It is a question just about every IT department wrestles with: How many support people do we need? TechRepublic member pbeaudry recently asked this question in our Forums section.


“What are some accepted guidelines for staffing IT support areas? How many end users justify an additional network admin person who provides server and end user hardware and software support? Is it 50:1 or 100:1? I can’t seem to find any standards.

“Given that as you hire more end users, the network grows in complexity, I need to document solid reasons and industry standards.”

TechRepublic asks an expert
John Reinert, senior network consultant with New Age Technologies in Louisville Kentucky, told TechRepublic that 100:1 is a typical ratio for end users to support staff. But Reinert agreed with other IT pros who insisted there are many ways to answer this question. A much smaller ratio might make more sense for your organization.

Reinert suggested a persuasive argument to help win over management: Show them how much it’s costing the business when employees aren’t working. That is often the result when support staff members are overwhelmed with service calls. Reinert said having adequate support staff is like any investment a business should make to ensure that it remains productive.

“A company I worked for didn’t want to buy a UPS that cost about $800—a paltry sum, really. Their downtime would cost them a lot of money per second in revenue losses. A little insurance up front will save revenues,” Reinert said.
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Members speak out
In the Forums, TechRepublic members also provided their viewpoints. As you may know, the member who posts the question can award TechPoints to those who supply the most helpful answers. Here’s what a couple of members suggested.

Proposed answer #1: Submitted by Dennis
“I was told one time by a Banyan Vines Engineer that they [Banyan] recommended 60:1. But then, Banyan is no longer in the networking arena.

“I would suggest that you analyze the past workload, current workload, and potential future workload. Develop a presentation that depicts the increasing workload. Demonstrate how an additional person would be beneficial to the company, increase production with less downtime, [provide] faster turnaround on equipment repair.

“I can remember a time when I had over 400 computers to take care of and not enough hours in a day to even blink at them with all the other fires I had to put out.”

Proposed answer #2: Submitted by Wayne M
“Try generating your own business statistics. This information will provide better justification for decision-makers than general, industry standards.

“Track things like number of help desk calls, call backlogs, call response time, and user downtime. If you can also get historical data showing trends related to user growth, it is even better. A quick calculation of staff downtime multiplied by an hourly rate will often give a dollar value that justifies the salary of a new hire.

“I would not rely on industry standards to present a case for new personnel. The usual response is, ‘That’s nice, but it doesn’t apply here.’

“Generate your own business statistics and make a business justification for needed personnel.”
Can you provide a better answer to this question? Should a business decrease its support staff as users become more tech-savvy? What’s the best way to argue for more IT support staff? Post a comment below or send us some mail. We may use your answers in upcoming articles.