Every small business — with dreams of growth and expansion — realizes technology enhances business productivity. Of course, not every small business can allocate funds to staff an IT department — or in some cases even have an IT professional on call.
For most small businesses, IT experts on site are chiefly managing tactical issues — leaving little time for maintenance, monitoring and planning when it comes to nurturing a strategic, effective IT strategy. For most small businesses, a virtual CIO (chief information officer) is an exceptional alternative to restaffing or expanding an internal IT department.
What is a Virtual CIO?
Virtual CIOs are really a portfolio of IT services delivered by today’s Managed Service Providers (MSPs) for small businesses. Virtual CIO is a title — and a service — combining tasks managed and maintained by chief information officers, chief technology officers and technology consultants.
Virtual CIOs take care of everything from infrastructure management, firewall and virus protection to WAN/LAN health monitoring, disaster recovery, scheduled on-site support and more — all with a focus on keeping data safe, secure and accessible 24/7. Virtual CIOs proactively monitor, measure and maintain the IT health and security of a business at an IT budget structured and, in most instances, customized for today’s SMBs.
How do virtual CIOs help small business? From technology roadmaps to IT infrastructure management and more, virtual CIOs help today’s SMBs access and operate the innovative business technologies available to them, with remote and on-site support, consultation and troubleshooting.
Having a forward-thinking vision of where you want your business to be, as well as goals for immediate improvements, is essential to any successful enterprise. Virtual CIOs provide IT plans and strategies that help small businesses leverage IT solutions to fulfill short- and long-term business goals.
Security and Disaster Planning
The best time for a disaster recovery plan is before a small business actually requires one. With Virtual CIO services, businesses benefit from disaster strategy development that allows for quick response and business productivity protection in the event of an outage or natural disaster.
Security is quickly becoming a top priority for all businesses as breaches occur more frequently and carry more serious repercussions. Small businesses are not immune to attacks simply because their data sets are smaller. Virtual CIOs provide consistent security planning and disaster planning plus monitoring, to keep data flowing safely.
IT Maintenance, Monitoring and Management
Comprehensive and consistent IT management is the difference between suffering disruptive productivity gaps and maintaining seamless operational productivity. Virtual CIOs deliver not only day-to-day monitoring and maintenance of IT performance and productivity, but also comprehensive IT management to keep business processes functioning at peak efficiency.
24/7 Specialized IT Expertise
Even with an in-house IT department, sometimes it can be difficult to ensure that you have the right talent for all IT-related issues. Having a Virtual CIO gives a small business big peace of mind with constant IT monitoring and reporting.
Many SMBs want to leverage technology — cloud accounting solutions, customer relationship management software and much more — but lack the necessary expertise and personnel to do so. By investigating and finding the right virtual CIO to compliment and guide their IT infrastructure, performance and overall strategy, an SMB may find not only an exceptional IT authority, but also a technology partner and trusted adviser.
IT Repair Figurines Photo via Shutterstock
I think the article really misses the mark. It describes “Day-to-day monitoring and maintenance of IT performance and productivity”? This is exactly why you have a managed service provider and SLA’s. These are tactical services and not the daily focus of a typical CIO.
Your CIO as a Service (CIOaaS), should want to meet with all the business leaders, learn their pain points and assess your IT solutions & operations. CIOaaS should recommend solutions that bring real value to the business through their technology, help them meet these goals.
Not a good approach to combine managed services provider and the independence of a Virtual CIO (unless you are a MSP of course).
I tend to agree with Sean. Smaller companies may not be able to afford a full-time CIO but if they employ a virtual CIO it should not be to function as jack of all trades IT person. As Sean said, a CIO focusses on business and strategy, driving competitiveness and growth through technology, not monitoring and supporting infrastructure.
Thanks for writing this article. I hope every small AND medium business reads this. There is HUGE risk with the common approach of “hiring who we can afford” as a full-time “director”. (typically they are given title of director or VP though they have <10 yr experience and ought not to be directing anything but a small project or small team).
Risk 1. BS staff. The "Director" always will hire people less skilled than himself or herself. So, the "Director" at one company where I consulted put a staff with a BS business in charge of their Data Warehousing strategy. I provided him a direct, IN TOWN, contact with years in Data Warehousing even in his second tier platform. He choose not to engage. That is the stupidity a young/inexperienced/ CIO will bring to your organization.
Risk 2: Waste. They were spending $800k on another system because the three extant directors didn't know tech. They spent $300k on networking equipment because they didn't know tech. Etc. The real waste is far greater than the virtual CIO cost savings.