Using technology in any business is an absolute necessity in the modern world. For this reason, most larger businesses employ CIOs to oversee the technical aspects of business, ranging from purchasing to implementation and maintenance.
While this may work for large corporations, many smaller businesses find themselves without a single, dedicated IT professional on staff, let alone a department with a CIO. However, that’s not to say that companies of this size wouldn’t benefit from this type of support. Are there other options available?
A term that has become common in the small business world is vCIO or virtual Chief Information Officer. No, this isn’t some sort of hologram that shows up to company meetings. It’s possible for an individual to fill this role remotely, but it's best to hire a Managed Services company to perform the tasks the CIO would.
There are a series of reasons why a Managed Services provider would be beneficial. First, this type of service usually costs less than the salary of a dedicated person with the needed qualifications. While individual humans tend to make mistakes from time to time, a team of people doing the work has more checks and balances in place to make sure that the job is being done well. Beyond these generalities, what exactly are the benefits of a vCIO?
Seeing the Big Picture
Two of the major jobs of a CIO is to create the entire technology system as well as plan for the future. Are you planning on expanding the number of computer terminals? Perhaps you will eventually move your server storage to the cloud? What sort of backup system is in place currently and how are you budgeting for upgrades and maintenance? A vCIO would make these types of plans for you. Naturally, you make the final call, but they put forth an expert recommendation with a plan for follow-through.
Taking Care of the Little Things
The more technology is running in any given operation, the greater the likelihood of something breaking. Most small businesses don’t have the time or expertise to handle the day to day maintenance of their systems without diverting attention from other areas. Even if an employee has the time and does well with his/her home network, business equipment should be in a category far above consumer-grade. For instance, maintaining a server with a Windows Server OS utilizes a completely different skillset than using Windows on a desktop PC.
Along with the previously listed points, efficiency is a major benefit of using a vCIO. Let's say that someone in your company is technologically inclined. If an issue arises, that would take them away from their normal duties. In addition, the amount of time and effort you need to fix the problem may be much more than someone who deals with similar issues regularly. Think of having to search for passwords and how long it may take to look up error codes online. In the end, you'll probably still need to bring in outside help, taking even more time to fix what would be a routine task to a dedicated managed services professional.
Never on Break
The only thing that is more of a burden than hiring a dedicated IT professional is hiring an entire team. Many businesses have some sort of operation running 24/7. Even if you have someone on staff, how many hours can they work in a day or week? What happens if they called in sick or take a vacation? vCIO services will have people on call around the clock, day and night. If it breaks at four in the morning on a Saturday, a vCIO will address it well before someone shows up Monday morning, unable to work.
Just in Case
Once the systems are up and running, support issues tend to drop. Does that mean that all your needs are met? Well, even the most skilled backyard mechanic needs to bring their car into the shop occasionally. There will be times when a system needs a major overhaul, such as hardware or software upgrades. This requires a large amount of time and expertise. If your company finds itself in an emergency, like a virus spreading through your network, you need intense intervention. A vCIO can help you weather such a storm until you’re able to get back on your feet. For many companies, these are the sort of situations that convince them that they need a vCIO moving forward.
As we’ve discussed, vCIOs may or not be the best solution for your company. However, if you currently find yourself without a dedicated, technical professional on staff, you may want to research your options. A relatively small investment in this sort of service will, more than likely, pay off big in the future.