Running a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) comes with its own set of challenges. One crucial aspect that SMEs often overlook is the need for reliable and professional IT support. In this digital age, technology plays a vital role in driving business growth and competitiveness, however, many SMEs resort to ad-hoc IT support, which can prove to be a risky choice. If your business relies heavily on its computers, SMEs should not rely on ad-hoc IT support and instead opt for managed service providers that provide a solid foundation for their IT infrastructure.
SMEs are the backbone of many economies, including Australiaâ€™s â€” according to the Australian Banking Association, 98 per cent of businesses in Australia are SMEs â€” and they contribute to job creation and innovation. These businesses operate with limited resources and often face tight budgets, however, neglecting proper IT support can hinder their growth potential. By investing in robust IT infrastructure and support, SMEs can unlock numerous advantages and stay competitive in their respective industries.
Ad-hoc IT Support: What is it?
Ad-hoc IT support, also known as break/fix support, refers to a reactive approach to addressing IT issues as they arise. Instead of having a structured plan and proactive measures in place, SMEs opt for ad-hoc support on a case-by-case basis. While this may seem like a cost-effective solution initially, it often leads to more significant problems down the line.
Ad-hoc IT support lacks a comprehensive strategy, making it difficult to manage and anticipate potential issues. It is primarily driven by reacting to problems rather than preventing them in the first place. This reactive nature can hinder business operations and create unnecessary downtime.
The Risks of Ad-hoc IT Support for SMEs
- Increased downtime and productivity loss: Ad-hoc IT support focuses on resolving issues as they occur, leading to longer downtime periods. SMEs heavily rely on their IT systems for daily operations and any disruption can have a significant impact on productivity and customer satisfaction.
- Higher costs in the long run: While ad-hoc support may seem cost-effective initially, the accumulated costs of reactive fixes and emergency repairs can quickly surpass the budget. If the problem recurs, you then have to pay again which can cause conflict between you and the ad-hoc support provider. Unplanned expenses can strain the financial resources of SMEs, making it challenging to invest in long-term growth initiatives.
- Limited expertise and knowledge: Ad-hoc IT support often involves seeking assistance from multiple sources that may not have the necessary expertise or in-depth knowledge of the specific IT needs of an SME. This lack of expertise can result in temporary fixes or patchwork solutions that do not address the underlying root causes of IT issues. It’s like putting a band-aid on a deep wound â€” it may temporarily stop the bleeding, but the problem persists.
The only real benefit of using ad-hoc IT services is that it can be a cost-effective option for SMEs with limited IT needs and generally less than five PCs in the business, as they only pay for the services they use. If you only ever have an issue every six months or so, then ad-hoc is the most reasonable option. If your business has up to ten computers without a server, you can maybe get away with using ad-hoc, but if you have a server for your data, then most ad-hoc services would not know how to deal with these issues. Ad-hoc is a quick-fix solution and oftentimes, their solution to viruses and corruption is to format the hard drive, which does no good if you need that data. MSPs, on the other hand, try and fix the root of the problem as, if they donâ€™t, itâ€™s more work for them in the long run and it affects their reputation, so they ensure issues are properly addressed.
The Benefits of Managed Service Providers for SMEs
Recognising the limitations and risks of ad-hoc IT support, SMEs can greatly benefit from investing in professional IT support services like managed service providers, or MSPs. Some of the advantages of using these services include:
- Proactive approach to IT management: Unlike ad-hoc support, MSPs take a proactive approach to managing an SME’s IT infrastructure. They conduct regular system monitoring, identify potential vulnerabilities and implement preventive measures to minimise the risk of disruptions. By addressing issues before they escalate, SMEs can enjoy smoother operations and enhanced productivity.
- Cost-effective solutions and scalability: MSPs offer scalable solutions tailored to the specific needs and budgets of SMEs. Instead of paying for emergency fixes and ad-hoc repairs, SMEs can opt for cost-effective service plans that provide comprehensive coverage and predictable monthly costs. This enables better financial planning and allows SMEs to allocate resources to other critical areas of their business.
