Recently I had a conversation with a prospective client who was weighing whether to hire an internal IT employee or outsource the IT function of their small business to a managed IT service provider (MSP). This is a very important question and one that we get asked all the time.

When you are considering internal or outsourced IT, focus on process first.

IT isn’t just a role that you hire a person for, and then they simply take care of things. It’s just not that simple. IT is a function similar to other roles in business that require continuous management of systems. IT is complex and it is very difficult for even a knowledgeable IT manager, who is process-driven, to do all the things that even a small business need. IT professionals often get stuck solving minor IT problems — this is what we refer to in the MSP industry as “IT firefighting.”

Focussing on reactive IT issues means that employees are not dedicating enough time to mission-critical projects. Furthermore, because technology is always changing, IT professionals (or their employers) need to be investing in education and training on an ongoing basis. This is one of the biggest constraints of managing your IT internally, the lack of process. You can hire someone in-house to fight the fires, but you cannot overlook important IT functions like planning, managing, monitoring, securing, and auditing.

Consider a larger operation as an example. If you were at an organization of 1000 people, you would have executives involved in the strategic vision for the IT and then you would have technicians doing all the day-to-day work, for example, fixing things that are broken, setting up new users as well as handling ad-hoc requests etc. Further, you would have employees taking care of the tools, your anti-virus, your back-ups and lastly, you would have employees ensuring that the documentation is kept up to date, running audits against best practices and so on.

When you look at all those responsibilities within the average small business with say 10, 20, 50 or 100-plus employees trying to do that with one or two IT professionals, is particularly challenging to get beyond the firefighting or reactive issues.

Outsourcing to a company that has the capacity, team, tools, and process in place is the best way to ensure you are going to get the best out of your IT investment.