The Ultimate Guide to IT Support:
How to Hire IT Specialists and Network Technicians to Best Manage Your Technology
Searching for IT support or a managed service provider? Your business has found the experts. You've founded a successful business that continues to grow. Maybe you've brought on a team and opened your first office location. But now there are additional computers to support, security of customer data and ongoing improvements that keep you up at night.
As your business continues to grow and succeed, you'll need a team of IT support specialists and technicians to help you scale and grow your business accordingly. But before you can do that, you first need to understand what information technology (IT) is and where your most significant areas of need are.
IT is not just about computers and physical devices. It also involves networking, infrastructure, and the process for how you store and secure electronic data. The type of business you operate will dictate the type and level of support you need to serve your customers and obey all data storage regulations effectively.
As you prepare to evaluate your IT support needs, this guide will help you understand the following key aspects:
Start ensuring the long-term success of your business by giving your IT needs the attention they deserve.
Who is IT Support?
IT support personnel are individuals tasked with ensuring that technology within a company is operating well. They solve problems, innovate and offer training to other employees on how to use the technology.
Because IT support is not only reactive but proactive in looking for ways to improve processes and software, it's crucial to have the right people. These people manage your business networks and are charged with keeping everything secure. With such essential job functions, it's vital that you hire wisely.
The Vail Networks' Rule:
Hire an IT Support Team that works around the clock to fully manage your networks.
At Vail Networks, we operate by a rule of thumb that we believe provides the right level of support based on business size. We recommend four people with various specialties for every 25 employees your company has.
24/7 service desk
Remote Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
On-demand tech with remote access
This rule is based on experience from many years of supporting businesses with their IT needs. Hiring a jack-of-all-trades can result in a lack of specialty in all areas, leaving gaps in your support. Let's take a look at each role to understand better how it fits into your business.
An IT project manager oversees budgets and timelines, making sure that implementation and deployments go on time. A project manager builds out project plans, communicates those with key stakeholders and the team and builds out the project budget.
Additionally, your project manager serves as the hub for communication because they can translate terminology into information that everyone can understand. One of the main aspects of their job is relationships, based mostly on the fact that they are the communication hub.
24/7 service desk
Service desk technicians are there when your employees need assistance with technology in any way. Whether this is their work computers or the software that powers their job functions, having a support person on call at all times keeps things running smoothly.
The help desk technician understands the software and hardware at the business so that they can walk employees through common procedures and issues.
The Chief Information Security Officer plays a vital role in IT. Charged with the long-term vision and planning for adequately protecting all data, assets, and technology, the CISO protects your company from hackers and data breaches. This individual creates policies and procedures to ensure this security.
Should your company face the difficulties of a breach, the CISO is trained in containing the problem, communicating it effectively and acting accordingly. CISOs are responsible for cybersecurity, information privacy, access management, risk management, and investigations involving IT.
On-demand tech with remote access
Even with the best planning in place, technology can fail and need immediate attention. Having an on-demand tech that has remote access to all systems can mean less downtime and a faster resolution to the issue.
On-demand techs are called into action when technical support is needed. They are equipped to assess and resolve issues related to many different types of technology.
Recommended Training, Certifications, and Backgrounds of IT Support Technicians
IT support technicians are most beneficial to your company if they have training in specific applications. These applications are the most prevalent business applications, though your business may have different or additional needs. Here’s a look at some of the most important systems training to look for.
Most companies provide Microsoft computers or laptops to their employees. Because of this, it's essential that your IT support team has experience in Microsoft operating system and tools.
There are also a variety of certifications from Microsoft, including developer, associate, and expert. These certifications each have their focus area depending on what role your IT support personnel have.
A suite of integrated cloud applications, Oracle powers many businesses in a variety of forms. Oracle features a database, human capital management enterprise resource planning and more.
Oracle offers certifications that can prove an IT support person's skills with the technology. NetSuite is Oracle's suite of products. You should look for someone who has many years of experience managing and supporting Netsuite.
Cisco offers networking hardware, technology services and products, and tools for telecommunications. Many businesses have Cisco phones and other endpoints that need an experienced technician.
If you're looking to hire someone with Cisco skills, you might look for these certifications: Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) or Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP).
The Top 3 Most Important Certifications for IT Specialists
IT certification programs are rigorous courses that test an IT specialist’s skills. Once they’ve completed the program, they know all the ins and outs of the software or program, which indicates to a hiring manager that this individual is ready to complete the tasks needed.
Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
An MCSE is a mid-level certification proving cross-functional and cross-platform skills in building and innovating. There are many different areas of focus for an MCSE from SharePoint to infrastructure. Professionals who hold this certification have undergone a hands-on test that requires them to solve simulated problems.
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
CISSP proves an IT specialist's ability to secure and protect data from an attack or breach. With such a heavy emphasis on IT security currently, this is an important certification. The exam process is thorough with 250 questions. Professionals that have this certification are clearly committed and dedicated to IT security.
Project Management Professional (PMP)
Because so much of what an IT professional does is process-based, having a PMP is greatly beneficial. PMP certified professionals have undergone at least 4,500 hours of project management and 35 hours of training. They then must complete 60 professional development units every three years to keep up with the certification.
