The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Tech Support

In a perfect scenario, your business tools would  tech supportfunction flawlessly and always be available when required. However, for small business owners, the situation often resembles Murphy’s Law: if anything can malfunction, it likely will. As entrepreneurs, it’s crucial to establish robust IT support systems that can swiftly address emergencies, such as computer breakdowns or software glitches.

Small enterprises usually start with basic IT practices, like using cookies to monitor website traffic from various sources (like organic search, paid search, and social media) and implementing a universal privacy policy. Cookies are small text files storing bits of data (like usernames and passwords) to recognize a computer on a network.

There are different types of cookies used by browsers, including performance and functional cookies. Performance cookies collect information on website usage, track frequently visited pages, and record any error messages on these pages. Functional cookies store user preferences for specific websites, including details like usernames and language settings in a privacy preference center.

However, the IT support needs of many businesses extend beyond managing cookies and privacy statements. The exact nature of your IT support plan will depend on your specific business requirements. The key is to ensure that in the event of a crisis, you can react swiftly and effectively.


Small Business Tech Support Options

For your small business’s tech support needs, there are two main choices: hiring external service providers or employing in-house IT experts. While it’s not strictly a choice of one over the other, it’s vital to comprehend the advantages and limitations associated with each option.


Opting for Outsourced or Managed IT Services

For businesses with a very lean team, delegating your IT support to an external provider could be the most effective strategy. Rather than employing a full-time IT support person, it might be more advantageous for your small business to engage with an external partner on a contractual basis.

Typical services provided by managed IT include:

  • A help desk available 24/7/365
  • Enhanced capabilities in areas such as:
  • Remote supervision and maintenance of hardware and infrastructure
  • Advanced security support, including penetration testing, threat detection, and incident response
  • Setup, observation, and management of cloud-based services
  • Support for communications, like IP telephony services

The specifics and cost of IT support contracts can differ greatly, tailored to the unique requirements of your small business. Options range from break/fix services, where assistance is provided as issues arise, to comprehensive 24/7 tech support, ensuring constant monitoring and resolution of IT problems. There are also specialized supports available, like managing your CRM software or executing disaster recovery plans.

Erik Shanabrough, a tech support specialist at Magtype/CR, a computer support firm in southwestern Connecticut, emphasizes that they adapt their support level to each client’s needs. Magtype offers support for servers, workstations, and networks across various device types.

Shanabrough notes that new clients often arrive with a list of immediate projects or needs, leading to an initial surge of activity. Subsequently, his company provides support either on-demand or through a contract, typically requiring a minimum of six hours weekly, often more. Firms like Magtype generally charge between $100 and $200 per employee each month, or a comparable hourly rate for on-call support.


The Benefits of Choosing Outsourced IT Services

Opting for an outsourced IT support contract brings several notable benefits. Firstly, it grants you access to a diverse pool of experts, ensuring your systems operate at their best and quick resolutions for any technical problems. This setup frees you from the burden of sifting through extensive troubleshooting guides, allowing you to concentrate on key business activities.

Additionally, contracts with IT service providers typically come with guaranteed minimum service levels. This arrangement ensures a predefined response time when you report a problem to your IT representative. Unlike in-house IT personnel who may be preoccupied with various tasks, outsourced providers are incentivized to address your concerns swiftly and efficiently, ensuring your business operations remain uninterrupted.


Challenges of Outsourced IT Services

Conversely, there are some potential downsides to consider with outsourced IT services. Particularly for businesses with a large employee base, the costs can be substantial. While some providers might offer discounted rates for servicing more users, the overall expense of outsourced contracts can often exceed that of employing a full-time IT professional.

Moreover, there’s a risk of overpaying for services you may not fully utilize. In-house IT staff can be managed to ensure efficient use of their time and skills. However, with outsourced services, you are typically required to pay the contracted company regardless of the actual extent of service usage. This could lead to paying for more IT support than your business really needs.


