employing for IT roles.
Poor After-Hours Availability
Whilst on-site availability is the primary advantage of in-house IT, it is poor after-hours availability which is the primary disadvantage.
Remember, IT emergencies can strike at any hour. This could range from the CEO’s laptop corrupting the night before a shareholder meeting – or a power surge that destroys your server room over the long weekend.
Unless an SMB has invested in their in-house IT department to operate around-the-clock, after hours, sick leave, weekends, public holidays, etc. all pose a valid threat to response times and disaster recovery efforts.
Exploring a Possible Alternative: Outsourcing IT
Outsourcing to a Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) is one alternative to running an in-house department. Let’s take a quick look:
- An external IT department gives you access to IT professionals at the fraction of the cost of hiring full-time staff. Training is never your responsibility. And there’s no added workload for the HR and management duties that naturally come with a new department. MSPs run a number of software products on their end as part of the SLA, thus saving your business the cost of having to purchase it outright.
- Skillset and Expertise. MSPs run a comprehensive team of highly qualified IT experts with dedicated fields of specialisation. They can effectively advise and consult on aspects on IT strategy, forecasting, budgeting, and more. Your business gains this wealth of expertise without having to find, hire, and manage senior IT professionals on your own.
- After-Hours Availability. Need urgent IT help? MSPs can provide your business with on-demand access to IT technicians via phone or e-mail 24/7/365. Moreover, many MSPs include unlimited helpdesk support for a fixed monthly fee, so there are never hidden costs or surcharges to worry about.
Is In-House IT the Right Solution for Your Business? Speak to the Experts
Established in 2008, we have helped numerous business owners over the years in exploring the suitability of in-house or outsourced IT solutions to match their business needs and IT environment.