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The Pros and Cons of a Virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO)

Jeff Dotzler
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The average salary of a Chief Information Officer (CIO) in the United States ranges from $170,500 to $297,000, according to Robert Half’s 2018 Salary Guide for Technology Professionals. For larger corporations that pay bonuses and performance awards, those numbers can jump to seven figures.

The little guys — or even the not so little — have a hard time competing for highly qualified IT talent when even the low end of the average wage won’t fit into their budgets. Still, many small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) need the skills and strategic leadership that a CIO can bring to the table.

Many SMBs opt to outsource their technology needs and leverage the expertise of a virtual CIO (vCIO) as part of a Managed IT solution. But can outsourcing your IT really meet your business technology challenges? Let’s look at the pros and cons of a vCIO as an alternative to adding a senior-level position on your payroll.

The Pros of a vCIO

Save money. We’ve already mentioned the costs to hire a CIO, and a vCIO and related services usually pale in comparison. But don’t forget other financial considerations. Outsourcing can provide predictable, fixed monthly costs, a reduction in downtime and greater efficiencies that come with a consistent and reliable IT environment.

Form an IT strategy. One of the benefits of an IT leadership position is his or her role as a strategic advisor. Technology is a major driver in today’s marketplace, and forward-thinking organizations need to consider its role in their growth plans. A vCIO will make sure that, not only will your computer and software needs be met, you will get a customized IT roadmap that helps give your organization a competitive edge.

Protect against security threats. One of the greatest concerns of business owners is mitigating the risks of cyber-attacks and data breaches. While the term “virtual” may imply your CIO isn’t always available, the truth is that a vCIO will routinely visit your office and provide education for your employees to help identify potential risks. You’ll also get 24/7 remote monitoring of your systems, necessary firewalls, updates and security patches, and enterprise-level protection as part of a Managed IT solution.

Get an entire IT team to boot. Your vCIO has an entire staff of IT experts at his or her disposal who will assist as needed. Qualified technicians are available round-the clock via online chat or by phone to troubleshoot computer issues, address security threats and automatically update systems.

Stay ahead of the game. The pace of changes in technology today is extraordinary — from lightning-speed computing power and mobile devices to artificial intelligence and voice assist. Providing your IT team with continuing education and the tools they need to keep up is expensive and time-consuming. A vCIO is routinely equipped with the latest training and keeps up with technology trends. Additionally, a vCIO gleans knowledge from working with other organizations in your industry and elsewhere.

The Cons of a vCIO

Not in your office. There is something to be said for being able to walk down the hall and talk face-to-face. If something needs to be fixed and can’t be handled through a remote help desk, a technician or your vCIO will need to be dispatched. Be sure to discuss response times when deciding on which Managed IT service you’ll go with.

Existing IT staff. If you already have a CIO or other IT staff, the decision to replace them or augment their roles with Managed IT may be a difficult one to make. It’s noteworthy, however, that a vCIO doesn’t come with potential associated HR issues, compliance considerations, space requirements or other supporting office needs.

Time to build relationship. As with any business relationship — whether a new employee or vCIO — it takes time to build trust, especially when that person has access to your entire network of data. Look for a reputable Managed IT provider with a proven track record that will provide you with a dedicated vCIO and account manager who will be professional, yet personable.

Enlisting the help of a vCIO as part of a Managed IT service versus hiring a CIO can benefit your organization in many ways and far outweigh the risks of bringing someone on staff. But it’s important to ensure you work with a reputable Managed IT provider that has the experience, knowledge and dedication needed to help your organization thrive.

Learn more by reaching out to the  IT experts at the Gordon Flesch Company today.

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