Outsourcing IT systems and using software as a service (SaaS)
July 10, 2008 by Phil Montero
I was being interviewed by a reporter the other day for an article she was writing targeted at IT managers about best practices for managing and supporting teleworkers and remote offices. During our discussion she asked me if I had any advice for dealing with common stumbling blocks. One of the points I suggested was – don’t think you have to setup all the technology in-house – consider using a variety of subscription services available for remote or mobile workers and virtual teams.
There was a time when implementing virtual teams or a telework program was a daunting task for any organization involving a lot of initial expenses and IT expertise. One of the strategic advantages available to companies today are the wide variety of subscription services they can use to provide collaboration tools and flexibility to themselves and their employees quickly and without the initial expense of purchasing and setting up servers and sophisticated security systems.
There are subscription services available to handle just about everything including backups, web based collaboration, remote access to PCs, web meetings, contact management (or CRM), even office applications (like Word and Excel). These are great solutions for companies of all sizes for several reasons
- Low startup costs – Instead of investing in a bunch of hardware there is often a small setup fee or in many cases no setup fee at all. If after some time you find the solution doesn’t work for your business you can discontinue it’s use without losing your initial investment.
- Scalability – Another huge advantage is how scalable these services are. Maybe you are a small company with only a handful of people that need to use one of these tools. Or perhaps you are a large organization that is just starting to pilot virtual teams or telework. If the results are successful you then want to roll this out organization wide. Most subscription services offer different levels of service. For example with web-based collaboration tools you usually pay based on the amount of disk space you need for file storage or the number of people that will be using the space. When you are ready to expand you simply upgrade to a higher level of service and pay a higher monthly fee.
- No IT staff needed – As subscription services the support, updates, upgrades, and maintenance is provided by the company that offers the service. While an IT department can be helpful in developing the proper strategy for implementing or adopting this tool among your employees and team members – setup and installation is ususally very simple and often can be handled by the end users or team managers themselves. This allows solo-professionals and small businesses without an IT staff access to the same tools that, until recently, were only available to larger organizations with IT departments.
I read an article just the other day from an Australian news source – “Outsourcing IT makes small-business sense” that was raising some of these same issues. It said:
“Faced with the challenges of running a small business, growing numbers of owners are opting to rid themselves of one of the biggest: their information technology systems. Rather than battling with the vagaries of software, servers, networks and security, many firms are outsourcing everything to an external service provider. From an economic perspective, IT outsourcing can make sound commercial sense for a small business. Instead of purchasing and managing hardware and software, IT resources are accessed on demand, with the business only paying for the resources it needs.”
This is the exact point I was raising with the reporter I was talking with and advice I give to most of our clients. While there are a large number of these services available – you can investigate some of the ones we recommend by downloading The Anywhere Office Toolbox.
This free ebook provides information and links to technology, services and other resources we find of benefit to mobile workers, virtual teams and supporting virtual offices and distributed work. These providers offer affordable solutions and most have free trials, so I encourage you to explore them further.