IT Skills: What's Best? In-House Vs. Outside Providers
You’ve decided you need to enhance your IT infrastructure and are trying to figure out how to get the best bang for your buck. You know that without ongoing health checks, your network can become susceptible to viruses (and worse) but is it more cost-effective to hire in-house staff or an outside IT provider?
There are pros and cons to each approach especially when it comes to the skills you need to properly care for your IT network.
Whether your network is large or small, it still needs the same kind of care; just on a different scale.
You need support for your users and a cybersecurity strategy, as well as management and monitoring of your network, servers, firewalls, and devices. Ideally, you also want someone who proactively ensures that your IT infrastructure enables the successful achievement of the organization’s short- and long-term goals.
So, how to get essential care for your IT network becomes an important question.
In this article, you'll find the information you need to confidently decide whether hiring in-house staff or an outside provider will provide the IT skills your organization needs.
In the interest of full disclosure, I work for a managed services provider (MSP) and understand that working with an outside IT provider isn’t the best solution for everyone.
I also know from first-hand experience that most consumers, do a lot of research online before we buy anything.
No matter the purchase, the Internet provides a wealth of information at our fingertips and we all use it!
Knowing this, Kelser provides information you can use to make the best decision about IT support for your organization.
As with most decisions in life, there is not one solution that is perfect for every situation; it’s a matter of balancing several factors that are specific to your business including cost, benefits, and skills.
In this article, we’ll explore how skills are an important consideration when making this critical decision about IT support.
After reading this article, you’ll understand the pros and cons that each solution offers and will be better prepared to make the decision that is right for you.
In-House Staff Vs. Outside IT Providers: Definitions
Just to make sure we are all operating from the same basic understanding, let’s define managed services and in-house staff.
In-House IT Staff
In-house staff refers to a full-time complement of IT professionals who work as dedicated employees of the organization to provide support for its network and users.
As employees, the in-house staff maintains the network, provides devices and support, and delivers training for users. The in-house staff calls on external resources as needed (typically a break/fix provider) to supplement the skills and time limitations of the internal staff.
Outside IT Providers
There are two kinds of outside IT providers: break/fix providers and MSPs.
1. Break/Fix Providers
Break/fix providerss are a pay-as-you-go solution to IT issues. When something breaks, you pay someone to come and fix the problem.
2. Managed Services Providers (MSPs)
MSPs are IT support organizations that provide IT services (covering everything from firewalls to access points, devices to networks, and more) for an ongoing monthly fee. These services may include cybersecurity awareness training for employees, as well as strategic IT advice, guidance, and resource coordination.
In-House Staff Vs. Outside IT Providers: Skills
The skills your IT support staff possesses are critically important. Just like with specialized tools, you don’t want to pay for something you’ll never use, but when you really need a pneumatic drill, it’s great to have one on hand.
In-House IT Staff
Many internal IT organizations train and cross-train staff members to handle specific things. This provides a backup for regularly needed support and can also provide specialized knowledge for custom applications or unique network characteristics.
2. Organizational Knowledge
The benefit of having an in-house IT team is that they have more access to people within your organization at large. They may hear something at a meeting that gives them insight into an IT support need or project coming down the pike.
1. Limited Resources
It’s unrealistic to expect a small internal IT team to have the knowledge or skills to tackle every situation. They will likely need to be supported by another organization to supplement their limited internal skill set.
2. Outdated Technical Knowledge
The IT industry changes quickly. Think about how often you upgrade your operating systems or software.
If your staff doesn’t have the luxury of paying attention to what’s going on in the industry, you will find yourself and your infrastructure quickly out-of-date.
Many in-house IT organizations are stretched thin responding to daily crises and don’t have the bandwidth to stay current on industry trends.
When you work with a break/fix provider, you have access (often 24 hours a day) to a variety of skills on an as-needed basis. You may pay a different rate depending on the time of day or day of the week, but you will have access.
Since break/fix providers work with a variety of companies, they may be able to transfer IT solutions from one customer to another, enhancing the value of the skills they offer to customers.
When working with a break/fix provider, you typically don’t sign a contract. If you find that the skills of one break/fix provider don’t meet your needs, you can easily try another with no financial implication.
When you fix things as they break, you don’t have the advantage of planning for the future. Nobody is taking a long look at what your infrastructure may need to guarantee your organization’s future success.
In most cases, a break/fix provider doesn’t have the skills on staff to provide strategic guidance.
You may not work with the same person or service provider each time you have an issue.
The quality of your service and IT solution may suffer because break/fix staff members do not all have the same skill level and each may approach an issue differently. As a result, you might be paying to fix the same problem more than once.
An MSP’s technical staff stays on top of industry trends and updates. MSP experts live and breathe IT every day and they serve as a conduit of information for client solutions, easily transferring IT solutions from one customer to another.
In addition, many MSPs include the services of experts like a chief information officer, technical alignment manager, and service delivery manager in their monthly fee. Some also offer cybersecurity experts.
These experts take a proactive approach, providing strategic advice and resource management.
2. Certifications And Training
MSP employees are required to keep their certifications and training current. This means they have the latest skills to understand and implement solutions that meet your technology needs.
Most MSPs provide service (or help) desk services for users, offering the skills to provide a solution the first time a user calls.
MSPs often provide customers with a service delivery manager who acts as a translator, speaking the language of users as well as that of engineers. This gives them the ability to facilitate quick and accurate resource management solutions.
1. More Than You Need
If you are part of an organization with less than five employees in a non-technical industry, an MSP may offer access to more skills than you need. You want to find the right solution for your business and MSPs are not the right choice for everyone.
MSPs are contract-based. You sign a contract for certain services at a negotiated monthly fee. If the MSP doesn’t offer the skills you need, you will likely pay a fee to terminate the contract early.
Which Solution Will Provide the IT Skills That Are Right For You?
This article provides a comprehensive look at in-house and outside IT providers in terms of the skills each offers.
Large organizations often choose a combination of in-house staff supported by outside IT providers.
This approach gives them the best of both worlds: they benefit from the specialization and organizational knowledge of in-house staff, while also compensating for the limited resources and potential outdated knowledge.
Smaller organizations usually don’t have the financial resources to hire in-house IT staff.
They often use break/fix providers or MSPs to get the IT infrastructure support their organizations need.
How you decide to care for your IT infrastructure will depend on many factors including the size of your organization and the IT skills you need.
Whether you decide that an in-house or outside IT provider would best meet your needs, you have the information you need about the pros and cons each option provides in terms of skills.
At this point, you may or may not be ready to make a decision about the best solution for your IT needs. That’s okay. You have more knowledge now than you did before you read this article.
Wondering how in-house staffs and MSPs compare in terms of cost? Read this article: In-House IT Staff Vs. MSP: Cost.
Kelser has been partnering with organizations just like yours for more than 40 years. If you’re ready to talk about the specific benefits your organization can realize from an MSP partnership, fill out the form below and one of our talented representatives will contact you.