The Difference Between Help Desk and Full-Service IT Support

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For businesses that outsource some or all of their IT, the level of service they need generally falls on a spectrum. On one side of the spectrum, IT services follow a general help-desk model and often include basic maintenance, upgrades and support. On the full-service advisory side, the provider takes on active future-planning and strategy to account for overarching business goals.

Often, help-desk support is conflated with lower-cost models. While this is generally true in terms of monthly rates, full-service advisory often costs less in the long run. Full advisory services eliminate costly IT incidents and budgetary surprises by protecting data, streamlining workflows, optimizing operations and leveraging IT-based business opportunities.

Regardless of where on the spectrum your IT needs fall, your business should be addressing IT in terms of both routine maintenance and high-level strategy. The question shouldn’t be whether to take on strategic IT issues, but rather when to handle them, and whether you do so in-house, externally or with a mix of the two. The alternative – turning a blind eye to potential inefficiencies and vulnerabilities down the road – is not a viable option in today’s cyber-driven business environment.

In this article, we’ll outline the benefits and drawbacks of different levels of IT services, from help desk support to full-service advisory. We’ll start by defining help desk support.

Help Desk Support

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Help desk support providers offer businesses routine maintenance and check-ins, fixes upon request, and periodic patches and updates.

This level of support is ideal for businesses that are confident in their current IT systems, security and backup plans, and are looking to maintain the efficiency and productivity levels they have in place.

Many models include:

  • On-demand support: When there’s an issue, you reach out and a technician works with you to resolve that issue.
  • Monitoring: The provider monitors your network for performance and/or security issues.
  • Upgrades and maintenance: Help-desk support takes care of software upgrades and performs routine maintenance to keep your network up and running.

In short, help desk support focuses on your technology. It keeps your computers and network up and running, but it can sometimes feel a bit disconnected from your larger business goals. Businesses looking for more in-depth analysis and strategy are better candidates for full-service IT support.

Full-Service IT Support

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With full-service IT support, your provider becomes a partner in your business, serving as a virtual CIO (vCIO) and playing an integral role in critical business-planning and decision-making. Full-service support looks to decrease and stabilize your IT costs over time with a holistic and forward-thinking approach.

In addition to keeping your technology functional and optimized, full-service support focuses on helping you achieve your business goals through technology. Instead of stopping at tech support, your advisors take the time to understand your business goals and provide solutions that make sense for your needs.

For example, do you know how long your business could go without internet? Phones? Power? What happens if your server fails? If your backups fail too, do you have a plan C?

With full-service support, your advisors meet with your leadership team for in-depth decision-making meetings that address critical questions like these, and the takeaways guide your ongoing partnership. Your advisors investigate broader context issues such as your business’s opportunities and threats, position in the market, appetite for risk and preparedness for the future so that IT decision making stays aligned to your business’s top-level goals.

Armed with this information, your IT advisors perform a gap analysis and develop fully customized plans tailored to your unique business setup and needs. If there are ways for your business to improve efficiency, cut costs, limit risk or even simply improve the day-to-day quality of life, your team will let you know and help you capitalize on those, too.

Here are a few of the benefits of full-service IT advisory services:

  • Cost control: Full-service IT support offers strategy, security planning and disaster prevention, all of which lower your long-term costs.
  • Alignment with business goals: Full-service support finds ways for your technology to support your business goals, helping streamline processes, leverage opportunities and ultimately improve cost efficiency.
  • Higher productivity: Full-service IT support helps improve productivity by ensuring reliability and streamlined functionality in your IT solutions.
  • Lower risk: Your dedicated full-service team consistently monitors risk factors, scans for vulnerabilities and looks for ways to strengthen your security measures.
  • Long-term partnership: With full-service IT support, you develop a collaborative relationship with your designated team of experts.

Full-service advisory is an all-encompassing option for businesses that want security and functionality assurance as well as predictable IT costs. In contrast to help desk support, which tends to focus on immediate issues, full-service support helps companies stabilize their IT costs and strategically optimize their IT systems.

Choosing a Provider

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While help desk and full-service advisory represent two ends of an IT support spectrum, there are several middle-of-the-road options that allow companies to outsource parts of their IT while owning other parts in-house. Understanding this spectrum of support will help you make sense of different offerings when shopping for a provider. Are you looking for IT strategy or resolution to immediate issues? Is your goal to stabilize your IT costs and eliminate the risk of costly incidents down the road, or reduce up-front costs while taking on a higher risk of expensive issues later?

At Hungerford Technologies, we offer various levels of technical support and advisory to meet your needs. Our full Advisory Services offering includes expert support, strategic planning, close partnerships with your business leadership and a commitment to working towards your overarching business goals. Here’s what sets our Advisory Services apart:

  • We train our advisors in both IT and business strategy, making them key players in both IT logistics and business advising. Your vCIO comes to the table as an informed and invested advocate for your business goals, not as an outsider looking to complete a job.
  • We offer monthly technical audits and high-level quarterly reviews to discuss strategy and business goals.
  • We offer a predictable pricing model.
  • We work closely with you on your IT quality control, reducing your downtime while instilling peace of mind.
  • Your Hungerford vCIO works to be a trusted business partner and an essential part of your team.

Our goal is to create business value through technology.

Ready to learn more? Talk with a trusted advisor to learn more about our Advisory Services offering.