Small Business Services

Can’t Afford Full-Time IT Help? Your Options

If you were to survey small business owners and ask them what their five greatest challenges were, chances are more than one would mention computer and network maintenance. Companies that are big enough to have a full-time IT specialist on staff might not, but IT issues are a major challenge for those who aren’t.

You know how far behind you can get when the network is down. And it doesn’t have to be absolutely inoperable to create work interruptions. So how do you keep that from happening – and deal with it when it does?

Unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of options. Unless you’re lucky enough to have an employee who knows enough to keep the network running, someone with both training and experience, there are really only two viable ones.

Managed or On-Demand IT

Some businesses that can’t afford an IT staff position simply hope for the best. And they pay for it when the worst occurs.

“Managed IT” is a generic term for a professional field that offers a wide array of services, depending on what you need and who you hire. It’s a kind of outsourcing. You sign a contract with an IT firm, and they monitor your network, sending alerts when there are potential problems and working with critical needs like backups, patches, and security.

If you absolutely can’t afford managed IT and you’re not located in a very rural location, you can probably find firms that provide on-demand services. These individuals and teams can do both preventive maintenance and damage control on an a la carte basis.

Defining Your Situation

If you’re just starting a business or you’re taking on a more complex network of computing devices, there are things you should consider before doing a localized Google search or getting recommendations, like:

  • How sensitive your data is. If you’re producing manuals or doing graphic design projects, your need for the highest security protocols is not as great as if your company works with financial data.
  • How devastating occasional shutdowns would be. How deadline-driven are you? How time-sensitive is the work you do?
  • How much you can reasonably afford. Network maintenance is not an area where you should skimp or hire the cheapest firm. It’s not like it was 20 or even 10 years ago, when you were just trying to connect all of the computers in the office. Now you have more portable devices. The internet is playing an increasingly important role in business. And hackers just keep improving their skills.
  • How much growth you expect over the next year or two. More employees, products, or locations will present new challenges. Think beyond what you need now.

IT management is an ongoing, ever-changing process. Network maintenance may cost more than you want to pay, but consider the expense of work shutdowns, lost or stolen data, and antiquated, patched-together, error-prone systems that can’t keep up when you calculate the cost of this critical business necessity.

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