Weighing the Pros and Cons of Outsourcing IT Support

Renee Wagner
Vice President, Business Development

If you’re in IT, you’ve probably heard more than your fair share of outsourcing horror stories: Networking problems that resulted in long downtimes during a company’s busiest season; regularly unmet SLAs for tasks of every kind, from responding to support requests to deploying system patches; and hidden or unplanned costs that lead to higher-than-expected financial expenditures on contracts.

I’ve certainly heard them myself from enterprises that come to us to help figure out how they can turn around their unhappy outsourcing experiences.

One large company, for instance, recently told us of its displeasure at the loss of control it’s suffered since outsourcing its network operations to another service provider. It now has to go through cumbersome processes to have its outsourcer make even simple changes to switch or router configurations. Even more troublesome is that the outsourcer has failed to take responsibility for monitoring chores that, while not specifically highlighted in the contract, are crucial for achieving the improved network efficiency the company assumed it was paying for.

It’s pretty clear that IT outsourcing has its share of cons. To be fair, though, both parties may have a hand in the problems that occur in the relationship.

Perhaps, for instance, an enterprise purchasing outsourcing services hasn’t fully embraced network standards that promote openness and interoperability or activated certain protocols on network devices, which may impact the service provider’s ability to live up to SLAs. Or maybe the business adopted a full-tilt approach, outsourcing both network operations and staff, without completely considering how that will affect the enterprise’s ability to maintain some level of authority over its operations. A situation like that could be avoided by using outsourcing services as a way to augment the IT team rather than replace it.

On the other hand, the problem may lie with an outsourcing vendor that simply isn’t as take-charge as it should be, or whose low fees are accompanied by a similarly low quality of service.

Is it best, then, to stay away from outsourcing for key networking, data center, virtualization, cloud, unified communications and other infrastructure activities?

Help Needed

I certainly don’t think so. Consider this, for starters: Like many other businesses, you’re probably dealing with a talent shortage when it comes to tech staff. That likely makes it difficult for IT to adequately support its two main missions: Dealing with day-to-day administration and troubleshooting while also taking on new projects – perhaps figuring out how to leverage cloud computing in a secure fashion, for instance. A big plus of outsourcing providers is that they can supply you with the expert help you need to support your internal staff.

When it comes to operations optimization, that help ideally comes in the form of 24/7, proactive network and infrastructure monitoring services to smooth regular administration duties and decrease last-minute firefighting demands. Providers can and should come in with sophisticated analysis and evaluation tools to oversee network performance, ensuring that issues get handled and resolved in a timely manner, with no impact to your own staff and ongoing operations.

Indeed, the more proactive an outsourcer is with its client, the more seamless the relationship between provider and buyer. If high-level, strategic and periodic health checks of infrastructure are a built-in part of an outsourced network performance service, for instance, that naturally leads to ongoing, personal contact between buyer and provider. Not only does this support communicating and facilitating the provider’s recommendations of how to improve services, but it also gives the business the chance to raise its own questions and thoughts before minor concerns become major issues. When the outsourcer ensures that a senior-level architect is onboard to conduct these assessments and address any matters, the business is likely to experience a big boost in both trust and satisfaction.

Project Work

Businesses also should be able to turn to outsourcers to help them successfully plan and implement their bigger projects, particularly in new technology areas where internal IT staff has yet to tread. Outsourcers that have had the advantage of working with other clients to bring to their networks unified communications or hybrid cloud connectivity, for example, can draw on that experience to inform plans for other customers.

For those enterprises to truly realize the advantages of these technologies, though, it’s important that outsourcers marry the wisdom they’ve gained from past experiences to the assessments they make of individual customers’ own business requirements and desired outcomes. A one-size-fits-all approach to such projects just won’t cut it.

There’s a lot of value in outsourcing for almost every company, as long as the outsourcer approaches the job in a positive and proactive manner – and as long as the enterprise ensures that it’s hiring a firm that will behave in that way.

To learn more about NetCraftsmen’s own managed services program, check out Craftsmen Assurance. Or for more guidance on how to get the most out of your relationship with your IT services partner, let’s talk.

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