Striking the Right IT Balance

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One of the toughest decisions any company faces these days is the right balance between relying on internal IT and external IT service providers.

On paper, the internal IT organization should have all the advantages. The external service provider is trying to make a profit, while the internal IT organization usually has to only deliver the same service at cost. But time and again, the internal IT organization finds it difficult to compete against the external service provider because the IT services company is leveraging scale and better tools and runs their IT operation like a business.

The end result, says Gavin Garbutt, CEO of N-Able, a provider of a managed IT services platform that many IT services companies use to manage systems across multiple customers, is that a well-run IT services company can manage on average about 500 devices per employee, versus the 100 to 150 devices per employee that an internal IT organization can deliver.

There's nothing that says an internal IT organization can't run like a business to achieve the same kind of results using the latest tools and best practices, but there's the rub. Most internal IT organizations don't have access to the kind of funding needed to keep pace with what the IT services company can provide in terms of tools and latest methodologies.

Garbutt concedes the fact that, especially in the small-to-medium business segment, over 90 percent of all systems are still managed by internal IT. But rather than endlessly debate the issue, Garbutt argues that the better part of valor for many internal IT organizations might be to reevaluate where to apply the expertise of external providers, while refocusing their internal efforts on adding more strategic value to the business.

A huge percentage of the IT functions being performed internally amount to little more than glorified digital maintenance work; chances are there is somebody out there who can do it better and more cost effectively.