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Outsourced IT support: what can you expect? 

September 19, 2021 Nick Expert advice

There comes a time in every business’s development when they have to take a long, hard look at their IT resource and ask the question: should we continue managing our IT in-house, or is it better to outsource IT support?

There will be a number of factors to consider when weighing up the answer – from the comparative costs to the level of attention you’ll get and the benefits of wider industry knowledge. Have you thought of everything? Here’s a run-through of what you might expect when using outsourced IT services.

Why outsource your IT Department?

There are a number of benefits to be gained from outsourcing your IT support, generally focused around adding expertise into the mix while at the same time saving money:

Saving on salary, N.I., pensions and PAYE

The current average IT salary is around £47,500 (starting from £25,000 for a junior support position, ranging up to £85,000+ for a specialist engineer). Outsourced IT services might cost from £25 p/m for a very basic package to £200+ p/m for more comprehensive needs. So, the service billing from an outsourced IT company could be significantly less than the cost of employing dedicated in-house IT staff. Add to this not having to process their payroll, and you could see a healthy saving on time and hassle, too.

Experienced IT support without the price tag

Outsourced IT staff live and breathe technology every day, and usually come with a great depth of knowledge and experience under their belt. This is particularly true when you’re looking at specialist solutions for your CRM, ecommerce, communications, staff intranet, etc. To keep someone with this level of expertise on your payroll – or to commission services when you need them – could be quite expensive. With a retainer agreement, you’ll have it built into your service.

A resource on tap when you need it

Unlike a member of staff, an outsourced IT service is never on holiday or off work due to illness or personal commitments. You should have experts available to you – often with skills suited to your particular needs – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Only pay for it when you use it

Some outsourced IT service providers operate on a fixed-rate, per user per month basis, or charge a set monthly budget against a certain anticipated number of hours. Others may charge a fixed retainer, covering your basic requirements, and will add fees for additional services or tasks (such as setting up a new member of staff or installing new software) as and when needed. You may also have flexibility on the fees you pay when you reduce or increase the number of devices in your business. More on the various types of support below.

Constantly up-to-date on technology, issues and solutions

As mentioned above, outsourced services will have IT staff that are completely immersed in the industry. Aside from hearing about all the latest new IT developments, being aware of every vital update and having the inside track on national and international IT issues, they will also be running the most up-to-date systems, with comprehensive data storage and the latest security measures.

Future-proofing

A competent IT support service is more than just a backup when there’s an issue or a general maintenance provider – they’re also your partner for planning for the future. As well as delivering a close level of guardianship over your existing set-up, they should be working with you to anticipate your IT needs over the next 1-3 years as your company (and technology) evolves. We typically work to a 3-year business plan with our clients, delivering IT support to help them to scale and achieve their targets.

When is Outsourced IT support needed? 

How do you know when you really need outsourced IT support? It can be down to a number of factors.

  • Your current IT person or staff are unable to handle the amount of support your office needs as your business grows
  • Changes to your company infrastructure, software, systems and delivery methods mean you need a new skillset
  • Adding another IT staff member to handle these issues in-house means your costs exceed what you’d expect to pay an external IT service to do the same job

Much will depend on the size of your company, the number of devices and users you have, the types of systems required to be in place and the amount of resources you actually need.

Not sure that you need outsourced IT services? 

All kinds of businesses and organisations, large and small, are benefiting right now from the level of support an external IT service can bring, especially in areas such as cyber security, remote working and cloud-based systems.

Don’t forget – using an outsourced IT service doesn’t necessarily mean making your existing staff redundant. Many companies use a partial outsourcing model, where they keep on an in-house IT role for day-to-day issues or maintenance, while using outsourced support for a second pair of eyes or additional expertise.

Man holding tablet

The different kinds of outsourced IT support

You’ll find varying levels of support provided by many outsourced IT companies. Some will offer specific packages, while others will provide all services remotely, or maybe only on demand. Others still will take more of a partnership approach.

What it all boils down to is the type of service you either want or expect from an outsourced IT provider, and what will work best for your organisation.

