What is IT Support?
Having reliable IT support is a crucial part of any successful workplace, especially now that so many teams are working partially or entirely online. Today’s IT support teams do more than just fix technology problems as they arise.
They also do things like conduct maintenance, install new technology, and keep networks secure.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what IT support staff does and why IT support is so beneficial for businesses.
What is IT support?
IT support happens when an individual or team of experts provide others with technology assistance. IT support services can help with hardware like servers, computers, or mobile devices, or they can help with software programs installed on those devices.
Many businesses opt to have their own in-house IT teams, but you can also outsource with managed IT services. IT support teams are responsible for conducting a variety of tasks and handling many different types of technology across their organizations.
The Purpose of IT Support
The purpose of IT support is to keep all of your organization’s technology running properly. If a piece of technology breaks, IT support should be ready to fix it so that tech issues do not disrupt the workday.
Additionally, IT support conducts preventative maintenance to keep problems from happening in the future. IT support teams often execute the organization’s cybersecurity strategy as well, working to keep hackers away from your valuable data.
Your IT support team can also help your organization identify new technology to use and implement it appropriately. It’s also common for IT support teams to provide training for other employees in non-tech roles.
This type of support helps the entire organization make the most of the technology available.
What issues do tech support teams solve?
IT support teams tackle a wide variety of issues during their workdays. Here are some of the most common problems that IT support teams tackle.
- Malfunctioning devices: If a computer or mobile device isn’t working properly, it’s the IT team’s job to identify the problem and fix it. Some of the most common device issues are frozen and lagging screens.
- Login issues: IT teams help with password retrievals and resets as well as issues with two-factor authentication.
- Slow networks: If a network is down or running slowly, it’s up to an IT team to determine the cause of the problem and get the network running again.
- Maintenance issues: IT teams stop tech problems before they happen by conducting regular network tests, monitoring for threats, and updating software programs.
The IT Support Journey For Your Business
When you’re first starting a business, outside IT support might not be on your radar. As a small business owner, you’re typically juggling many different roles at once, and that often means doing your own IT support.
56% of America’s 28.7 million firms have 1-4 employees. For businesses this small, it doesn’t always make sense to hire IT support, regardless of whether it’s outsourced or in-house.
However, as your business expands beyond this level, it will likely become too difficult to manage your IT challenges on your own. The more tech support issues you have to solve on your own, the harder it becomes to attend to your customers and grow your business.
Most small businesses start their IT journey by working with a managed service provider, or MSP. MSPs are third-party providers that offer many different types of IT support packages to suit your needs. In the beginning, it makes sense to work with a local provider with budget-friendly pricing options, as your needs will likely be very simple.
As your IT needs become more complex, you might outgrow your local MSP. At this point, you’ll want to look for a larger, more sophisticated IT partner that offers a wider variety of services. A larger MSP will be able to scale with your organization as you grow, offering a strong return on investment.
Working with an MSP is the easiest and most affordable IT solution for most small to medium businesses. As your finances improve and your company grows, you may eventually be able to hire your own in-house IT team.
For most organizations, this happens somewhere around the 250-employee mark. Salaries for IT professionals typically range from $61k to $102k per year on average, so building your own in-house team is a significant investment.
Even if you have your own in-house team, you may still choose to outsource certain IT projects to a third-party MSP. This often happens when you need a very specific type of expertise that your in-house team isn’t familiar with.
In-House vs. Outsourced IT Support
Both in-house and outsourced IT support structures have their advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the right choice for you will depend on the size of your organization, your IT needs, and your budget.
In-house IT support
In this scenario, the IT team provides technical support for one company. When employees in other departments encounter tech issues as part of their work, they would turn to an in-house tech support specialist.
An in-house tech support team will also configure and maintain your IT infrastructure. This means maintaining the company’s networks and servers and determining how data is stored and protected. In-house IT teams also provide support with things like software setup, cloud management, and cybersecurity strategies.
In-house IT teams are most common at large organizations that have the budget to hire an IT team and may have more complex operational needs. If your organization uses unique or proprietary technology, you will likely need an in-house IT team who is very familiar with that technology to manage it.
Pros of In-House IT Support
- Your team has time to focus entirely on your organization and familiarize themselves with your unique needs.
- In-house IT teams can get to know the rest of your staff and develop a good working relationship with them.
