Outsourcing tech support may seem like the logical and best answer to your staffing woes.

But when is it more cost effective to create an in-house support group? How much is too much to pay for an outsourced support solution?

These are the questions asked by TechRepublic member msmith in a post on TechRepublic’s Technical Q&A forum asking for advice on assessing his external support fees.

Msmith explained that his organization spends about $350,000 a year on outsourced technical support. This fee includes one on-site technician three days a week in two locations to support a mixed Ethernet network of about 40 Macs and 50 PCs, msmith said.

“Am I spending too much? Should I start looking for in-house help?” msmith asked.

The consensus among TechRepublic members who responded to msmith’s query is that he is spending too much for the level of support he receives. Most TechRepublic members who responded agreed that hiring two or three full-time techs would provide more support and may reduce msmith’s overall costs.

Member RealGem provided msmith with a clear answer. “That’s way too much [to pay], unless there’s something you’re not telling us about the job. Take my advice: Hire on a tech person at each site, full-time if you like, and unless the site is in orbit, [it] will cost you less.”

However, before msmith hires full-time tech support, many TechRepublic members recommended that he research his options. Here is some of the advice that members provided about how to accomplish that goal.

Do the research
TechRepublic member Anna777 agreed that msmith is “…spending too much. But it also depends on location [and] salary rates for technical support in your area….”

Anna777 suggested that msmith explore the benefits of hiring his own support staff. “The decision to outsource or not has to be balanced. List the pros and cons and costs and benefits of each. Only then can you support your position.”

Member MaxwellE said that two full-time IT professionals could probably handle msmith’s 90 computers but that there are other additional costs to consider before building a tech staff.

According to MaxwellE, msmith should consider the hidden costs of:

  • Office space
  • Travel
  • Vacation
  • Health care and other benefits
  • Continued training

MaxwellE also suggested that msmith hire techs with experience in the organization’s industry: “Ideally, you would most likely want to find…people [who are] familiar with both IT and your particular industry. Knowing how to apply technology to best suit your business has a lot of merit.”

Prepare for growth
Building a solid foundation for an in-house support team is a key factor if msmith’s organization is planning for growth, said TechRepublic member chinachowchow, who warned that the organization’s outsourcing fees will grow along with the company.

Chinachowchow urged msmith to establish an in-house team. “If you hire in-house and get a good team together, then you’ll be able to not only grow the team or department, but you’ll [also] be able to provide a higher level of service [if you do it right], and then [you can] expand automating, etc.,” said chinachowchow.

TechRepublic member fenaikh even planned an ad hoc budget for msmith, one that can give a growing organization a solid IT team.

Fenaikh’s proposal costs about the same as msmith is paying now (around $350,000). But the in-house solution would provide support and a start for an in-house team. Here’s fenaikh’s proposed annual budget for an in-house team:

  • Two network administrators at $80,000 to $100,000
  • Four techs at $20,000 to $30,000
  • Parts, maintenance, and other upgrades at $10,000 to $20,000
  • A DBA, if needed, at $80,000 to $100,000

Fenaikh’s makeshift budget comes to $340,000 using the low-end of the proposed pay range for the administrators, techs, and a DBA and the higher estimate for parts and maintenance.

This plan does not offer significant savings, but it does give msmith’s organization its own in-house team.

What’s your plan?

How do you cut down on support and tech costs? Do you think outsourcing is a good way to keep your overhead low? Do you prefer having an in-house team? Let us know by sending us an e-mail or starting a discussion below.