The Pros & Cons of Do-It-Yourself IT

So, you think you can do IT yourself?

Many business owners simplify their IT needs into one question: Is my internet working? If the internet is flowing and emails are coming in, they feel that everything is right with the world. Depending on the size of your business, this may very well be the case. This blog details a few different sizes and structures of companies and makes a case for and against them doing their own IT. 

 

The Sole Proprietor  

A sole proprietor is a one-person show where typically all their business transactions are completed on a smartphone or tablet. Some examples of this kind of small business are auto detailers, landscapers, or hairstylists renting a booth in a local salon. These owners' ideas of internet technology are most likely based on the strength of their mobile network signal so that they can process their clients' credit card transactions. 
 

The Case for Do-It-Yourself 

Let's face it; there is not much going on here in the way of data transmission and security. The main concern here is connectivity to the internet for credit card processing and email. The owner of this kind of business can usually easily manage their IT needs. 
 

The Case Against Do-It-Yourself 

I would equate this to someone trying to kill a mosquito with a grenade launcher. Sure, a Managed IT Service could help the business owner out when they need assistance, but so can Google if they are savvy enough to do a decent internet search. 
 

The Verdict

A sole proprietor can have some success with DIY IT.    

 

The Small Professional Office

Small professional offices usually include professions such as law practices, General Practitioner's offices, or a Certified Personal Accountants. Connectivity and security are at the heart of the needs of their business. These business owners' concerns centralize on securing their client emails and ensuring that they have continuous internet access for their staff.  
 

The Case for Do-It-Yourself 

These small business owners usually want to watch every penny in their budget. This financial constraint may mean that adding a Managed IT Services provider is outside of their budget. They can easily see that their emails and Wi-Fi are functioning, but if not, it can usually be cleared up with a call to an internet provider. If things get too complicated, then they are forced to call in a computer whiz kid that their friend's son knows from high school. 
 

The Case Against Do-It-Yourself 

What are you doing wasting hours trying to fix your internet issues? You should look at your business as a time/expense relationship. If you can increase revenue by focusing on your business rather than spending hours trying to troubleshoot computer problems—you should be paying someone else to manage your IT. This example is why most of us get our oil changed at the local auto repair shop; sure, I can do it myself, but it's going to take me a lot longer than the professional auto mechanic down the street. 

Now let's think about network security and backups. Most small business owners at this level consider running backups as plugging in an external hard drive once a month or maybe using an online backup service. They usually don't think their data is important enough that someone wants to steal it. The more critical question is, what's it worth to you—because that is what the hackers are thinking. There are also certifications that you need to concern yourself with, such as GLEG (HIPPA for medical / GLBA for CPAs). What will happen to your business if you get certification fines for losing private information? What about your business' reputation?  
 

The Verdict

The small professional business owner can do it IT for himself, but it's risky. The better choice is to hire a professional IT provider.  

 

The Medium Professional Office 

The medium-sized professional office usually consists of doctors, insurance or engineering firms, or even independent real estate offices. This office is a small separate office that's not tied to a significant corporate organization, so they are left to succeed or fail on their own. Reputation and security are essential, but they are figuring it out as they grow. The foundation may be shaky, and a data breach with associated fines could ruin their business or degrade their reputation. 
 

The Case for Do-It-Yourself

Generally, in these offices, IT-related tasks are delegated to an employee that has a "knack" for computers. Putting an employee in charge of the IT support when it is not their sole focus means that when something breaks, they must figure out how to fix it. The employee will spend time researching the problem and then working on a resolution. There is a financial benefit here from tasking an employee to fix IT when it goes down because you do not have to pay more for someone outside the organization to correct the problem.  
 

The Case Against Do-It-Yourself

Putting an employee in charge of IT who doesn't have professional training or certifications might be able to get the job done, but it's going to get messy. In a small office with 5-20 employees, everyone needs to focus on their job, and they all require technology to get their work done. This employee does not have a map of the network, does not know how to handle backups, does not understand all the facets of networking and security protocols that your business needs to have in place. Chances are, they will "fix" the problem with a workaround solution, which may cause other problems in the long run.  
 

The Verdict

A medium professional office should not do IT themselves. You can inadvertently destroy your business because of security issues you do not know how to handle. Hire a professional IT team.   

 

The Large Professional Company

Large professional companies usually have between 50-200 employees and are growing because of their highly sought-after products or services. They don't consider themselves to be a target for cyber-criminals and, if their email is working, then all is right in their world.  
 

The Case for Do-It-Yourself IT

Most companies this size have a small internal IT department. Many times this department consists of a single employee. Unfortunately, the workload for this individual is far too heavy for them to both effectively service IT tickets, and plan for future IT needs and budget. IT at this level would need to ensure that you are covering all the bases with cybersecurity, network security, workstation management, and help desk activities.  
 

The Case Against Do-It-Yourself IT

This case is variable, depending on your situation. If your current IT department has many large projects, then it may be beneficial to outsource routine tasks to a Managed IT Service provider. A Managed IT Service provider can help provide help desk services, network security, and other monitoring to build efficiency across your IT Department and company. 
 

The Verdict

Large professional companies should explore more than just a single solution for their IT strategy. Applying a mix of DIY (internal department) and a Managed IT Service provider may be the most effective option.  
 

The Modern Risks of DIY IT

The business technology landscape today can be so risky for most businesses that you can see many of them require more security than ever before. And as technology continues to advance rapidly, we find that business owners can do less and less themselves. The smart move for most businesses is to work with a trusted technology partner in a way that best benefits your business model. 

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Author

Jason Monroe, Associate Director, Solution Development
Jason M. Monroe

Associate Director, Solution Development

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