Businessman sitting sitting at desk, having discussion on a headset while using a computer in the office.
Finding the right IT service provider involves understanding your needs and budget as well as asking the right questions. — Getty Images/ Adene Sanchez

IT support is a key business function that’s ripe for outsourcing. Few entrepreneurs or business owners are well-versed in IT tasks, yet this area is critical to a growing business. And, with many different IT service providers on the market, it’s possible to find a third-party IT service provider that specializes in small business needs and can come on board quickly.

The process of finding the right IT service provider involves understanding your IT needs, asking the right questions and determining your budget. Here’s what you need to do to get started with outsourcing your IT support.

[Read more: Need an IT Service Provider? Here's How to Choose]

Start by understanding your needs

A third-party IT provider (also known as a managed service provider, or MSP) can provide many different IT services, including network security, data storage and even computer repair. Start by making a list of the IT services your business might need. For example, if you manage sensitive customer information, such as credit card numbers or Social Security numbers, you will need a third-party IT provider that is well-versed in security and data loss prevention.

It’s also important to understand that there are some limitations to working with an MSP. “A third party isn’t bound by your company’s rules and regulations,” wrote Small Biz Club. “Some of their services may not comply with privacy and protection laws.” It’s up to you to know and understand if your business needs to meet GDPR, HIPAA, or other policies and regulations.

Vet potential IT partners

There are a few different factors to consider when vetting potential IT providers, in addition to their cost and services offered. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • What is your response time if there’s a question or support issue?
  • Do you have references from other small business owners?
  • Do you provide all services in-house or outsource to other contractors?
  • Do you have the ability to scale with my business?
  • Are you accredited by organizations such as ISO 9001 or ISO 27001?

A potential partner’s answers to these questions can help you understand how prepared and organized they are to take on your IT needs.

A SaaS vendor hosts, maintains and upgrades its software on its own servers and your employees access it via the Internet. Managed services are a more comprehensive outsourcing of information technology business functions, such as security and networking.

Inc.

Determine your budget

Managed service providers typically charge in two broad categories: fully managed IT and partially managed IT. Fully managed IT is often the easiest option, as you can be assured that the MSP will cover virtually all of your IT needs. Partially managed IT is best for companies that have one or two specific tasks that need to be outsourced.

Under each category, there are two common pricing models. The first is per user, meaning the third-party IT provider will create a plan for your business based on the number of people who are being supported and monitored. The second option is per device: the MSP will charge based on the number of mobile phones, laptops, and tablets your business uses. This model works best for smaller ventures that use a lot of technology, such as food trucks or event management companies.

The average cost of IT support is estimated to be $100-$200 per user, per month. Naturally, this rate varies depending on whether you choose full or partial IT support as well as your local market rates.

Do you need a team, an individual or software?

Many business owners assume they need a team of people providing around-the-clock IT support. That may be true for your business. But, some merchants can reduce costs by working with an IT contractor and implementing the right combination of software as a service (SaaS) programs to help with monitoring.

The key difference between using software and outsourcing is that “in a nutshell, a SaaS vendor hosts, maintains and upgrades its software on its own servers and your employees access it via the Internet. Managed services are a more comprehensive outsourcing of information technology business functions, such as security and networking,” wrote Inc. Ventures with a handful of employees may not need to bring on a specialist for even partially-managed IT.

Explore SaaS tools that provide data loss prevention, collaboration and even customer relationship management. Save the most technical and specialized tasks for the experts.

[Read more: Startup 2021: 7 Business Tasks You Can Outsource]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published September 16, 2021