Small IT departments that don’t have enterprise budgets at their disposal are often squeezed for resources without being able to easily outsource their work. The result is that they’re left scrambling to put out fires and wishing they could work less reactively and more strategically.
How do these businesses reconcile the need to tackle bigger, more complex IT projects with the push to streamline operations?
Here are four alternatives to traditional outsourcing that small IT departments can use to extend their capabilities without throwing enterprise-level cash at the problem.
1. Managed Cloud
Small and midsize businesses often hire generalists that are asked to manage all aspects of the cloud environment, since there may not be enough work to staff a full-time monitoring or security expert. These generalists are often spread thin, and when demands on their time increase they might miss an alert or skip a patch if they have something more urgent to attend to.
Managed cloud providers, on the other hand, can focus their attention on every alert or system anomaly and proactively address them before they become major issues. These teams comprise of experts in specific tasks such as monitoring, security, scaling and migration. Managed cloud allows small IT organizations to stop reacting, and shift to a proactive, strategic and forward-looking stance.
2. Transition Your Helpdesk Toward a Self-Service Model
IT managers on small teams spend more time than they should fixing issues for customers and internal employees—whether it’s an email stuck in a customer’s inbox or walking a user through a password reset for an internal tool. These kinds of incidents account for 25 percent to 40 percent of all calls into a help desk. Preempt these issues by transitioning toward a self-service platform (such as automated password management or a knowledge base), one that gives customers and employees the tools to accomplish simple tasks themselves. By preventing questions on these smaller incidents, you’ll reduce cost and free up your IT staff to deal with more complex inquiries.
Think about the relationship between a Security-as-a-Service provider and your internal IT department as more of a partnership than an example of outsourcing. To use an analogy: You may have an alarm system installed at home, but you’re still in charge of locking the front door at night. Small IT teams that don’t have the budget or volume of work to hire a full-time security expert can rely on outside organizations for security tasks—setting up secure email gateways, doing remote vulnerability monitoring on your network and handling identity and access management—while still maintaining control in house.
4. Strategically Move Workloads to the Cloud
Previously, businesses only adopted the cloud for small, relatively minor workloads—testing the waters. But as cloud adoption has gone mainstream (today 87 percent of businesses are running applications in the cloud), organizations are less apprehensive about migrating their core workloads. There’s plenty of “low-hanging fruit” for small businesses—workloads that are tedious and time-consuming for IT professionals, and that the cloud has matured to run effectively and securely.
For example, migrating your email server will ensure your messages are backed up; freeing up the time your IT department spends managing an unruly Exchange server. Putting your large media files in a flexible cloud environment will reduce both your internal storage needs and the likelihood of a server crash when traffic spikes. And building your online store on an ecommerce platform like Magento or Oracle will let you take full advantage of the scaling and elastic properties of the cloud.
Photo courtesy of Ken Teegarden via Flickr.