How IT Support Technicians & Specialists Can Help Your Business
As you prepare to hire IT support technicians and specialists, you should know that they can prevent technology failures and issues at your company before you even know they’re a problem. A little prevention goes a long way. Not only that, but when you do experience downtime, having a support technician you can call on right away could mean a minimal impact on your customers.
10 Things an IT Support Team Can Help Businesses with:
Still unsure the role that IT support provides your business? Here’s a list of 10 things an IT support team can do for your business that are both proactive and reactive. Once you hire an IT support team, you might just wonder how you ever operated your business without the team.
System upgrades and ongoing maintenance. When systems go unchecked, they're at a higher risk of failing.
Experienced consultancy. Because an IT support team works on multiple projects and different businesses, they can bring those learnings to light for your business's benefit.
24/7 support. Because the team can be stationed anywhere and share being on call during after hours, you always have help when you need it. You may think your business doesn’t need a service like this because it only operates during certain hours, but you might be surprised how helpful after-hours support is.
A project manager. Small companies often only have one or two IT people with limited resources that have to be the jack of all trades. An IT support team means specialized service and a project manager to oversee everything.
Third-party application support. Using outside applications and software is necessary for your business, but that doesn't always make it easy. Your IT support team can interface with the third-party application IT team to ensure you get the best service possible.
Employee training on both software and hardware. Welcoming new employees is fantastic and enables your business functions to grow. But the onboarding process to teach them not only about their role but the software and applications you use is time-consuming. Your IT support team can help with that training.
Security assessment. Your IT support team can evaluate your technology practices and make recommendations accordingly.
Full team support without the price tag. You can have the equivalent of a CIO without paying for the full-time salary when you use a managed service provider. The same is true for all members of the team.
Implement new technology. If you've known for a while now that you need new software at your business but haven't had the time or know-how to choose it, now you can with help and support.
Specialized hardware support. As we mentioned above, experience and training in a specific hardware or software are helpful when you're supporting specific applications and devices.
What's the Difference Between Hardware vs. Software IT Support?
IT support can generally be broken down between support for hardware and support for software. Hardware is the physical devices used for technology within your company. Think about computer monitors, laptops, keyboards, etc.
Software is the applications installed and managed remotely by IT. Software includes everything from the web browser you use to access the internet to the database you manage your customers with.
Having IT support for both your hardware and software is extremely important. Preparing a laptop or desktop computer for a new hire can be labor intensive because you have to set up the software and applications needed for the employee's job function.
Additionally, updating software on your employees' computers and troubleshooting both affect ongoing productivity from your employees.
One of the most crucial aspects of what an IT support team does is securing, maintaining and monitoring your networks. This ongoing support ensures no significant flaws or vulnerabilities are present within the network.
What is a Managed Service Provider (MSP) and How Can It Help Your Company's IT Networks?
A managed service provider (MSP) provides remote management for its customer's IT needs. An MSP includes both proactive and on-demand service, based on the subscription model the customer chooses. The beauty of MSPs is that businesses can use the MSP as their full IT team or augment their current team with an MSP.
Because there are options for what capacity you bring on an MSP, their role can differ. You can have them only consulting your team on certain third-party applications to add that specialty to what your in-house team already offers. Or, they are who your employees call whenever they have a question on how to do something with the hardware or software at your business.
Using an MSP means that you get the IT support you need to mitigate risk and enhance your customer and employee experiences. You'll also enjoy the benefits of not having to recruit, hire and train internal IT staff, which can be costly and time-consuming.
Top 5 Types of IT Issues an MSP can help a company resolve
Still unsure about how an MSP benefits a company? Here's a look at the top 5 issues a managed service provider helps customers resolve.
Security vulnerabilities. Even if a company has an internal IT team, they can be too close to the systems and processes to see security vulnerabilities. Bringing in an unbiased third-party that has other experience to bring to bear, can mean vulnerabilities are discovered before they become an issue.
Less downtime and increased productivity. Because you have an outside partner looking out for you, your business experiences less downtime thanks to your MSP's insights and assistance. Your MSP is there to ensure all software and hardware is running smoothly.
Support for employees traveling or working after hours. Hiring an in-house IT team means they work in your office during set periods. MSP providers are experienced in providing remote support so that you have someone you can call anywhere and anytime.
Ongoing maintenance and updates. Providing maintenance and updates for your devices and software means less downtime and better performance. Plus, an MSP knows which updates to make and any faults or conflicts they might create with other versions of software, etc.
Misunderstandings between your company and third-party technology vendors. If your outside technology is handled by someone who doesn't speak the language or have a specialty in the area, you could be missing things in translating the technology terms.
Top 3 Most Important Skillsets of an MSP
There are many MSPs out there ready to help your business with its IT needs. However, they aren't all created equal. There are certain things you need to look for when hiring an MSP.
Expertise in multiple IT areas, including certifications. First and foremost, the MSP must have the technical knowledge to get the job done. Ensure that the company you choose has knowledge and experience in the software and hardware your company supports.
