How to obtain upgraded service and cost savings through fractional IT support Featured

5:58am EDT October 20, 2010

Michael Ishee, vice president, ATW Management Inc.The

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.

Michael Ishee is the vice president of ATW Management Inc. Reach him at (866) 452-0563 or mishee@atwonline.com.