Is on-site or remote IT support best for you? A comparison guide

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A new digital era is here, and cloud-based technologies are colliding with traditional IT systems and hardware, driving rapid changes to infrastructure and business requirements. As organisations realise the challenges of staying apace of technological developments to meet customer demands, IT outsourcing is gaining traction. During the 2015-2019 period, Research and Markets estimates the global IT outsourcing market will grow at a CAGR of 5.84%.

The spectrum of outsourced IT support options ranges from remote support to a dedicated on-site presence. If you’re considering IT outsourcing, how do you know which option works best for your business?

Remote support

As the name suggests, remote support involves the use of remote control tools (either permanent or web based). Server support tends to use permanently installed agents to provide remote control without a customer presence. Remote support may also include services running from the cloud, which can range from cloud-hosted infrastructure as a service (IaaS) to hosted software solutions to full disaster recovery as a service (DraaS). From a support point of view, cloud servers are typically treated as normal customer servers, with the difference being that the cloud hosting company supports the hardware (which is normally virtual) and the IT support provider supports everything running on the hardware (e.g. operating systems).

Remote support usually comes at a lower cost, as engineers can work efficiently without incurring travel expenses. However, lower investment doesn’t necessarily equal less engineer availability. Some IT support vendors are able to employ 24/7 support personnel, giving you the option of round-the-clock support.

One of the drawbacks of remote support is that it depends on the connectivity of the permanently installed agent. If the device has no network connection or fails to boot, then remote support is difficult to provide without the addition of remote management cards. If the customer receives remote support via the phone, there’s also the risk of fraud, since criminals have been known to pose as support engineers to gain access to an organisation’s systems. Before granting access to any system, it’s important to establish that the engineer on the phone is from the company providing support.

On-site support

IT support provided by an engineer physically on the customer’s site can be broken down into two categories:

Remotely based on-site support. This method involves the support engineer travelling to the customer’s site to perform the required work.

Dedicated on-site support. This method entails a support engineer being directly embedded at the customer’s facility, working independently or alongside the customer’s IT department. Dedicated support can be provided full time, or part time as required.  

Unlike remote support, on-site support doesn’t rely on device connectivity or management interfaces. Support can be provided on all devices, both with and without connectivity issues, including devices failing to boot. Additionally, an engineer can more easily troubleshoot faults when sat in front of the device. Some issues can even be diagnosed by the sound a machine is making rather than an actual problem on the screen.

Of course, having field engineers travel on-site will add additional costs to the support contract. You can minimise these expenses by ensuring you work with an IT support provider that has engineers located near each location requiring support. 

Support will be most expensive if you choose to utilise a dedicated on-site engineer, as that person has to be paid whether or not their services are required (for this reason, dedicated support is less common than other support methods).

Because on-site support relies on the customer being available to work with the engineer, out-of-hours support can be difficult and normally includes an additional fee to cover overtime.

Which is right for you?

On-site support is not a one size fits all solution. Every organisation has its own requirements, which are influenced by industry, company size, staff skills and many more factors.

Generally speaking, however, remote support is a feasible option for companies of all sizes. Larger companies will often have their own IT staff who provide the on-site presence, meaning a remote support contract is a better fit (although these companies do often outsource their help desk or first-line support as well).

Smaller customers sometimes try to cut costs by only contracting remote support, but if something goes wrong, they often need someone to go on-site, especially if they have servers. For this reason, some small customers will pay for site visits as needed. Even if the customer is using servers provisioned by an external cloud provider – and IaaS is popular with small- to medium-sized businesses – an on-site support contract is still an option. The on-site portion would simply be provided for the workstations and other infrastructure (network switches, storage devices, etc.). The ideal scenario, however, is to receive cloud services and IT support from a single supplier.

Many organisations, regardless of size, occasionally find it necessary to contract separately charged project work for networking, cabling, server infrastructure and hardware projects.

A good IT support provider is flexible in its approach and will assist you in fixing problems, while also acting as a source of advice for improving your IT environment so you can meet technology demands and satisfy your customers’ needs. 

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Pallab Chakraborty
24 Nov 2016, 9:21 a.m.

Remote support helps businesses in many ways such as increased productivity, increased efficiency; reduced travel costs, quick resolution to technical problems etc. Many businesses nowadays, are using various remote support tools such as R-HUB remote support servers, Logmein, GoSupportNow, GoToMyPC etc. for remotely accessing computers.

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