Communication skills. An MSP's ability to share with you what they do, how they do it and why they do it will illustrate what project management and reporting will be like. You want an MSP with strong communication skills so that you're kept abreast of what's happening and how they are serving your company.
A passion for IT that drives curiosity and continuous improvements. One of the primary reasons companies choose to hire an MSP is for the proactive system maintenance and mitigation of risk through curiosity. The more your MSP's team loves what they do, the more likely they are to go the extra mile and make recommendations and proactive updates.
How MSP's can help with cybersecurity and internal/external hacking threats
When you sign a contract with for managed IT services, they become an extension of your company. That means that they have a vested interest in ensuring that your company doesn't experience a hack or data breach. During their initial evaluation, an MSP will do the following:
Assess access management and authentication of databases that house confidential information to protect from internal threats.
Evaluate gaps in current IT security to tighten it up.
Create a plan to remove access for employees when they leave the company.
Educate the staff about what constitutes private customer information and how to keep it safe.
Monitor for phishing scams and inform the staff when one is occurring.
Secure devices so that malware can't be mistakenly downloaded.
How much does IT support and/or Managed IT cost?
Because every IT team is different according to the business's needs, we're going to use the ideal Vail Networks team as an example of what an IT support team costs. Let's start with in-house. We'll use Vail, Colorado, as the location. To get to this in-house cost, we'll evaluate the IT support salary for each position needed.
According to Glassdoor, an IT project manager makes on average $100,000 per year. A service desk technician is $58,000 a year, on average. You can expect to pay a chief information security officer (CISO) upwards of $250,000 a year. IT technicians make about $40,000 per year.
Benefits are approximately $25,000 a year per employee, so we need to add in $100,000 a year total for the team. Your grand total for a four-person IT team in house is estimated at $548,000, that's more than $45,000 per month.
A less tangible cost for in-house staff is training and onboarding for your employees who get your IT support jobs. On top of that, your team will need ongoing education to stay current on trends and issues.
Managed IT costs vary according to the type of plan you choose. Per device (including laptops, networks, phones, etc.) can cost as much as $70 per device. You can also choose plans based on how many people you're going to need supported, which is generally about $200 per person on average. These pricing models are often reactive, meaning your IT team only steps in when you need them.
Tiered pricing models provide the support your business needs to do system maintenance, support employees and ensure the security of your business information. These tiers are based on the size and needs of your business.
Vail Networks’ Managed IT Support Program
|Up to 25 Employees||25 to 100 employees||100 to 500 employees||500 to 10,000+ employees|
|4 Dedicated Staff||8 Dedicated Staff||Custom||Custom|
Here are some of the benefits of paying a tiered pricing structure for IT Support, include:
Not having to pay employee benefits is financially beneficial.
You receive the breadth of support and knowledge on various specialties without having to pay full salaries for them all.
The structure grows and scales with you as you need it to.
Where do IT Technicians and IT Support Work?
Because your technology is always on, so must your IT team be. For in-house teams, this normally means set hours in the office and rotating on-call periods to share the after-hours workload. During after-hours support, your IT support will be remote as those on-call professionals go about their lives.
IT support under a managed service provider model uses an entirely remote team. By being remote, the team can provide 24/7 support without ever having someone be on-call, which can result in slower responses. MSP models can work with a team that is dispersed throughout multiple time zones to best use regular working hours for coverage.
No matter the type of team you choose to hire, IT work is quite conducive to remote work. That's because the technology is accessible from anywhere. Additionally, there are a variety of tools that remote IT teams use to manage systems and networks.
Top 5 Remote IT Software Products
GoToAssist offers IT technicians the ability to view an employee's desktop just as they see it. The technician can also take control of the device to do maintenance and updates or diagnose a problem.
Bomgar – allows IT professionals to operate an employee's desktop behind a firewall. This added layer of security is a nice added feature that many remote desktop support platforms are lacking.
ConnectWise is excellent for smaller teams or for teams who are not especially advanced at using technology. It's easy to launch to provide access to the IT professional. Some capabilities allow for customization through plugins, scripting, and integrations as well.
SolarWinds's DameWare delivers a way for IT professionals to access other devices remotely. The great thing about DameWare is that it integrates with WebHelpDesk, which allows for simple ticketing and tracking.
Team Viewer offers options for downloading the software to all owned devices or access to the application through a web browser. This is convenient for accessing devices whether or not they are part of the company's firewall.
How to Hire the Best Managed IT Support Services:
Vail Networks can manage all of your IT Networks.
You're now armed with the necessary information to decide on how to handle your IT service needs. If you've decided to move forward with managed IT support services, here are your next steps to hire IT contractors that fit your business needs.
Evaluate your needs. Make a list of must-haves for your Managed Service Provider (MSP).
Determine the size and scope of your existing networks and what you will need to both maintain and protect
Prepare a list of answers to the following questions:
How big are your network systems?
How many hardware devices do your employees use?
What type of software does your company use?
What's the scope of internal and external networks?
What data and information does your business need to protect? For example, if you're a law firm, you need to keep case information safe and documented accordingly.
What regulations does your industry have on how it stores and uses data?
Once you've completed this list, you're prepared to hire your MSP and begin enjoying the peace of mind your IT team offers.