Maybe your business hasn’t made headlines quite like Twitter. In May 2020, the company announced that all of their employees could permanently work from home if they chose to. This was a generous move by Twitter, and it has likely meant a lot to its employees, many of whom are concerned about returning to the confines of an office during a pandemic.
But you’re not Twitter. You’re a smaller company, possibly much smaller, and you might not have the same ability as the tech giant to have a decentralized, remote workforce. For many of us, remote work only became an option because it was either that or shut down. That’s the kind of tough decisions you have to make during lockdowns. Even with restrictions lifted in many places, the pandemic rages on, and with it stays a huge host of challenges.
Today, we’re going to show you how outsourcing can help you overcome these challenges, both in the short-term and the long-term. We’ll see how businesses and non-profits of all levels—whether technology-challenged or not—can benefit from a helping hand. By the end, you’ll get a better idea of why 37% of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) outsource at least one process, with more than a third of that coming in the form of IT processes.
How Can Outsourcing Help Me in the Short Term?
For those who were lucky enough to already be outsourcing to a trusted partner such as a managed service provider (MSP), the pandemic and the ensuing restrictions were hurdles that could be overcome. That’s because these companies did not have to start from scratch or scrap existing processes, putting operations on hold in the meantime; instead, they could begin an orderly transition to a different work model, with help from their MSP.
When you prohibit face-to-face interactions, you encounter many logistical and technological challenges. Here are just a few of those COVID-19-related challenges that we as an MSP have helped our clients to overcome in the short-term.
- No laptops, cameras, or other devices: A trusted MSP typically has good relationships with the hardware vendors it works with. In addition to buy-in-bulk discounts, an MSP may get perks like first ‘dibs’ on hardware orders. Because they do business often, MSPs also usually have open communication channels with vendors, meaning they can get you in touch with support quicker than you might be able to on your own.
- Weak communication: A trusted MSP excels in helping employees collaborate and communicate by providing the critical software and system support you need. While they don’t typically make the software itself, they can help you purchase licenses, install programs and updates, and offer innovative solutions like VoIP. (What’s VoIP?)
- Poor endpoint security: Data breaches are a very real possibility when you have employees connecting to corporate networks with their personal devices. That’s because personal devices usually lack the strong cybersecurity features of company-issued devices, making them—and, by extension, the corporate network—easier to hack into. Remote monitoring and maintenance (RMM) tools provide an easy way to overcome these weaknesses. Not only does this tool allow your MSP to push updates and patches to your devices (thereby addressing critical security vulnerabilities), but it also allows you to connect remotely to your office computer. That means you can do all of the things you can do in the office from your couch.
All of these solutions can be deployed in the short term. In fact, many of them were. For those who worked with MSPs during the outbreak of COVID-19, they simply had to make a couple of phone calls and report their issues: not enough equipment for everybody to work from home, no licensing for newly needed software products, inadequate security for devices accessing corporate networks, etc. All these issues have simple solutions that overworked IT staff members might not have had time to work on. That’s why having a dedicated IT partner to work on these in-the-moment issues is such an advantage over your competitors.
How Can Outsourcing Help Me in the Long Term?
Any of the challenges that cannot be addressed in the short-term leave the world of simple fixes (like mentioned above) and they enter the realm of long-term strategic planning. Managed service providers are helpful when you do your strategic planning. They understand that in order to meet your goals of growth, efficiency, innovation, and service, you need IT to help you, not hinder you.
As you and your team look ahead to the future, you will surely realize that remote work is one legacy that COVID-19 will leave behind, meaning that you need to adjust to it. It is imperative you make working from home work for you. In doing so, you’ll be joining the many local companies and organizations doing the same. And if you do it very well, you’ll steamroll past your objectives and have to set new, more ambitious ones.
When you’re looking to make strategic investments in IT, you’ll want to address the following issues with your remote workforce in order to set yourself up for success:
- Not having work from home policies: If you had to hastily implement a patchwork system when COVID-19 hit and never got around to fixing it, now is the time to ask for help. Even if you think things are going okay, there are simple ways to crank up efficiency, sponsor communication, and secure your remote connections that you aren’t even realizing exist. 2020’s hack of Twitter, for example, revealed to us the need for stringent policy enforcement (for multi-factor authentication, for account privilege management, and for log monitoring). Your MSP can discover these opportunities and help you maximize the benefits from them.