- Access to specialised expertise: Managed service providers comprise skilled technicians and engineers with diverse expertise across various IT domains. They stay up-to-date with the latest technological advancements, security protocols and industry best practices. SMEs can use this specialised knowledge to implement strong security measures, optimise their IT infrastructure and explore innovative solutions that drive business growth.
Small businesses with only a few computers, but still heavily rely on them, may feel they would benefit more from using a managed service provider but may struggle to find one willing to work with them due to their size. If an MSP sees room for growth within your business and you inform them of such for the future, they may be willing to take you on.
Long-Term Partnerships with IT Service Providers
Instead of relying on ad-hoc support, SMEs should aim to establish long-term partnerships with professional IT service providers. This approach offers several advantages:
- Tailored support for business needs: Managed service providers who understand the unique requirements of SMEs can customise their services accordingly. They collaborate closely with the SME to design an IT support plan that aligns with business goals, growth projections and budget constraints. This tailored approach ensures that the IT support provided is in line with the specific needs of the SME.
- Continuous monitoring and proactive solutions: Long-term IT service providers take a proactive stance in managing an SME’s IT infrastructure. They constantly monitor systems, networks and applications, anticipating potential issues and resolving them before they impact the business. This proactive approach minimises downtime, maximises productivity and allows SMEs to focus on core business activities.
- Peace of mind and focus on core business activities: By entrusting their IT support to professionals, SMEs can alleviate the burden of IT management and gain peace of mind. They can confidently rely on their MSP to handle system maintenance, upgrades, security and troubleshooting, allowing them to focus on what they do best â€” running their business and serving their customers. This sense of assurance frees up valuable time and resources, fostering a sense of confidence and empowerment within the SME.
Where does Ad-hoc IT support fail businesses?
Ad-hoc IT support does not continuously monitor your systems, which would enable a quick diagnosis, and offers no forecasts of potential issues and IT consultancy for your business. There are many preventative measures that MSPs put in place in your business to mitigate risks, which ad-hoc does handle, meaning the onus is on you to implement these.
When using ad-hoc services, businesses will generally have to spend more on IT infrastructure that will help sustain their systems and strengthen protection in the workplace. They will also have to look into also working with a Cyber Security specialist to determine where there are vulnerabilities in their systems, and then spend money and time on implementing these strategies.
With ad-hoc, businesses will need to evaluate the effect downtime will have on operations. Downtime can lead to security risks, loss of income, employee productivity and loss of clients/customers. This wastes your time and causes immense worry and stress for you as a business owner or decision-maker.
Ad-hoc has its place in the industry, but businesses must evaluate whether this service or an MSP would benefit the company more in the long run. If you are a growing business that relies on your computers and IT systems remaining running or you use or store lots of data, you really should be looking at using an MSP.
In today’s digital landscape, SMEs cannot afford to overlook the importance of reliable and professional IT support. While ad-hoc IT support may seem like a cost-effective solution in the short term, it carries significant risks and limitations. By investing in managed IT services, SMEs can enjoy a proactive approach to IT management, cost-effective solutions and access to specialised expertise. Building a strong IT infrastructure, coupled with long-term partnerships with IT service providers, provides SMEs with the stability, security and peace of mind necessary to thrive in the digital age.
If youâ€™re unsure, give us a quick call here at Pronet Technology (a Melbourne-based MSP) and we can discuss your systems and what youâ€™re looking for to determine whether we would be a good fit for each other.
- Can ad-hoc IT support be suitable for any situation?
Ad-hoc IT support may suffice for minor, one-time issues. However, for long-term stability and growth, a managed service provider is highly recommended.
- How can an MSP benefit SMEs financially?
Managed service providers offer cost-effective solutions, minimising downtime, preventing costly emergencies, and providing scalability that aligns with the SME’s budget.
- What security measures should SMEs consider for their IT infrastructure?
SMEs should implement robust security measures, including firewalls, antivirus software, encryption, regular security audits and employee training on Cyber Security best practices.
- Are long-term partnerships with IT service providers expensive?
Long-term partnerships with IT service providers are often cost-effective, offering tailored plans that align with the SME’s budget and specific needs.
- How can IT support providers help SMEs with their future growth?
IT support providers bring specialised expertise, proactive solutions and strategic IT planning to enable SMEs to scale, innovate, and focus on their core business activities.