When the pandemic forced so many businesses to close their doors to foot traffic, it put them into a tough position. Adapt or watch your business collapse. Many businesses did everything they could to convert into online businesses.
It’s a move that likely saved countless businesses, but it also made business owners keenly aware of their own tech limitations. While lots of resources exist that help you take your business online, there are far fewer resources that help you understand what kind of IT support you’ll need as you grow.
If you’re in the market for IT support information, keep reading for everything you need to know.
What Is IT Support?
Answering the question of what’s IT support starts with getting a handle on what the term information technology actually covers.
What Is Information Technology?
IT isn’t just a guy updating your software and performing some kind of tech-voodoo over a server. It’s a whole range of connected specialties that involve computer hardware and software, as well as the hardware and software itself. Major areas of IT include:
- Programming/Web development
- Cloud Computing
- Data Management
- Hardware management
Within these broad categories, IT professionals often specialize. For example, a cybersecurity expert might specialize in digital forensics or network intrusion testing. A cloud computing specialist might focus exclusively on small business IT applications of the cloud.
IT support is all of the job functions that build, maintain, and repair your IT infrastructure. That support can take a lot of forms. For example, you might keep someone on staff who manages your network. You might outsource your physical infrastructure, such as servers, to a data center.
You might also work with a managed IT service. Some business owners prefer this option because managed providers can offer a lot of broad-based information on IT support.
DIY IT Support
Small business owners lack the resources for even the most basic professional IT support. They are stuck in the world of DIY IT support information.
The good news is that it’s not hopeless. There is a lot of free, easily accessible information online for almost every common IT problem. Search engine results will cherry-pick the best solutions and present them on page one of your search results.
Now comes the bad news. DIY IT support is still difficult.
Information technology is complex. While some problems only stem from one root cause, other problems can come from a couple of places.
Let’s say you’re having trouble getting online. The issue might stem from a hardware problem in your computer, router, or modem. It might also stem from a software or firmware problem.
You can spend a lot of time diagnosing the problem before you find a fix.
The available information is also filled with acronyms and technical terms. Expect a steep learning curve when you first begin.
One of the most important functions IT support provides is IT planning. The hardware involved in information technology has a definite lifespan of around three to five years. An IT professional can help you plan for hardware replacements that meet your needs.
For example, let’s say that you run your website off of in-house servers. While those servers offered more processing power than you needed at first, they barely get the job done with a steady increase in traffic over the last two years. You need an expert to help you evaluate what servers will offer the resources you need to go another three years.
An IT pro who specializes in software can help you pick the right applications for your needs. While software compatibility is much better than it was fifteen years ago, you can’t rely on it in all cases.
Your software IT person can do the legwork to tell you which programs play nice together or which bundled software suite will provide you the best results.
IT Support Benefits
Whether you work with an in-house team or outsource to a managed service, IT support offers a lot of benefits. Right at the top, you bypass easily avoidable problems. A lot of IT issues stem from ignoring basic maintenance tasks, like updating software or installing security software.
You get expert input. No matter how much time and effort you put into researching a new IT option, it’s not a substitute for a professional’s opinion. A server might look great on paper, but industry pros might know that the chipset has problems.
Unless you’re tuned into those information channels, you won’t get that information.
Support also frees up your time. Remember the part above about the learning curve for DIY IT support? When you work with professionals, you get to offload all of that work and focus on your business instead.
Access to good IT support information also simplifies your decision-making process. Instead of choosing between every computer on the market, your IT people can recommend three models that will serve your needs.
In-House vs Managed Services
Business owners like the idea of keeping information in-house. It’s why they usually think they need to hire in-house IT people. While there is a certain logic to that, it’s necessarily practical.
The IT industry as a whole is in the middle of a huge labor shortage. There is simply too much work and not enough qualified people to do that all of that work. That makes building an in-house team an extremely expensive option.
Managed services often work better for small businesses because you can get a bundle of services at a far lower cost.
IT Support and Your Business
Anyone in business today will need some level of IT support. You may only need the helpdesk at your website hosting provider, or you may need a full-on security consultation after a data breach. Either way, you will need it.
Fortunately, you can take on some tasks as DIY fixes, bring on a permanent staff member, or enlist a managed IT service provider.