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If your company is small and you have the know-how, you may be able to cover your IT by yourself. But there are a few questions to ask yourself before you commit to this plan. — Getty Images/Paul Bradbury

Small business owners tend to wear many hats, especially when just getting started. At some point, though, doing everything alone becomes unsustainable. Outsourcing to a third-party consultant or agency can help relieve some of the workload, as well as bring in expertise that an entrepreneur may not have.

IT is one area particularly suited to outsourcing. If you’re a small startup or solopreneur, however, outsourcing IT can seem too expensive or of a lower priority than other investments.

Here’s what to consider when evaluating whether or not the time is right to outsource key IT activities.

[Read more: Running Your Business Alone? 10 Things You Can Outsource to Free Up Time]

How much does it cost?

IT is a broad term that can encompass many different services, including web development, technical support, telecommunications, security and database management. It’s common for small businesses to hire an expert or team of experts to help set up devices, systems and all the applications that the business may use. Once they’ve set up all your tech, members of the external IT team can be brought in to troubleshoot technical issues with hardware and software as needed.

There are many different pricing models, too. Some options include:

  • Monitoring only: Your IT partner will support limited network monitoring for issues and provide patches and backup monitoring for a fixed fee.
  • Per-user flat rate: Your IT provider will charge a flat fee for all IT support based on the number of users. If you have a small team, this can be an affordable option, but keep in mind that, as you scale, this model becomes pricier.
  • Per-device flat rate: Your IT provider will charge a flat fee for devices, rather than for each user. If your team is working remotely on multiple devices, this can be quite expensive.
  • Ad hoc: Your IT provider will allow you to pay as you go, if and when you need support. This is a good option if you rarely need IT assistance, but if there’s a major issue, such as a data breach, it can be costly.

As a benchmark, the average cost of IT support is estimated to be $100–$200 per user, per month. Note that this will vary depending on the type of IT support you choose, as well as your local market rates. Outsourcing to an international expert is one easy way to bring that cost down.

Even if you can perform IT activities yourself, that doesn’t mean you should.

Can you do it yourself?

The next question to consider: Can you do it yourself? If you’re reasonably experienced at IT, or have enough background to upskill yourself, paying for training may be a better long-term investment.

“Take a long, hard look internally and complete an assessment, as there's no sense in contracting out your strengths. That dilutes the value you and your company offer, and it can damage your industry differentiation,” wrote Inc. Magazine.

Ideally, business owners should outsource those tasks in which they are not well-versed. IT is an especially technical area where a mistake can end in catastrophe: Small businesses are frequently (and successfully) targeted by cybercriminals and represented 43% of all data breaches in 2019. Outsourcing IT ensures that the business benefits from an expert, as opposed to someone from the business taking on responsibilities that are outside of their knowledge base.

Should you do it yourself?

Even if you can perform IT activities yourself, that doesn’t mean you should. Setting up and maintaining IT can be a time-consuming job. By outsourcing, leaders gain more time to focus on the bigger picture and their specific industry.

The smaller your business, the more likely it is that you’re running most of it yourself. Outsourcing allows you to focus on more high-value activities. Crunch the numbers, and you’ll see that outsourcing may save you time — and time is money. The ROI of outsourcing IT, especially when you factor in the savings of avoiding a data breach, can make it well worth the initial outlay.

There are many options for outsourcing your IT function. Look to your local markets for IT providers, or use sites like Upwork and Guru to find freelancers.

[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 23, 2021