IT skills and support for your staff

Outsourcing IT and technical support

Guide

The complex nature of computers and applications means that problems with hardware or software are inevitable. Some form of technical support is essential for ensuring the continuity of information technology (IT) systems used by your business.

Reactive vs. proactive technical support

Technical support can be categorised in two ways:

  • reactive support is concerned with responding to problems as they occur and identifying and supplying solutions
  • proactive support attempts to ensure that systems are properly maintained and monitored to find potential problems and fix them before they become major issues

Both types of technical support are available as either in-house or externally sourced solutions.

Advantages of in-house support over outsourcing IT

The main advantage of providing in-house IT support is that you can deal with problems quickly and provide proactive support more easily. However, employing dedicated IT staff can be expensive.

Contracting out or outsourcing IT support to third parties is more common. It tends to be more cost-effective because you seek and get support as required. The support service is:

  • usually accessed via a telephone helpdesk
  • often supplemented by email communications

If you can't resolve a problem over email or phone, it will be escalated. If an on-site visit is required it usually costs extra.

If you are considering outsourcing your IT support to a third-party provider, it is best to choose someone based on a personal recommendation as the quality of service can vary.

Bear in mind that you might compromise your customers' rights and void any potential warranties if you have equipment serviced by an unauthorised third party.

Read about the different types of outsourcing services and their advantages and disadvantages.

Support for your business software and hardware

Most software manufacturers provide remote support for a limited period. Typically this will be from 30 days to one year, with the option to purchase additional support as required.

Outsourced support isn't usually an option with hardware, as problems often require some form of physical intervention. However, warranties may require faulty equipment to be returned to the supplier rather than being repaired on-site by an engineer. This could mean that you are without key equipment for the duration of the repair, if a replacement hasn't been provided.

Before you buy any IT equipment, you should look into the length of the warranty, and service levels during the warranty and after it. See how to choose an IT supplier for your business.