Gordon Fleming is the Head of Technology and Operations at Cloud Cover IT. He has experience of working as both an IT Managed Service provider, and as a member of an in-house IT department. Below, he examines the main differences between the options, and the pros and cons.
Over the past 15 years or so, I have had the pleasure of working with and for many companies in various roles and positions. From In-House IT to the Managed Service providers. The big to the small.
Companies all need varying degrees of support and that choice of how we decide to protect and provide for our IT from the passing of time, security concerns, and day-to-day issues can be a tricky one to navigate. We can employ a whole team, employ an individual, hand a current staff member who is reasonably IT Savvy the keys to the server room, or look to the world of Managed Service Providers.
Each has its benefits and pitfalls.
Having your own team on payroll running around your office with your business interests being their top priority sounds like the best solution here. Right?
For the most part yes. You get the day-to-day staff familiarity, availability, historical knowledge, and care that an employee would give for his or her company. However, lurking in the shadows is that question all employers hate to ask themselves… what if this employee left? What uncalculated and irreplaceable knowledge is the business losing from their departure? What will happen to the remaining members of the team?
I’ve known many companies that have a team of 3 or 4 core IT staff that have been around through the tough times and the busy times. The failed migrations and the big disasters. The team can be found reminiscing about “the bad times” in the IT dept after a hard day’s work. They depend on each other’s gaps in knowledge, ability to work late, and a good sense of humour to get through challenging days. But like all good teams, it needs the group to succeed. Budget cuts or changes in business strategy can push some to the fringes and into the eyes and ears of other companies looking to refresh and reinvigorate these IT workers. A story that I have seen many times before. When one leaves the others are given the workload that’s leftover and the exodus begins.
It’s not all gloom and doom. If managed and cared for correctly, the in-house IT dept can be a thriving place where well-executed change and performance gains are attributes recognized company-wide.
Companies that opt for the Managed Service Provider have a different set of challenges and rewards to deal with.
Who do you award the contract to? The company in your city that can be on-site in 10-15 minutes, or the huge UK wide provider with the flashy sales pitch but next to no geographical presence in your area? A tricky call for sure for anyone tasked with ensuring that someone looks after the IT operations of your company. The reward for this strategy, if placed in the right hands of course, is a constant headcount of skilled and accountable IT support personnel. Account management and escalation points that would not exist in-house. Clout when it comes to procurement and project management expertise. A depth of technological experience that obscures traditional in-house teams. Most importantly a scalable and reliable IT presence on the books and peace of mind for you and the management you report to.
The cons of this strategy? For most this comes down to cost. There is a middle ground where Managed Services Providers sit within industry sizes, and it tends to be in the Small to Medium-sized enterprise markets where they thrive. Striking a balance between cost, risk, and reward they operate and provide an ideal solution for most businesses in this sphere.
Having sat on both sides of the fence, I cannot honestly say which one I prefer outright. I love being in an environment where I can speak face to face with my customer base, be that colleagues or clients, and working with a team that has potential and a desire to help and enhance IT for others.
Sitting here at my desk at Cloud Cover, I genuinely feel that I have both feet on the side of this virtual fence and as a result I, and the customers we serve, reap the benefits. We operate with the sincerity, care and concern of an in-house IT operation but have the in-depth knowledge and expertise of a managed service provider. We don’t run a heavy sales operation like the huge UK wide operations that make our clients feel like a drop in the ocean or just another client in a database.
Making the transition back from in-house IT to outsourced was a tricky decision for me at the end of last year. Ending an 8-year run in a seat working for your own company was a tough call but having landed here at Cloud Cover IT, I can with no doubt say that the choice I made was the right one and I don’t regret it for one minute.
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