Small and medium scale businesses (SMBs) cut complexity and save money by retaining an outsourced tech support provider, some technology experts say.

This was a strategy recently adopted by members of the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada (IPBC), a country-wide, non-profit association of certified professional bookkeepers, which recently partnered with Nerds On Site, an international IT service provider.

The partnership, which was announced last week, entitles IPBC members to a free assessment of their current IT use and needs.

A Nerds On Site technician will provide business owners with IT recommendations to boost productivity and profitability.

Most SMBs rely heavily on technology to deliver services and products to their clients, but day-to-day operations and budget considerations prevent them from keeping a close watch on system performance and optimization, according to IPBC director, Karen Brown, .

“System problems that might be an annoyance for big enterprises can tie-up an SMB’s operations,” Brown said.

At least one analyst believes outsourcing tech support on an as needed basis can be a good option for small to mid-sized organizations.

Hiring a full-time IT specialist or team can be expensive for companies with less than 50 computers, noted Ricky Mak, an SMB expert with analyst firm IDC Canada in Toronto.

He said while SMBs spend a good portion of their IT budgets on support services, in most cases, they do not really require an in-house IT support person “but do need someone who is available when something breaks down.”

Many business owners also fail to take full advantage of the technology they have in-house, because they lack the time or training to concentrate on this area of their business, said Charlie Regan, president and CEO of Nerds On Site Canada which has over 580 technicians across the country.

“One of the biggest SMB challenges is to [use] technology to drive business results,” he said.

Nerds On Site technicians and advisors consult with business owners, conduct device and systems, and recommend changes or upgrades to meet the SMB’s needs.

Businesses that sign up with Nerds On Site get a “dedicated nerd” and a “backup nerd” to serve them. Technicians can either drive-up to a customer’s location or provide online support via Internet linkages.

The company also offers products like NerdSecure MobilKEY, which connects remote users to their office computer and access database and applications securely from any location.

NerdSecure KRICKIT is a device that enables users to encrypt files, folders and messages as well as lockup workstations.

For as little as $2/GB customers can have access to the company’s Data Deposit Box, a secure data backup service offered by Nerds On Site.

Like operatives of Geek Squad, the IT support team from electronics retailer Best Buy, Nerds On Site technicians drive around in a Volkswagen Beetle called the Nerd Mobile.

The similarities, however, end there according to Regan.

“We are software agnostic. We don’t push any product, we provide what’s best for our customers.”

Mak said outsourced service providers are ideal alternative to full-time technicians because unlike salaried workers, these third party operators offer various payment plans.

For instance, some providers charge on a per-hour basis, while others offer fixed monthly fees that allow businesses to plan out their IT budgets. Nerds On Site employs what it calls a solution-based payment process that depends on what type of service is rendered.

Mak urges business owners to estimate the total cost of their downtime and consult with other business owners on their service experience before signing up with a provider. “Shop around and use your peer network to find what’s right for you.”

Aside from Nerds On Site and Geek Squad, system integrators, hardware vendors, value added resellers and other professional service providers offer a wide variety of tech support. “Services can come at a discount or part of the deal when you purchase something.”

Mak also said it’s vital that the service provider has industry knowledge or takes the time to learn how technology applies to your line of business.

Comment: edit@itworldcanada.com

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