Indepth: What Can Be Outsourced?

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The choice can range from small parts of your operation to your entire IT functionIT can be outsourced in three categories;

  • Support
  • Systems
  • Continuity


All IT needs to be maintained. Sometimes it's renewing the equipment to bring it up to date, or it could be fixing it when something goes wrong, or something as routine as adding new users or removing them when they leave.

This is also the area where most IT outsourcing takes place and is what most people think IT Support and maintenance companies do. The level of support needed may be specifically negotiated based on your particular needs, or you might be able to get away with an off-the-shelf package.


It's possible to have some items of equipment, such as a server, kept at an IT provider's premises, or even rent space on a bigger server, rather than buying your own. This can provide more room at your premises as the equipment doesn't need to be kept there.

It also means both servers and the applications installed on them can be looked after by an outsourced provider with a link set up between your offices and the equipment. Maintenance tasks can then be performed without disruption to yourself as engineers don't need to visit your office, making it quicker and cheaper.

State of the art security can be applied to the server meaning that you don't have to worry about keeping it up-to-date and off-site back-ups can be carried out frequently. This all creates a more secure IT environment for your company and its data.

Some companies also use bespoke software to help them run their operations. This ensures that computer systems can be developed around the company's precise needs, rather than being constrained by off-the-shelf packages. It can also be updated by the provider meaning you don't have to.


These are the arrangements you have in place for your business to continue following a disaster such as a fire, flood or significant damage after a break-in. Outsourcing is required here as your existing systems may cease to exist or be unusable if anything happens. An outsourced solution ensures that you still have access to your most important or critical operations and data, no matter what happens.

Which should you choose?

Start by considering those activities which would cause serious inconvenience if they crashed. For example, your server, network or email system. Outsourcing the maintenance and support of these activities ensures you are back up and running again as soon as possible with the minimum of disruption.

Then there are those activities where specialist experience is required. Security and continuity are perhaps the best example. Getting it right should not be left to chance as the consequences of failure could be disastrous.

If you already have some expertise in IT, or perhaps have an IT department, then you should also look at where the gaps in your cover are, e.g. areas of expertise or what to do in the event of illness and holidays.

Whichever areas you outsource, you'll need to consider how to manage the suppliers. You can find out more about this in Managing an Outsourcing Relationship.