As a small- or medium-sized business, you need someone to manage your IT needs so you and your users can focus on keeping your business operations running smoothly.
Many businesses choose between having a company manage IT for them (managed IT services) or keeping their IT support in-house.
While larger companies may be able to accommodate a multi-person IT department, most small- and medium-sized businesses who choose to keep IT in-house are restricted to having a one-person IT team address all their technology needs.
At The KR Group, we’re frequently asked to compare our managed services and internal IT departments, and we have a dedicated comparison article.
When it comes to a one-person IT department, though, there are specific problems this model of IT support is prone to, including:
- No coverage for days off
- Siloed knowledge
- A tendency toward biased solutions
- Potential lack of documented information
- Potentially less value for the price
In full disclosure, there are also problems with managed services you should be aware of, too, in order to make the best decision for your company.
Our goal in listing the problems with a one-person IT department is not to sway you to sign up for our managed IT services, but to help you make the best possible decision for your company’s IT needs.
Problem #1: No coverage for days off
An in-house IT manager or IT administrator will inevitably need time off for a scheduled vacation, illness, or emergency.
IT problems don’t take days off.
An IT manager is also free to find other employment and leave your company.
Your IT problems aren’t going anywhere, though.
Whatever the reason is behind an IT manager’s absence, it means you don’t have someone to actively address the IT problems that arise.
This is a problem for two reasons:
1. It means your IT problems are building up.
Being the sole person responsible for solving IT problems is a busy job.
While an IT manager can be proactive by making sure everything is configured correctly and security measures are in place, much of IT support is a reactive job. This means the request for IT support will build up while he or she is out of the office.
2. It means no one is there to address emergencies.
Most IT managers, especially if they’re the entirety of the IT department, will try to make themselves available for emergency requests.
However, if they are on vacation or unable to come on-site to address an emergency (such as a server replacement), this means you’ll end up calling in external IT support or your operations will stop until your IT manager can come in and fix the problem.
Solution: Rely on an MSP
MSPs avoid this problem by staffing multiple engineers. Even if the engineer you typically work with is out of the office, there are multiple other engineers you can rely on to solve your IT problems.
Problem #2: Siloed knowledge
Relying on only one person to know about your IT environment and how to solve problems with it is problematic because there is no room for collaboration.
While there are networking options for IT employees, if your IT manager is working alone, they don’t have access to the same kind of knowledge sharing as if they worked with other IT professionals every day.
If a problem comes up that is outside your IT manager’s wheelhouse of knowledge, they don’t have someone to escalate the problem to as you would in a department with multiple IT engineers.
Not only does a sole IT manager have no one internally to provide new insight on technology, but they also don’t have anyone to pass their knowledge onto. This can be especially detrimental if your IT manager suddenly leaves your organization.
Solution: Work with an MSP
Even if you don’t rely on an MSP for all of your IT needs, they can still provide supplemental services. Two options of co-managed IT services is to have them assist with problems that you need to escalate or temporarily provide IT support.
Problem #3: Tendency toward biased solutions
Without frequent collaboration and colleagues to bounce ideas off of, it’s easy for the sole IT employee to fall into biased solutions.
They might tackle problems from a narrow range of solutions or use the same products to handle their company’s IT needs.
Technology is an ever-evolving industry, though. Having and keeping an open mind is crucial to keeping up with the latest and greatest products and solutions.
Different perspectives lend themselves to creativity and finding the best solutions for your IT environment.
Solution: Rely on your MSP as a networking partner
As we mentioned before, MSPs aren’t restricted to only providing fully managed IT services. If you’re looking for another perspective for a specific problem, MSP engineers are available to help existing IT departments with co-managed IT services.
Other options you have are to encourage your IT manager to go to networking events, like our quarterly Beers with Engineers, or be intentional about looking for new technology information.
Problem #4: Lack of documented information
No matter how many people are in your IT department, your technical information needs to be documented.
Everything from hardware and software to domain names and certifications needs to be documented, so if needed, the information is available for someone else to work on your IT environment.
The danger of keeping information to yourself or relying on your IT manager’s own system for documentation is it makes it difficult to pass on to future employees or an outside IT consultant.
If your IT manager were to unexpectedly leave and take all your IT information with them, it would be a long (and expensive) process.
Using external IT documentation software (specifically, IT Glue) is the best practice for MSPs to avoid this problem when working with multiple customers’ IT information.
Solution: Adopt MSP’s best practices
While using an MSP avoids this problem, the good news is you don’t necessarily need to have a managed service contract to address this issue.
IT Glue isn’t just for MSPs, and you can use the software internally to keep track of your IT information and pass it on if needed.
Problem #5: Less value than an MSP
One of the top concerns of IT support — whether it’s internal or external — is how much it’ll cost.
If you opt to hire a single person to handle all of your business’s IT needs, he or she will need to have extensive knowledge and is likely hard to recruit.
If you do find a qualified candidate, their annual salary can cost you roughly between $75,000 and $149,000, excluding benefits.
Solution: Go with an MSP if you’re looking for the most value
A managed service contract, on the other hand, typically costs between $15,000 and $120,000 per year, depending on how many users your company has.
Since MSP engineers are contracted by multiple companies, their salary is distributed among their customers.
Even if you find a perfect internal candidate for the same price as a managed service contract, the value of an MSP (availability, multiple engineers, expertise, etc.) likely exceeds a one-person IT department.
Choosing an option for IT support for a one-person IT department
There are several problems with a one-person IT department, including no coverage for days off, siloed knowledge, a tendency toward bias, lack of documented knowledge, and less value. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for them.
The problems of managed services show that there isn’t a perfect solution, though.
You don’t necessarily need to lean on an MSP completely either if having a dedicated in-house IT manager is important to your company.
These problems just mean you need to be aware of what pitfalls your IT department might experience and consider how you’ll avoid them as well as look at all the options for IT support when making the best decision for your company.
To help you compare the different IT options, download our free IT support comparison flowchart.