There are several advantages to providing technical support via an in-house IT helpdesk. It allows you to build up IT knowledge in your business, thereby become less reliant on external IT suppliers for support. This may enable you to install and support new equipment yourself, cutting costs in these areas.
Additionally, your in-house IT helpdesk staff can develop a deep understanding of how your IT systems relate to your business needs. This helps them to solve problems fast and suggest appropriate improvements.
However, it's hard for a small IT department (one to three people) to develop enough expertise and stay up-to-date with all the different areas of business IT. So you need to think carefully about whether bringing IT support in-house is really the right choice for your business.
Your technical support requirements
To assess your IT support requirements, look at the information technology your business uses. How complex is it? Do you rely on standard software? What would happen if a critical system went wrong? What extra resources do you need to cover everything effectively?
If your business has few employees and simple support needs, a single employee could take on IT support in addition to their other duties. If you run a larger company, you might be able to justify employing a technical support team to run your IT helpdesk. Salaries for IT support staff can be anything from £25,000 up. Experienced managers can earn much more.
You will need to find a way of covering when the employees responsible are on holiday or sick. You may also need an on-call system to provide round-the-clock IT helpdesk cover for critical resources like your website. If something goes wrong at 2am, will anyone be able to offer technical support?
Be wary of relying on one person to run your IT helpdesk and provide all technical support. Besides the obvious problem of ensuring sufficient cover, even the most experienced IT professionals will lack experience in some areas.
There is no chance of a single person being able to match the knowledge available from an external support provider, particularly as the number of devices and tools used by businesses expands.
Make IT helpdesk responsibilities clear
If you plan to hand responsibility for IT support to an existing employee, the additional expense may seem negligible. However, watch for hidden costs, like training and any cover necessary for that person's other duties.
Another option is to employ a new member of staff. If you do this, take your time finding the right person and remember that recruitment and training costs can be significant.
In either case, clearly define where the responsibilities for in-house technical support lie. This will ensure your IT support staff know what is expected of them and your other employees understand the limits of the support offered. It can also help you identify any gaps.
The technical support mix
Many companies find the best strategy is to combine some in-house expertise with outsourced IT support services.
With this approach, your in-house staff can offer technical help whenever possible. But if a problem occurs out of hours or you need specialist help urgently, your IT support supplier is a phone call away. Just make sure your agreement with them is backed by a robust IT support contract.
Finally, assess your in-house IT helpdesk regularly. Are your employees happy with the response they get when they need support? Are problems fixed in a timely manner? And if your company is growing, make sure your support provision grows with it.