Cyberspace: When to Outsource Your IT Solutions
We’ve discussed the issue before of whether to provide IT service in-house or to leverage an outside company. It’s a complicated discussion, so let’s review some of the considerations you need to keep in mind.
From a practical viewpoint, many integrators simply do not have the budget to have all aspects of IT done in-house. Even those integrators that are fortunate enough to have a ‘networking guy’ often find themselves in a pinch when they need to sell equipment that is outside the capabilities of their networking guy, or they need to support a system in the field, but must wait for their networking guy to become available. So outsourcing and partnering with an IT service provider is a common practice that merits consideration.
First, let’s look at the three key aspects of IT that are commonly outsourced in our industry: Network Design, Network Programming (installation), and Network Monitoring/Remote Maintenance. When considering outsourcing any or all of these aspects, it’s important to ask the right questions of potential partners. I use the term “partner” because the typical vendor-client relationship is dramatically different whenever IT is involved.
Outsourcing IT services has appeal because you can get someone who specializes in networking without the fixed overhead. However, because of the nature of networking, you should proceed with caution. Here are several considerations when looking at potential IT partners.
What happens if we part ways?
No one likes starting a relationship by asking this question, but it is vital to discuss the possibility before entering a relationship with an IT service provider. Relationships have the potential to sour, and companies can go out of business.
At a minimum, if you pay someone to design and program your network, you should have the username and password log-in credentials to the components you’re buying—as well as a documented network layout—so that you can have someone else work on the system if you part ways. Don’t compromise on this, or you might learn a lesson the hard way—if you don’t have the log-in credentials, you might be starting over from scratch if you need to make changes. (And who’s going to pay for that? You, or the client?)
As for network monitoring, there are solutions that will not operate if you are no longer doing business with a provider, leaving your client with a worthless investment. It’s important that you examine the risks up-front, before you’re too far down the road to protect yourself and your client.
Related story: Staying Ahead of the Curve