Do you currently spend a lot of money on IT? Do future business plans have a heavy reliance on IT?
If the answer to either of these questions is yes, you either already know – or you’re about to discover – quite how much IT can cost your business.
Fortunately, there are ways of making sure neither your software, hardware or support requirements run away with your budget. Here, we’ll look at what each of those things is – and how they can drastically reduce what they’re going to cost your business.
While IT equipment can unquestionably cost a lot – it’s a figure that falls into the shadow of how much it will cost you to support your IT network with an in-house team.
The cost begins long before you’ve got a team in place – usually with planning and recruitment. It’s estimated that recruiting just one member of IT staff is likely to cost your business somewhere around £10,000 ($13,000). Beyond these startup costs, even a modest team is likely to cost £50,000 a year – before you’ve considered how much extra it will cost covering any holidays, sickness, gaps in knowledge – and more.
For many small or fledgling businesses, this kind of wage spend just isn’t possible – and, for those whom it is, the money is often coming out of a pot that would normally accelerate growth in other areas.
With these things in mind – it’s useful to consider the merits of a Managed Service Provider (MSP). An MSP is, effectively, an outsourced IT team – just at a fraction of the cost of having a team in-house.
Of course, the prospect of handing your systems and data to someone who doesn’t feel under your control might be intimidating – but in reality, a good MSP will put a Service Level Agreement in place, making sure you get the service you require – and, in return, they receive the fee that’s agreed.
A service level agreement will normally cover the maintenance of your systems – with additional cost being attributed to any additional works involved with your network. Don’t worry though, since ‘keeping the lights on’ represents around 80% of what an IT team do, even with a generous number of network refinements and adjustments, your MSP cost is going to be a tiny fraction of what a team would cost you.
Improvements in cloud-technology mean that the requirement for an IT team to be ‘hands-on’ is diminishing too – so you don’t have to worry about the implications of having a team based elsewhere. In fact, with many companies taking the first steps into SD WAN control systems, there’s an ever-decreasing need for anyone IT related to step foot on your premises after your network is physically installed.
When you sit down to talk to some MSPs, it’s worth making sure that they have experience in your field – and with companies that are the same size as you – as well as gauging their ability to support you as you grow. This will be a business and team of people that you’re trusting with a critical part of your business – so it’s important to get the relationship right – but it’s infinitely easier to do than building an in-house team.
As a Service
So, there are alternatives to having an in-house IT team – but, if you need particular applications for your end-users, there’s surely no way around that procurement job? Right?
Well, while that used to be the case, times are changing. You can also create a small business website for free.
In the past, the only way to secure the software you needed was to purchase licenses. A license worked like an access key – you installed the software, input your license and it was unlocked for use on that machine or for that user. If that device becomes redundant, so did your pre-paid software – and, when the software inevitably required updating, it was time to dip back into the budget and spend more money on the next version.
Again, the advent of smooth cloud-based computing has presented a different purchasing possibility for software – and it’s much more budget friendly.
Now, virtually all large software houses offer a ‘Software as a Service’ option – referred to commonly as ‘SaaS’. Rather than spending a large chunk a money upfront, SaaS allows you to purchase the applications you’re going to use as an annual or monthly subscription.
The beauty of paying ‘as you go’ is that you’re not tied to anything solid – so, you can be flexible with your user numbers – and you’ll never be relegated to using an out of date version of the product.
The reason is entirely based around the cloud. Ineffective, you never ‘own’ the software you’re using – you simply access it through an internet connection. Centrally, the service provider will be constantly updating the product, making sure everyone’s using the most recent version – and ironing out bugs and issues along the way. For some suites of software, this means they’re exclusively available online (Google’s G-Suite for example) – whereas with other companies (Microsoft’s Office product for instance) you can still download the desktop version of the software that will allow you to work offline.
Scalability is a huge benefit when you’re using products ‘as a Service’ – as it means that you can almost immediately grow your use of the software based on your need. Grow and you can access more accounts – scale back, and you can scale your spend down accordingly.
Of course, the speed of connection that you can now access means that ‘as a Service’ isn’t just limited to software. Would you like to access costly development platforms? No problem – look into ‘PaaS’ (Platform as a Service). Excitingly, there’s also an ever-decreasing need for buying physical hardware too – with the increasing use of ‘IaaS’ (Infrastructure as a Service) models rolling out. Where once a mail server would mean a costly piece of equipment being shipping and installed in your server room – you can now pay monthly to access a virtual server that’s sitting in a huge Microsoft data center somewhere else in the world. There’s a lot to be said for having all your IT needs in-house – but there’s an increasing amount to be said for outsourcing as much as possible – your budget will thank you for it.