January 6, 2017

A Beginner’s Guide to IT Service Companies

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IT professionals provide an essential service to your company, but maintaining a dedicated IT team in-house is expensive and sometimes won’t cover all of your needs. Enter IT service companies: contract IT experts who build, maintain, update, and service your software, hardware, and systems.

“IT as a service”(ITaaS) is defined by Wikipedia as “. . . an operational model where the IT service provider delivers an information technology service to a business . . . At its core, ITaaS is a competitive business model where businesses have many options for IT services and the internal IT organization has to compete against those other external options in order to be the selected.”

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In simpler terms, ITaaS means hiring contract services to handle any software, hardware, or network issues your company has. Whether you contract with an outside organization or use the ITaaS model to organize your internal IT department depends on your resources and needs.

This article covers the why, what, and who of ITaaS as it currently exists. I’ll explain why a business might choose to outsource IT, what offerings you should look for, and provide an overview of the biggest national ITaaS companies to compare. 

Why You Should Outsource IT

Companies of all sizes will, at some point, consider ITaaS companies — when their current software, hardware, data storage, or networking needs grow beyond the skills or scheduling resources of their own staff. Think about hiring an IT service company if you run into any of the following issues:

1. Growth/Scaling

Keeping an in-house IT department can be expensive. IT professionals expect to be paid for their knowledge and expertise (rightfully) and turnover in these positions is historically high. To grow their company’s technical scope and business reach, many SMBs look to outsourced IT, saving money in the long term that they would otherwise spend maintaining an internal IT team.

2. Distributed Teams

Companies that maintain remote and distributed teams will find that much of their IT lives in the cloud. These companies may also find that hiring an ITaaS company to connect and implement their various subscription software makes financial sense, since the service companies are implementation and integration experts. These companies can monitor software for updates and upgrade your systems uniformly, which reduces downtime.

3. Lack of Employee Resources

Most IT service companies provide bundled software and hardware at a lower price than many SMBs can afford. The best part about these bundled services is that they include support and maintenance. Your team can continue running the business instead of parsing server logs and getting 2 a.m. calls about system outages. Small businesses running on tight budgets can re-invest in core business, rather than damage control. 

Employees are the most expensive part of running a business, but managing your technology assets takes a close second. The time and effort required to track and maintain your devices can be a full-time job, but many ITaaS companies provide device upkeep services that will keep your employees running for a flat, monthly fee.

4. Security Concerns

As companies expand and bring on more customers and partners, overlooked security can become a huge liability. While you could train your staff to learn to implement highly secure data environments, IT service companies specialize in security. Whether it’s on-premise or in the cloud, ITaaS can bring your company ready-made or custom ordered security to keep your customer and employee data safe.

What to Look for in an IT Service

IT service companies come in many shapes and sizes and specialize in many different parts of the IT spectrum. You can hire an ITaaS company to hang flat screen TVs in your office, or to build a network for all of your devices and send your data to the cloud. Regardless of your specific service needs, there are several factors that are important to look for in any outsourced IT relationship:  

Pricing Catalogs and Transparency

This seems obvious, but it’s easy to pass over for that exact reason. Make sure you fully understand the provider’s pricing structure. Research implementation fees, pricing for extra integrations, and pricing for hardware service plans. What about service calls? 24/7 help desk support? Depending on the size and complexity of your software stack and device catalog, you may want to sign up for subscription services instead of tacking on fees every time there’s a problem. Think of IT services like insurance for your technology.

Compatibility

Not all ITaaS companies build on the same foundation, so useful services for a healthcare company may not work for a design agency. Some providers specialize in Windows PCs, while others target Macs, and don’t forget Linux and Solaris and the other outliers. Take stock of your current infrastructure to make sure the provider you choose can handle your OS, server, and networking needs. Even if you don’t have a lot of experience with vetting IT specialists, think of your initial conversations as an interview. Ask lots of questions, and have your internal software experts available for backup.

Customer Service Record

Remember, ITaaS providers act as a service company. It’s not only important to research the ways the company will interact with your technology, but how they treat you as a customer. Read reviews and ask for references. An ITaaS company will have access to your company’s most sensitive data, including employee and customer records. Ask for their security plans, how they’ve dealt with breaches in the past, and what their future upgrade and training recommendations include.

Internal ITaaS

Another option many companies have tried in recent years is turning their internal IT departments into ITaaS wings of their existing company structure. While the IT team is still technically part of the organization, they have greater control over the direction and scheduling of IT services around the building.  

In addition to giving the IT department — the technical experts in your building — agency over their services, you also keep your IT services on-site. When the IT department controls their own funding, scheduling, and resources, they are less likely to be distracted (or impeded) by the whims of the larger corporation.

In this model, ITaaS departments build service plans and monetize their skills, making the value of the IT department more transparent. This option is often best for companies who have an existing IT team or are looking for on-premise solutions for software and hardware.

Leading ITaaS Companies

If you’re looking to transform your internal IT department into a separate ITaaS wing, consider companies like Dell and Citrix for help building your software-hardware infrastructure:

  • Dell EMC: IT services that cater to large and technology-dependent corporations, services like data migration and cloud building. You can also purchase on-site hardware for increased internal security.
  • Citrix: Worldwide IT services, especially cloud communication and network sharing/security. Also look to Citrix for app development and data services.

The rest of these companies provide contract and subscription-based IT services across the US. Their business models vary, so do your research to find out which service and pricing structure is right for your company.

  • Field Nation: Nationally sourced IT experts who provide businesses with contract and subscription IT services.
  • Barrister: Global IT services company providing networking, hardware and software services.
  • Gurus2Go: Outsourced IT for small businesses and individuals across the continental US.
  • OnForce: Works as a marketplace for companies to contract with IT professionals. Post a job and find skills-matched professionals in your area.
  • HelloTech: Business-specific plans for SMBs that include monthly subscriptions and job-specific pricing.
  • GeeksMobile: Self and full-service plans to match you with the right IT pros for your company’s needs, contact for quote. 

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Whether it’s to build your infrastructure from scratch or to supplement your already-capable internal IT department, employing a IT service company can save your own company time and money. As always, do your homework, and research the plans that best fit your needs. Don’t forget setup and additional add-on fees, as these can take a chunk out of even the cushiest budgets.