SMALL IN NAME ONLY: TECH TRENDS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES | A ZDNet Multiplexer Blog What's this?

Extending IT support beyond basic warranty

The service plan that comes with initial purchase may not be enough to meet the technology needs of today's small business.

Many small businesses are turning to technology solutions to help them respond to new market and operational conditions. 

According to a recent report by the SMB Group, more than half of the organizations surveyed in July 2020 said that their average monthly revenues had decreased after the pandemic hit, but many rebounded by the end of the year. Forty-three percent reported that 2020 revenue exceeded that of 2019, just over one-third managed to break even, and only 20 percent suffered a year-over-year decline.

In the wake of Covid-19, the survey found, many companies shifted their technology strategies. The most common investments include tech that supports remote work, including PCs, monitors, networking, and security tools. 

The top three drivers that respondents identified as spurring investments are all about people — boosting employee productivity, keeping up with changing customer demands, and improving external collaboration.

These businesses are most likely to have invested in technology solutions to support customer attraction, financial management, and operational upgrades, and they rate these investments highly in providing business value. But the area that respondents ranked as providing the best return on investment is improving collaboration with customers, suppliers, and partners.

On the other hand, these small businesses cited "concerns about security, figuring out what will work best, and integration difficulties" as the main obstacles to investing. And despite all the awareness around digital transformation and technology, the report noted that 27 percent of small businesses do not have IT support.

Define IT support for your business

In order for small businesses to be innovative with technology, they also need to keep on top of basic functionality. To do that, they need to figure out how much support they need, and how much they can afford. 

For those businesses that are doing their own IT support without a dedicated professional, theFreeSite.com offers a roundup of various online resources that offer free technical support on computer- and Internet-related topics. The site provides links to tutorials, tips, courses, and other learning resources, as well as sites that offer free instruction in topics such as the Microsoft Certification Exam.

Costs of internal and external support

It's also possible that a business's needs will evolve over time. Hiring an in-house IT support technician will run $40,000-$60,000 a year, according to PayScale.com.

For those looking to outsource their IT, it's important to consider the age of the systems and servers under support. According to Omega Computer Services, systems that are older than 4 years cost significantly more to support and fix than newer devices. It's very likely that an upgrade will save in long-term support costs. Omega's report yields some interesting findings:

  • Among small businesses with 50-99 employees, the average cost of repairing PCs 4 years or older is $521 per year.

  • The cost to support a standard PC running Windows XP is  $780 per year.

  • On the other hand, the cost to support a standard PC running Windows 8 is only $168 per year.

  • If your business is still running Windows Server 2003, that can cost up to $200,000 per year in support.

In addition to losing functionality year over year, older servers grow costlier and riskier as they approach the end of their OS support cycles. Servers that are running outdated software make easy targets for hackers, as well. 

A financially viable and realistic support solution for small business is remote monitoring, through a managed service provider.

Depending on the terms of the support contract, small businesses can outsource all or some of their needs -- from cybersecurity to productivity to printer management to hardware helpdesk -- to the service provider. The cost of a service subscription is usually predictable and thus easier to factor into budget plans, as well. 

Reach out to a Dell Small Business Advisor to find out whether managed IT services are right for your business.