In-House IT Support

For businesses with larger teams, employing in-house IT staff can seem like a sensible approach, but it’s important to evaluate when it’s justified to expand your team. Key considerations include your staffing budget and the level of IT support your business actually requires.

Jason Kelley, VP of Product Support at security firm KnowBe4, notes, “Salaries for entry-level in-house IT roles range from $55,000 to $100,000, with higher wages for specialized technicians. Typically, the threshold for a business to justify hiring an in-house IT professional falls between having 25 to 50 employees.”

An alternative is to assign IT support tasks to an existing team member, which should ideally be accompanied by a suitable increase in their compensation. While your budget might not stretch to hiring a dedicated IT support specialist, it’s important to recognize that employees should be fairly compensated for any additional responsibilities they take on.


Advantages of In-House IT Support

Opting for in-house IT support, either by hiring a new employee or assigning additional duties to an existing staff member, is often more cost-effective than engaging an external vendor. This approach also facilitates better continuity. For instance, when an employee faces recurring issues with their computer, a colleague familiar with the problem’s history can provide more effective assistance, without needing the issue explained anew each time.

Moreover, in-house IT staff, particularly those who offer remote support, are typically more attuned to the specific needs of your business. They can effectively prioritize critical issues and allocate resources more judiciously. Simpler issues might be resolved through self-help resources like a knowledge base, allowing the IT team to focus their efforts on more significant, broader needs of the business.


Challenges With In-House IT Support

However, there are certain limitations to relying solely on internal IT support staff. One significant challenge is that issues may not be resolved as swiftly as they would be with external assistance. Every employee has a finite amount of time each day, and often, more urgent tasks can cause less critical IT issues to be deprioritized. An outsourced IT service, on the other hand, can allocate additional resources during peak periods to support your business more effectively.

Additionally, the technical expertise of in-house IT staff might not be as comprehensive as that offered by an external partner. While your in-house team can handle most standard computer-related problems, they might fall short in addressing more complex issues that require specialized knowledge. This could leave your business at a disadvantage if it encounters a particularly challenging technical obstacle.



For small businesses, initiating common IT practices is essential, starting with the implementation of cookies that track and manage website traffic from various sources like organic searches, paid searches, and social media. Alongside this, establishing a company-wide privacy statement is crucial. A cookie is essentially a small text file that stores tiny data fragments, such as usernames and passwords, and helps in identifying a user’s computer within a network.

There are various types of cookies, each tailored to fulfill distinct functions. Performance cookies, for example, play a key role in gathering information on how visitors engage with a website. They monitor the most frequented pages and check for any error messages encountered by users. Conversely, functional cookies are focused on retaining and storing individual preferences on a website, like a user’s selected username and language preferences, typically stored in a privacy preference center. By doing so, these cookies significantly improve the user experience by customizing and streamlining website navigation.


Tips for Using IT Support Services

Each small business has unique needs when it comes to IT support resources. Identifying these specific requirements is a critical step in choosing the right service. Kelley advises, “Small business owners need to clarify their desired outcomes and assess how often they need these services. This understanding will help them seek out the most suitable solution at the most reasonable cost.”

Your choices for IT support can range from outsourcing particular tasks such as configuring computers and networks and ensuring operational continuity, to handling email setup and maintenance or focusing on backup and security measures. Given the frequent news about data breaches and malware incidents, it’s wise to have a dedicated resource available to address these challenges.

IT support requirements are dynamic and can evolve as your small business grows. It’s also important to consider the cost implications of not seeking external assistance. Thomas Pore, previously the VP of Technical Services at Plixer, a networking company, highlights this as a crucial aspect of evaluating service providers. He advises, “In deciding on the extent of support needed, you should assess the financial impact of each hour of downtime on your business.”

When it comes to IT decisions, it’s generally wiser to invest in a service you might not use frequently rather than risk being unprepared for a critical situation. Opting for even the most fundamental level of service can offer long-term benefits, providing a safety net to fall back on in case of unforeseen IT challenges.

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