Should I Work With A Local IT Provider? Advantages & Disadvantages
If you are considering hiring an external IT provider, one of the questions you have is likely whether to hire a local firm or to hire a regional or national provider. It’s a question that business leaders face every day and it’s one that we are asked regularly.
In the interest of full disclosure, I work for Kelser, a local managed IT support provider. But before you dismiss this article as a ploy to get your business, please understand that we aren’t writing this article to convince you to work with us.
At Kelser, we are committed to providing the unbiased information business leaders like you need to make the best technology decision for your organization.
We understand that our managed IT support services aren’t right for every organization. And we’re okay with that. It’s more important to us that you find the answers to your questions and the technology solutions your organization needs.
That’s why, in this article, I’ll spell out not only the benefits of working with local IT providers but the disadvantages as well. It’s important to have all of the facts in front of you, so that you can make an informed decision.
Related article: How Do I Choose The Right IT Provider? (Criteria You Can Use)
What Are The Advantages Of Working With A Local IT Provider?
While there are benefits to working with a large national IT provider, there are also advantages to keeping your IT support local. Here are some of them:
While many issues can be remedied remotely, there are occasions when there is no substitute for on-site service.
When natural, technical or human-error-induced disaster strikes, having people who can come on-site to provide live support is invaluable. This can also lead to faster resolution, as the technical expert can perform in-person, hands-on assessment and service.
And routine site visits provide an extra set of eyes on your equipment and processes, potentially yielding significant security, efficiency, and other improvements.
From set-up and installation to technical support and business continuity, a local IT provider can offer personalized service that non-local organizations simply can’t.
Physical presence helps improve the end-user experience and enhance the relationship between your on-site staff and the provider. Casual, in-person conversations that occur during on-site visits often result in discovery of emerging business goals that technology can help facilitate.
For example, if your IT provider knows that you expect a hiring campaign or are investing in an additional location, they can make sure that your infrastructure is prepared to handle the additional traffic and that you have the hardware and devices you need for the additional staff members (among other things).
If, on the other hand, you are experiencing a downturn and preparing for a reduction in your workforce, your IT provider can ensure that you no longer are paying for software licenses or other services that you no longer need.
A local provider also can often deliver loaner equipment to your facility in an emergency and help your business quickly adapt to changing local requirements.
For example, during the pandemic there was a global shift toward remote work. Many local providers walked their customers through this transition quickly and seamlessly.
Some IT providers offer virtual chief information officers (vCIOs) and technical alignment managers (TAMs) who provide strategic IT advice that helps companies use technology effectively to achieve their short- and long-term business goals.
These types of services often require an on-site presence to clearly understand your business, challenges, pain points, what you’re doing well, and what could use improvement.
Related article: Align Your IT And Business Strategy: Why It Matters, How To Do It
Some tests (intrusion and vulnerability testing, for example) should be done on-site.
For example, intrusion and vulnerability testing are more effective when performed at your site. Social engineering tests, such as dropping a flash drive in the parking lot to see if an employee picks it up and plugs it in, are best performed on-site as well.
While remote and self-directed training can be effective, there is no substitute for in-person training.
Being physically present with your staff allows the IT provider to offer targeted education that pertains specifically to your organization and your employees. It also allows for a more interactive experience for your users with opportunity to ask questions and pivot training in response to pertinent issues.
This experience also provides another opportunity to build trust between your users and the IT provider.
Due to closer connections that a local provider can foster, you are more likely to have a relationship that weathers the storms and lasts for years.
As with any relationship, trust and communication are key.
When your provider takes the time to understand your business, your needs and objectives, rather than coming in and recommending a one-size-fits-all solution, you build a rapport that puts your needs first and foremost, yielding a relationship that works for the long-term.
No matter your purchase, one of the main advantages of shopping local is the connection with an actual person you can call if something goes wrong.
If the same person handles all of your vehicle service, for example, they know you, and you know them. If their tech installs a faulty seal during an oil change, they will prioritize the fix. They may also provide some compensation as well as contacting the vendor or manufacturer to report the issue.
They are going to stand by you because their reputation relies on it.
Local providers generally have the flexibility to be more responsive when you need something out of the ordinary. If you have a flat tire the night before you are scheduled for a cross-country road trip, they will move things around to get you up and running the same day.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Working With A Local IT Provider?
In the interest of honesty and transparency, there are also disadvantages of working with a local provider. Here are some important ones to consider:
Limited Staff, Experience & Skills
A local IT provider may have a smaller staff. This fact alone could limit the organization's ability to provide service and the types of skills and experience they have readily available to draw on.
If you are considering working with a local IT provider be sure to ask not only about the size of their overall staff, but how many of those people are qualified and certified IT professionals. Ask how many years of IT experience their experts have, too.
You want to know that they have enough people to cover you and that they have the experience you need to get the fix right the first time.
No matter the size of the organization, every IT infrastructure has the same needs just on a different scale.
If you decide to go with a local provider, make sure they have the full complement of IT professionals necessary to support all of your technology needs and that they have a strong base of seasoned professionals onboard.
Look for an organization that also has tech experts to help plan and execute projects, develop a strategic IT plan and budget that supports your business strategy, and advise you on cybersecurity policies, planning and response.
Check with current customers to make sure they haven’t experienced any skill gaps that have left their infrastructure without the support it needs.
Limited Vendor Partnerships
Local providers may not offer the number of vendor relationships that a regional or national provider does. This could result in limited options for your organization in terms of equipment choices.
Off-Hours Service Coverage & Charges
Most local IT providers have realized the critical need to provide after-hours service. But, how they approach it differs.
Some hire outside organizations to respond to all or emergency service calls. Make sure you know where your after hours support is located and any affiliated additional charges for after-hours and emergency service.
Time zones and language barriers can cause time-consuming, frustrating, and expensive issues, especially in a highly technical field like IT.
Some smaller, local IT providers may have limited staff which may affect their ability to respond quickly. Find out what the service level agreement or SLA lists for a response time. But don’t stop there: talk to a current client to see what their experience has been with response time.
One of the downfalls of working with a local provider is that they may be inconsistent. While service may be great one time, it may not measure up another. To mitigate this, select a provider who has been in business long enough to develop consistent protocols that are reliable and consistent.
Because they can have a more difficult time weathering economic downturns, local providers may be more susceptible to closure. Or, if they are tremendously successful, they may be ripe for a merger with a larger organization.
Check out the provider’s number of years in service and try to get a feel for their priorities so you can gauge if they will be around to support you in the future.
Which Is Better A Local Or Non-Local IT Provider?
After reading this article, you understand the pros and cons of working with a local IT provider.
We’ve walked through the advantages (proximity, personal touch, strategic guidance, testing, training, long-term relationship, and responsiveness).
We’ve explored the disadvantages (staffing limitations, limited experience/skills, limited vendor partnerships, off-hours service coverage & charges, response time, quality of service, consistency, and longevity).
At this point, you have all of the information you need to decide if a local IT provider would be a good fit for your organization. As much as some providers may say that they offer the best solution for you, only you can make the IT decision that is right for your organization.
Reading articles like this one ensure that you make an educated choice based on honest information.
If you are looking for an IT partner, we encourage you to check out several options to make sure you find the best fit for you. Here are the best questions to ask when evaluating IT providers.
Whether you decide to go local or not, there are two basic support models for IT support. This article provides an honest comparison of break/fix and managed IT solutions. Each option offers pros and cons, depending on your needs.
One thing that isn’t optional for any business is cybersecurity. Click on the button below to download our free cybersecurity eBook and learn 10 actions you can take to improve your company’s cybersecurity.