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IT outsourcing vs. hiring a full-time professional

Decision-makers presiding over growing businesses have a tendency to assume their burgeoning organization needs a full-time IT professional. This assumption is, of course, completely understandable: after all, the reassurance that comes with knowing your company has a dedicated staff of IT professionals standing by to address issues as they happen can allow management to direct energy elsewhere and maintain focus on the continued growth of the organization.

What many decision-makers may not realize is that employing a full-time IT professional has its set of drawbacks as well. For starters, the expense of employing a full-time IT specialist, who will be paid regardless of whether he is busy each day or sits by idly as the company's infrastructure requires little to no attention, is greater than many decision-makers may realize. A trained, certified IT professional can command a starting salary of $40,000; when benefits such as health insurance, matching 401(k) contributions and payroll taxes are considered, the actual cost of employing a full-time technology specialist can quickly swell above $50,000 annually.

Furthermore, relying on a single individual to address the diverse and unique needs of your organization may prevent you from implementing the technology solutions best suited to your business's needs. An IT professional well-versed in network infrastructure may, for example, be unable to maintain and upgrade the database-driven applications your employees rely upon on a daily basis. Similarly, a software developer may be unable to correctly diagnose and resolve connectivity issues related to your company's routers and switches, or troubleshoot complex problems such as hardware failures or electronic mail errors at the server level.

What, then, are the alternatives to employing a full-time IT specialist? Many full-service business technology providers offer attractive options to ensure the continued health and performance of your entire technology infrastructure while also allowing your organization to meet its IT budget goals. Services such as monthly maintenance, proactive service visits designed to ensure the critical functions of your technology infrastructure are performing at peak efficiency, are classic examples of preventative maintenance and can save your organization thousands of dollars through proactive resolution of potential issues instead of reactive action after such issues have already cost your organization downtime, lost productivity and increased technology expenditures.

Full-service business technology providers also offer outsourcing solutions designed to provide your company with a regular IT presence according to a schedule your organization defines. Many medium-sized businesses opt to contract an IT professional for four hours a day, twice weekly, to ensure routine items are addressed in a timely fashion, and that current and emerging issues are handled before they escalate into legitimate organizational crises. Such outsourcing arrangements are typically less expensive than the cost required to retain a full-time IT professional as an employee.

Perhaps most importantly, contracting with a full-service business solutions provider enables your organization to make full use of the company's collective knowledge. The outsourced employee that provides your help-desk support twice each week, for example, may be extremely qualified to address server- and workstation-level issues; if, however, he is unfamiliar with database applications, the full-service provider can dispatch an applications development specialist, at the same rate the network specialist commands, to address this different set of issues. Putting all of your eggs in one basket can seem like the simplest, most effective means of handling your organization's IT needs, but such an approach can quickly backfire, leading to issues easily preventable by contracting the services of a comprehensive business solutions provider.

Ultimately, it can be difficult to balance IT needs with the financial goals of an organization; after all, the purchase of a new server can seem at first glance as though it's an investment the company will never recoup. The outsourced services of a trained, certified IT professional from a reputable IT firm, however, represent money well spent, and in addition to the money your firm will save, the collective expertise you'll have access to will make the decision even more appealing to your growing company.

- Jeff Facer is owner and CEO of Area-Wide Technologies in Champaign. He can be reached at (217) 359-8041 or jfacer@areawidetech.com.

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