01
Managed IT service
The complete package, where your IT support provider in effect becomes your in-house team. Here, you get support in person from engineers making on-site visits as well as online via remote access and over the phone. As well as software updates, performance analysis, security measures and equipment support, you’ll get long-term planning catered to your business development. 
02
Partial outsourcing
and a quick go-to resource, but also engage an outside contractor to handle specific IT projects, roles or services. Works well when your in-house personnel are highly competent and you know exactly what you need to outsource to keep things running smoothly, but you may miss out on an external view when it comes to planning your needs. This said, an audit or consultation could be part of the services you outsource. 
03
Pay-as-you-go engineers
Providing support as and when you need it, you could have an account with a trusted IT firm who will only bill you when you call on them to fix issues, install new machines or software, update security, etc. In theory, this sounds cost-effective, but in reality could become expensive if you need to call on them a lot. They will also have no vested interest in the long-term success of your business. 
04
Online-only support
of a Managed IT service can be delivered online. This kind of service became particularly relevant during the recent Covid-19 lockdowns, and with more staff continuing to work from home, it may be a preferred option. However, its success can rely on your employees having the confidence and familiarity with your systems to fix IT issues while being walked through the process by an engineer via chat or email.  
05
Bolt-on additions
applications, email systems, accounting software or a new CRM, you’ll need the corresponding level of expertise and support. 

Things to consider when looking to outsource your IT support

Aside from the type of service, it’s worth also looking into a number of day-to-day factors that will affect how smoothly your outsourced IT support will run.

Location

If you need an engineer to make a site visit, how quickly will they be able to get there? Or if you need new equipment delivered, how soon will they be able to drop it round? Consider how important it’ll be to your business to have your IT support available close-by. The Comms Unite support team is positioned to service the whole of East Anglia, but have the expertise and resources to support businesses and branch offices further afield.

Account management

Having a single point of contact at your outsourced IT support, with a complete overview of your requirements, will provide an invaluable level of clarity and organisation, especially if your needs are more complex. It’ll also promote a positive, long-term personal relationship.

Language

It’s common for many outsourced IT firms to use remote engineers based all around the globe, and there are many skilled technicians living in countries where the cost of living is much cheaper, and therefore so are their fees. However, if English is not their first language, your staff might struggle with communication, which will in turn delay solving your issues. Our support team are all based in Suffolk, UK, so you know you’ll get a prompt response from someone who understands your priorities.

Availability

We know that IT problems can happen at any time, especially in the case of cyber attacks or surges in server demand. The world doesn’t all stop at 5.30pm. Check that your outsourced provider can cover IT support as and when you need it 24/7, so that you don’t suffer long interruptions to your business and let customers down.

Response time

In addition to general availability, check your SLA and the speed with which your outsourced IT support will be able to respond to issues and requests. It’s important to note that this may vary according to the type of service you have in place and how much you are paying – those on Managed IT contracts typically get a faster response than others on hire on an as-and-when basis.

Outsourced IT Services

So, what services can we provide on an outsourced basis? Here’s a list:

  • Managed IT – a 24/7 service that includes monitoring your systems so we spot issues before you even know they’re there
  • Flexible Outsourced IT – becoming an extension of your in-house IT department, so that you get expert input on specific areas or projects (Comms Unite staff routinely work on-site with clients 2 or 3 days a week a part of this arrangement)
  • Software – from security and accountancy to cloud and specialist haulage software, we get you up and running and provide support
  • Hardware – securing, installing and providing ongoing support for laptops, printers, servers, routers or cables, at competitive prices
  • Cyber security – our services cover antivirus and firewall software through to on-site training and 24/7 support
  • Training – on-site training whenever we install a new system or software program, or in specific areas like security or data protection

Outsourced IT support costs  

Again, this may vary according to the level of support you need or want, and the type of company you speak to. We find it tricky to quote specific costs up front because no two companies are exactly the same – we’ll always need to get an overall picture of your current IT environment and to understand what you have in mind and what you really require.

Beware of a set monthly rate that seems cheap but in fact doesn’t include on-site visits, out-of-hours or rushed responses, set-up fees or extra hours beyond an agreed limit.

Which service will be right for you? 

We provide clients with everything from complete Managed IT services to simple on-demand arrangements when they need it, with bolt-on additional services available as their company grows.

Give us a call on 01473 599020 or email hello@comms-unite.co.uk to find out your options and see how much you could save compared to your current arrangements.

September 16, 2021 By Leo
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