- With an in-house IT team, fewer people have access to your systems and the valuable data they contain. If you work with particularly sensitive pieces of data, this may be necessary for the security of your organization.
Cons of In-House IT Support
- Paying for full-time IT staff can get expensive very quickly. For many small businesses, an in-house IT team just isn’t feasible on a limited budget.
- With an in-house IT team, you’re limited to the skills of your employees. If your team doesn’t know how to handle a technical challenge, you’ll either have to provide training for them or outsource that specific project, which costs even more money.
Outsourced IT support
Outsourced tech support teams work on many of the same tasks as in-house tech support. However, an outsourced team can provide services for many different organizations on a part-time basis.
Many organizations will outsource their IT services to managed IT specialists if they don’t have the resources to build an in-house team. It’s also common to use outside IT help in addition to an in-house IT team for extra coverage.
Outsourced IT teams are particularly helpful for 24/7 network monitoring. Digital threats can happen at any time, regardless of what your work hours are.
Many companies use outsourced teams to ensure they always have coverage, even at night, on weekends, or when their in-house IT staff are on vacation, for example. Outsourcing your IT support is usually cheaper than hiring an full in-house team, which makes this a popular choice for startups and small businesses.
Pros of Outsourced IT Support
- You’ll get access to a team of IT experts with a wide range of skills. If you encounter a new IT challenge, you can feel confident knowing an outsourced IT team will have the skills to handle it.
- Outsourced IT support is more affordable than in-house services. Most MSPs have a variety of service packages at different price points, so you can choose the option that makes sense for your budget and your tech needs.
- MSPs can provide service 24/7. With in-house support, help is limited to the hours when your team is in the office. An MSP can monitor your networks for abnormalities constantly so you can fix problems more efficiently.
Cons of Outsourced IT Support
- You won’t have total control over your IT processes when you work with a third-party. This could be frustrating if you want things done in a very specific way.
Break-Fix vs. Managed Services
There are two different types of third-party IT providers: break-fix and managed IT services. These two types of IT providers are very different, and the right option for your organization will depend on your unique needs.
As the name implies, these companies can help fix devices or programs when they break. They also provide other on-demand services. A break-fix company could help with system installations or upgrades, for example.
However, break-fix companies only work with you on an as-needed basis, and they will bill for each service individually. Because of this, break-fix IT services are best for entrepreneurs or small companies who rarely need IT support.
Managed IT Services
Managed IT services work with your company on a consistent basis. In addition to fixing your systems when they break, a managed IT company can also conduct regular maintenance and monitoring. Additionally, a managed IT company can help you with your broader IT strategy.
With managed IT services, your provider can get to know you and your needs over a longer period of time. They also offer a broader range of services. Instead of billing per project, managed IT providers charge a monthly fee to work with clients consistently.
As your organization grows, you will likely need more support than a break-fix provider can give you. Managed IT providers can scale with you as you grow and provide help on an ongoing basis.
Introduction to IT Support Levels
IT support roles can be broken down into different levels. IT professionals often start at level 1 and work their way up over the course of their career. Here’s an overview of various IT support levels.
Level 0 IT support is a category of self-service resources that employees or customers can use to fix their IT problems. For example, a company might create a service portal for their employees with FAQs and tutorials for common tech questions. Another common example of Level 0 support is a community forum.
This level of IT support is sufficient for very simple systems or products, but most IT challenges will require active human support.
Level 1 IT support is a basic help desk. End users can call into the IT support desk and speak to a lower-level technical professional. Most level 1 IT services follow scripts to solve problems.
Some common problems a level 1 IT professional might fix include password resets, basic network connectivity issues, or common system errors. If the caller has a problem that goes beyond the scope of the help desk, the staff can escalate it to a specialist.
Level 2 IT support is comprehensive technical support. At this point, the IT staff is very familiar with the ins and outs of the company’s systems. They can help with problems that require backend support and other technical issues.
This is the highest level of IT support for most organizations. These staff members have access to all of the company’s systems and may have even created some of the technology in use. In addition to solving problems that cannot be handled at the other levels, level 3 support provides fixes to prevent problems from happening again in the future.
As your organization grows, you will need access to some form of IT support to keep your operations running efficiently. While in-house IT support is necessary for some large companies, managed IT services is an effective solution for most organizations. Having robust IT support in place will help you resolve problems efficiently while keeping your systems secure and up-to-date.