Small businesses have traditionally gotten their IT support in something called the break/fix model. It means approaching IT the same way you approach your electrician or plumber at home: only call when something is broken. The advantage compared with some of the models discussed below is that it requires no monthly rates, so for some small businesses with light IT needs, it may be the most affordable option. The drawback is that every time something breaks you have to place a call and wait, and wait times can vary. Moreover, their hourly pricing may compound if the problem is complicated and they spend a long time on site.
Managed Services is today’s way to handle the IT needs of small businesses. It scales down the kind of constant system monitoring that big companies get by hiring full-time techs, and it moves past the break/fix model that was previously all a small business could afford. It also allows you to plan your budget ahead of time with knowable costs. But how much should you really be paying for IT, and is it worth it?
You won’t be surprised when we say “it depends,” but more specifically:
- What is your business? Every business needs some kind of IT, but some need more than others.
- How big is your business? Bigger means more budget, but also more visibility as a target and therefore need for more security.
- How much would you be paying for your own IT department or employee?
- How regulated is your business? Does it have to comply with information privacy laws like HIPAA or NIST?
If you run a larger company, or if just have heavier IT needs than other businesses your size, having your own full-time onsite IT tech might be worth it. Let’s take some scenarios to get a ballpark idea of comparative costs.
3 WAYS TO GET IT SUPPORT
Keeping an in-house IT tech, if you can afford to, means knowing your tech and building a personal trust with them. But it also means paying a salary. Moderately skilled techs have a median salary range of $40,000, and the more skilled have a median salary closer to $50,000. Add to this the cost of benefits, payroll tax, and on-the-job tools and technologies, and you might be spending $62-70,000 a year for an in-house IT professional. This is often well worth it for companies that can afford it, but many can’t.
Outsourcing IT support can mean the break/fix model, in which you hire some IT support for each separate problem. Few companies are even offering this type of service now, and those that do might charge between $90-200 an hour.
There’s a variation on the break/fix model, where you purchase blocks of service time in advance, but only call when you need something fixed. Since you have a long-term relationship with the same provider, there is more incentive for them to fix every problem thoroughly. The cost of this service depends on the age, condition, and quantity of hardware you’re running. Flat rate outsourced IT support for a small business might come to between $1,000 and $2,500 a month.
Managed Services (MSP) also involves a flat monthly rate, but it departs from the break/fix model by offering proactive, remote monitoring, among other services.
- Managed Services is comprehensive. It can include protection from viruses and malicious software, protection from unauthorized access to your system, and it can even mean storing your data at a secure location, so you don’t have to worry about maintaining servers.
- It is scalable: you can change the amount you get depending on your needs, and it can stay with your business as it grows.
- It is flexible: you can choose which services to have in your monthly package, whether antivirus, spam filtering, firewall, email archiving, remote hosting, remote backup, desktop or mobile device monitoring, and more. Choose the managed services you need most, and decide which ones you can manage in-house for now.
- It is predictable: there is a flat rate for every month of service. It will go up if you opt for an additional service, but otherwise, it stays the same. There are no surprise charges for whatever may happen during the month.
- It is proactive: with round the clock monitoring it can spot likely problems coming and notify you before they crash your systems. The flat rate and the constant monitoring incentivize the provider to fix everything completely the first time and prevent recurring problems.
A la carte Managed Services can begin at less than a $30.00/device for the bare minimum, and for an average-sized small business a package covering your hardware, data, and devices might run anywhere from $50.00 /device up-to $200.00 /device
You won’t know the exact costs of managed services for your business until you talk to a provider who will survey your inventory and help you prioritize your most needed services based on your type of business. But as a small business, even if you opt for the fullest service and protection plan, you should usually be paying considerably less than the cost of a full-time IT worker.