Small companies and startups often have a part-time person doing computer setup, network configuration, and various maintenance issues. “Joe, the computer guy.” (Or “Mary, the technical whiz.”) This individual may be a personal friend of the owner, someone who’s been with the company since the early days. Perhaps they installed the initial workstations and now come by periodically to fix problems. But there isn’t enough work for a full-time position, so they either have other clients, or a completely different job and are moonlighting as an IT services temp technician.
Some consultants are full-time professionals servicing multiple clients. With less overhead, they typically charge less by offering service without helpdesk support or automated endpoint management technology. They may direct certain problems to other vendors if they can’t provide the solution themselves.
As technology gets more complex, these consultants have a harder time keeping up. The trend for them is to team up with others, aggregating into small companies or joining IT departments in corporations and data centers.
IT Services Company
When companies grow beyond a handful of workstations, their technical requirements change. They need servers enabling collaboration across large teams. The size and importance of backup data expands. Recovering from a server outage requires more steps, and a 70-employee organization being down for just a few hours costs far more than a 3-man operation.
For growing companies, “scaling up” can be a bumpy ride. Size alone increases the likelihood of problems; the more workstations, the more breakdowns. Large quantities of data place new demands on storage, RAM, and bandwidth speed.
To address these demands, new equipment must be installed, and that’s when problems occur. Successful implementations often require the shared knowledge of a team, plus the advanced (and expensive) tools of a company that regularly does this kind of work. If upgrades don’t go as planned (which happens often), an individual consultant can be stonewalled for days, or even weeks.
Larger organizations have the resources to address unexpected problems. They can tap into specialized skillsets, large scale tools, and other resources to investigate and solve problems quickly, thereby minimizing downtime. Fortunately, major work stoppages don’t happen often, but when they do, these types of resources make all the difference.
In-house IT Department
At some point, certain corporations make the decision to establish their own IT department. This may be done with the idea of saving costs, or to keep as much technology as possible “in-house.”
Not all organizations go that route, though, and in many cases companies actually choose to get rid of their IT departments. The main reason is to focus on their core strength, whether that is legal services, construction, manufacturing, or healthcare. To compete effectively, companies need their full-time resources working on core products.
Even technology companies, filled with highly trained software engineers, are increasingly outsourcing IT maintenance. They’ve decided they don’t want $100K engineers patching Windows or swapping out hard drives. Better to have that function filled by someone who does it for a living, day in and day out, using the latest tools, and charging the appropriate market rate for that particular skill set.