Photo courtesy of Flickr: Matt Lilek
Maybe I am a bit biased when I say this, but not having an IT professional can (and will) ruin your day. Aside from being kept abreast of the latest Star Trek convention news and the valuable insight into the differences between The Walking Dead television series and the comic book series, having an expert in the arena of information technology offers many benefits. We aren't going to discuss those today, however. Instead, we are going to focus on the effects of not having a tech guru on staff.
#1: You Won't Be Prepared for the Apocalypse
In times of apocalyptic events, such as a zombie invasion, evil alien overlord conquerors, or even the old run-of-the-mill mad scientist who likes to re-create rogue dinosaurs, an IT professional is important to have on hand. One of the first things you will want to do in such an event is reach out to find others - and how do you think you are going to do that if you can't get your Internet to work? Who will come help you reboot your wireless router before the velociraptors break down the door and eat all the equipment? If you had only had an information technology expert on hand...
The same thought applies to everyday situations as well. If you are having Internet connectivity issues, you may have to wait hours (or even days) for the "Internet people" to arrive and fix what was probably just a simple issue.
#2: No One Will Be Around to Fix the Blue Screen
I had a friend once who worked for a library system. One of the librarians (think smart and educated) called my IT friend up and insisted they had the dreaded "blue screen of death." My friend the IT professional hauled himself up several flights of stairs, sat down in front of the stricken computer, and was perplexed when the librarian pointed angrily at the screen and said: "See, it has a blue screen!"
The IT tech stood up abruptly and said in a reassuring voice: "The blue screen is your desktop wallpaper. Not the 'blue screen of death.' I think you'll be okay."
Imagine the waste of money, and ensuing embarrassment, if the library system had to call in an outside tech support company to tell their librarian the desktop background wasn't going to harm their computer.
#3: That Floppy Disk Will Stay Stuck in the CD-ROM Drive Forever
I have seen this happen more than once. Let's face it: Everyone has their own specialty niche they are good in. Some people are good at cooking. Some can sing. And some people don't realize that you can't stick a floppy disk into a CD-ROM drive. Also - who uses floppy disks anymore?
If you had an in-house information technology guru on hand, not only can they get your floppy disk back for you, but they would also educate you on proper storage devices and media, making sure that you data is safe and easy to access.
#4: You Won't Have Anyone to Discuss the Big Bang Theory With
While some tech people can be moody or downright tyrannical, just by their very nature, they help lighten the mood of the office - even the snarkiest of techies will raise office morale simply by performing their daily function. Nothing is worse than working in an office with faulty equipment that is always failing - aside from having no one around to fix it, that is.
#5: They Can Fix "The Internet"
To the average user, "The Internet," "email," and "network" are all interchangeable words. However, when trying to fix a given issue, it is important to know what exactly you are dealing with. Many times I see people shout out, "The Internet is broken!" the moment their Microsoft Outlook doesn't receive any email. If the Internet is indeed broken, then the world probably has much bigger issues to deal with (see zombie invasion above). Most other email, networking, and Internet access issues an IT pro can fix.
#6: They Can Help Photoshop A Dress Onto Your Cat
There are many types of IT professionals in the tech industry, and while most have a specific specialization, by and large, tech people are "tech people" and know a good deal about technology in general. More importantly, they have a knack for figuring things out. Curiosity about technology is what got them into the business to begin with. Because of that, IT staff can serve not just your hardware and networking needs but your software and operating system issues as well.
#7: You Won't Be Able to Send Tweets to Facebook From Your Cellphone
Some things fall outside the realm of information technology, but tech support staff often find themselves handling them anyway. I have been in situations when I had to repair televisions, cell phones, fans, and even coffee machines. That doesn't mean you should take advantage of your IT employees, but they can prove to be pretty handy in a pinch, even when dealing with non-technical/non-computer-related issues.
#8: Your Computer Won't Have Enough Memory to Play Freecell
On top of keeping your computers up and running, IT pros will make sure you upgrade your equipment frequently and - just as important - make sure that the computer specs meet your requirements and expectations.
#9: The Christmas Party Will Be Catered off the Dollar Menu
One common misnomer is that hiring an in-house IT staff will cost you a lot of money - more than calling in a consultant as issues arise. In some cases this might be true, but when you consider all of the above scenarios and factor in the price of paying employees to sit around and twiddle their thumbs during down times, in most cases, an in-house IT professional will save you money and actually increase your profits.
Still not certain you should hire an in-house IT specialist? LineShapeSpace has an interesting article on the subject. You can also take this anecdotal quiz to help determine if you could benefit from hiring a full-time IT person. Finally, while most of this conversation concentrated on the hardware and software side of the tech world, let's not forget that the same rules apply for Web developers and desktop application programmers as well. On that subject, here is a great piece on whether or not to outsource your development team.