term “outsourcing” has become synonymous with “downsizing” and
“layoffs” and is now among the whispered anxieties discussed around the
office watercooler. Many companies are cutting overhead costs and
scrutinizing all departments like never before. Even IT departments are
not immune as computers become cheaper, more personal and user-friendly,
and less the iconic complicated work terminal.
Computer manufacturers have been producing faster, smarter and ever more
reliable equipment; program writers have become quick to increase
security and immunity to viruses resulting in fewer PC and data
infrastructure issues. A lot has seemingly improved in the decade since
the Y2K scare, and today, many managers are questioning the need for a
fully staffed IT department.
Decision-makers have seemingly developed a false sense of security that
vital proprietary data will always be safely kept just a few keystrokes
away and can possibly be managed at much less cost. With millions of
PCs, laptops, netbooks and smart phones online worldwide, private
networks have never been more conveniently accessible but with that
accessibility comes vulnerability.
Smart Business spoke to Mike Ishee, vice president of ATW Management Inc., about how companies can have the best of both worlds: a scaled-down IT department and the support their systems need.
What are the risks an organization faces by not having qualified IT support?
Managing the vulnerability of the very backbone of any organization is
not to be taken lightly. In the event of a catastrophic systems failure,
even simple business functions tied to the system cease until the
network is back up and running. Here, time really does equal money as
seconds turn into minutes and cost becomes immeasurable when taken on a
global scale, potentially devastating the individual company or
organization.The seriousness of these issues and others has led many
managers to become reluctant to outsource IT responsibilities, yet the
issue of effectively reducing overall business costs remains.
What ‘outsourced’ service options are available?
Computer hardware manufacturers, operating systems writers, and even
office-supply and big-box retail stores are attempting to address this
need. Many are aggressively marketing cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all
maintenance agreements from a basic ‘once you leave the store, you’re on
your own’ to the ultimate ‘24-7 on-site maintenance and monitoring.’
Remote-access software programs also allow a technician to takeover a
user’s screen to ascertain and possibly troubleshoot some issues without
ever leaving his desk (or country.) Periodic software update checks,
security vulnerability screenings and equipment lifecycle plans are
among the more mundane but vital scheduled services offered on site by a
technician with a can of compressed air and a quirky company car. Of
course, cost varies greatly as does the quality of service.
What is the solution for a company looking to achieve cost savings as well as a highly functioning IT department?
A more flexible option is known as fractional IT support. Think of it as
a hybrid between a standard-type maintenance agreement and a full-time
employee the needed expertise without the burdens of employment. In
fractional IT support, an IT professional first interviews for the
position, then is recruited based on how well his or her qualifications
mesh with the organization’s priorities and needs. The organization then
becomes part of the IT professional’s limited portfolio. This way he is
familiar with the company’s needs, is aware of its individual protocols
and culture, and is held ultimately responsible to that portfolio. He
attends to the IT needs of his portfolio similar to the way other
professionals conduct their services, right down to the availability of
backup assistance provided by the fractional IT support provider.
In a larger organization, the IT professional may be needed to support
the organization’s existing IT department. His responsibilities may vary
from scheduled maintenance to troubleshooting data recovery, debugging
viruses and being available for disaster preparedness and response.
Fractional IT support is truly customizable and flexible and can address
the technological needs of any company or organization regardless of
size. The end result for the company or organization is having its IT
needs taken care of by a real IT professional without the full-time
cost. Plus, the organization gets to see a familiar face on occasion at
the water cooler.