- No data backups: As one of the strongest defenses against malware and ransomware, backups and disaster recovery plans are tools you would be foolish to go without. In the long-term, you can expect that these will pay for themselves time and again. It’s like the saying goes, “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” That couldn’t be truer for your data. Your MSP will help you create and maintain frequent system backups so that you’re ready for the unexpected.
- Little to no cloud migration: The reality of working from home (and modern business practices in general) is that the cloud is absolutely essential. There is more and more talk of XaaS, or everything as a service. So many key business solutions are now being delivered over the cloud, and with good reason: they’re cost-effective, powerful, and have a network of experts behind them. Businesses need to embrace digital transformations in the long-term, and who better to help with that dramatic shift than a trusted IT partner?
- Vulnerable networks: Trusted MSPs pride themselves in being experts in securing networks. Solutions like virtual private networks (VPNs) can be set up for your company, paving the way for private, uninterrupted work to be done from home. An MSP can also conduct full network assessments that reveal vulnerabilities you might not have realized you had (compromised passwords found on the Dark Web, unsecured guest accounts, a lack of anti-spyware or anti-virus software, misconfigurations, missing security patches, bad password policies, etc.)
- Untrained employees: Surprisingly, your employees are actually one of your biggest security flaws. As chief research officer of F-Secure Mikko Hyppönen explains, “Security holes come and go…The human weaknesses are there always. Every day. Forever.” In other words, you can (and should) use RMM to patch endpoints and computers routinely, but in the long-term you cannot afford to ignore the human element of security. People can be tricked, meaning you and your employees can be tricked too. Training your team to recognize phishing attacks and other scams is now an expectation, not a luxury. You absolutely cannot “just wing it” with security training. Your MSP can help find cost-effective ways to get everyone educated and following best practices.
These are just a few of the important ways working with an MSP can help your remote workforce and your business as a whole in the long-term. There are more, and we’ll get to the most important one next.
The Final Piece of the Puzzle
Increased efficiency is one last critical way that your MSP will help your remote workforce. It is especially important for small businesses operating on razor-thin margins and tight budgets. As Charles McLellan with ZDNet says, “the defining characteristic of small and medium-sized businesses is limited financial and human resources compared to those available to enterprises, which means that SMBs must apportion their resources with extra care.” Your business can’t afford to throw money at a wall over and over just to see what sticks; it needs to know that every dollar it spends is going to help it survive and grow not just today but tomorrow, the day after that, and the day after that. On top of which, many SMBs struggle to find expensive talent anyways; over two-thirds of organizations say they struggle to find the right tech talent.
“The defining characteristic of small and medium-sized businesses is limited financial and human resources compared to those available to enterprises, which means that SMBs must apportion their resources with extra care.” – Charles McLellan, ZDNet
Yet again, this is where managed services and outsourcing really shines. Consider, for instance, the average salary for an IT professional in the United States. According to Glassdoor, it’s about $85,000. That’s a massive expense, meaning that you are limited in two ways: first by how many IT staff you can hire in total, and second by how much risk you’re willing or able to take with new hires. With an outsourced IT partner, you’re getting an entire firm’s worth of IT professionals for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring them all individually. In doing so, you dramatically broaden your available skills, skills you need to grow your business and support your remote team. So, by choosing to partner with an MSP, you are getting more bang for your buck, eliminating your risk of hiring a single underperforming technician, and freeing up your internal team to focus on hitting strategic goals.
Even as disaster strikes, we can remain positive. For one thing, we can be thankful that we have the technology available to work from home at all, something that was not possible during the 1918 influenza outbreak. We can also think of the situation we’re living through as an opportunity to change like never before possible. Think of all the things you’ve always wanted to change about your company but never thought were possible. Well, now they could be.
Machado Consulting is a managed service provider here to help you through these difficult times. We try to think positively in all situations, to not just see the light at the end of the tunnel but lay out a step-by-step plan on how to get there. This is a tough time, yes, but it is a chance for you to grow and adapt. Not too long ago, people scoffed at the idea of a majority of workers in their company working from home. It just wasn’t feasible. Well, COVID-19 turned that on its head, and now we know remote work is here to stay.
We as an MSP can help your business with its new remote workforce, and we’d love to show you how. A rapid, strategic business transformation is possible during COVID-19, and that’s something positive we can all get behind. You can contact us here or at (508) 453-4700.