7 Minutes

One of the most common questions we get around IT coverage for smaller businesses is 'what will it cost?' Signing up for IT is a bit like dropping the car off at a repair shop - scary. It feels scary because you don't know what things should cost, and the costs are often a bit of a mysteryÂ… you are not allowed to see inside of what makes up the expense, and, like leaving that car for repairs, it can be tough to know if you really need the work done and what it should cost.

The good news is that excellent value and service can be achieved at very reasonable prices using IT outsourcing. The important part of understanding and assessing the value of any given IT offering is in knowing what you are getting.

First of all, you should expect a relationship with your IT service provider. Much like your personal doctor relies on his long term knowledge of you to help diagnose what you need and what is happening with your body, a dedicated IT resource will use long term knowledge of your systems, investments, users and business plans to make good decisions on your behalf. Having a primary or 'named' consultant (as well as backup for when they are not available) will save you money and time. Think about it: Who will most rapidly and accurately correct an issue with your systems - someone who works with you and them on a consistent basis, or someone who was simply selected from a pool of available people? In general, the correct answer is the former, not the latter. The concept of a primary and secondary consultant is a fundamental building block of our offering, and part of how we ensure we are up to speed and able to correctly assess and remediate issues on site. It saves you money. It keeps you productive.

Secondly, you must understand that IT is not only a reactive service (coming along when things are broken) but is more intelligently designed as a proactive service coupled with the ability to react quickly at need. Automated tools are nice, and are part of our offerings, but can't replace having a skilled IT professional coming onsite on a pre-scheduled basis to assess your systems, your user needs, and your business requirements. Fixing things quickly when broken is nice, but let's face it, the goal is to avoid that downtime all together if possible. We handle that through our scheduled onsite time, where our consultant completes a routine checklist of required items that need to be managed in a proactive manner. The size and complexity of your business will determine the required frequency of visits (every other month, monthly, weekly, etc). We believe that these onsite visits are the most important aspect of your IT investment when it comes to field based IT offerings.

To give an example of a basic company and what you may expect to spend (just a typical small business example), let's use a hypothetical company of 25 employees and a Small Business Server, you would pay for monitoring and a server check for that server, a once per month 4 hour on site, plus expected user support and reactive maintenance time (things happen, like automatic patches not working correctly, power outages, or simply users wanting support on an application) of another 4-8 hours. That would give you a very comprehensive IT service to maintain up time and maximize productivity very much comparable to having a dedicated in house IT staff. The cost of doing that in house is a full or part time employee. A full time employee fully loaded is going to cost upwards of $80,000, and a part timer, if you can find one, would be in the $30,000 to $40,000 range.

Our service for this would run between $1,300 to $1,900 per month, and with a monthly minimum of just $720 for the proactive service and monitoring. Why don't we simply lock it all together and fix the price? We can, and have a remote based offering that does that, but frankly, for most of our clients, we want you to pay for what you need, and some months you will only spend the minimum for the proactive service, so why pay the higher rate every month, instead of paying for what you need and having 100% visibility over your spend and the ability to prioritize your spend for reactive or extra services? The range for this service on average is going to be from around $16,000 to around $20,000. Not only is this a savings over hiring internally, but frankly, you get a breadth of knowledge that can only come from a base of over 40 qualified IT professionals all working together to solve issues for you efficiently. No management headaches, the ability to flex up or down as needed, etc.

That 25 person company most likely is spending in the range of $1.5 million in total payroll outside of IT. Providing full support of that expenditure with a $20,000 IT maintenance and support expenditure means that you are spending about 1.3% of your payroll on IT in this fairly normal scenario.

So, is that too much to spend? What do you spend on legal each year? How about HR? What about coffee and snacks? The fact is, IT is not free, and not maybe not cheap, but it is valuable, not certainly not unreasonable relative to the value and importance to your business.

Our goal is to offer IT services that provide value and support our mission of ensuring you are happy, productive and supported by your IT vendor. Most businesses today are completely reliant on their IT infrastructure to process business in any real way. Entrusting that to a break fix mentality, cheap hardware, or hoping for good luck makes about as much sense as never putting oil in your car or providing basic maintenance and hoping it never catches up with you.

Our goal is to provide honest and open assessments of your needs and the costs. Giving you a fixed price with 4 pages of excluded items in small print is not our way of doing business. We are happy to provide you pricing to meet your budgetary requirements, using time and materials, or fixed pricing for smaller businesses with simple infrastructure, but we won't try to hide how the price is set, nor close a deal with lots of hidden costs.

Nor do we believe in contracts. The best (and only way for us) to maintain clients is through excellent service, not a piece of paper saying we are married for a year or two.

So make sure to ask hard questions. Be clear what you are signing up for and what you will get (and not get) and ultimately never sign up with an IT vendor that leaves you feeling unsure about costs or service levels. There is variability in IT work based on the simple fact that 'things happen' with technology. If you want a fixed price contract, make sure it does not simply exclude those items (many of them do), as that is not really reflecting what your costs will be, but really just setting a minimum, but doing it in a way that may make you feel more protected than you are.

Do your homework. Better yet, do your homework and then call us and let us show you how we handle things. I think you'll like our approach. We take a lot of pride in our open business model, and take our role as IT advisor and service provider very seriously.

Happy Computing!
-Richard Brunke

Staff Writer

Written by Staff Writer