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The Benefits of a Virtual CIO for Small Business Owners

Companies hire Chief Information Officers (CIOs) to manage their internal technology. Considering the average CIO’s annual salary is just over $158,000, a well-qualified CIO often does not fit within a small business’s budget. Rather than hiring someone who does not have the proper skill set or experience to manage their IT needs, small businesses should consider getting a virtual CIO (vCIO).

vCIOs are third party contractors or companies that fulfill the functions of a proper in-house CIO. This effective alternative saves small businesses from having to hire someone within their budget but with subpar credentials, ultimately risking productivity loss, data mismanagement, and security breaches. Besides ensuring that the systems already in place function seamlessly, vCIOs can also provide more forward-looking services, including technology roadmaps and implementing digital transformation strategies. vCIO engagements vary but they generally plan the IT budget and long-term IT goals while also working to continually improve business processes with technology.

Many managed service providers (MSPs) offer vCIO services for small businesses. They combine IT solutions with their well-honed acumen that has been refined over the years from providing IT services to various businesses. Below is a breakdown of the many benefits a virtual CIO offers small businesses.

Virtual CIOs save small businesses money

Not only do vCIOs spare small businesses from having to dish out six-figure salaries for good CIOs, it also saves them from the ancillary fees and time involved in recruiting, maintaining, and training. Additionally, the on-demand expert can usher additional savings by helping small businesses get more usage out of their existing technology investments. They can ensure all features of an existing environment are being utilized for max efficiency, avoiding any unnecessary additional investments. A vCIO can also proactively identify any risks. Managing these risks means potential issues are caught before they become costly problems for your business.

There are generally two virtual CIO cost models. They can be paid hourly, which makes the vCIO an “on-demand” capability at a variable cost. This is generally the cheaper model since the small business is only paying for the vCIO when they’re needed. The alternative is a flat or monthly fee model, which still typically presents a lower total cost of ownership compared to hiring a traditional CIO. When this model is employed, the vCIO is better positioned to help a small business make long-term technology decisions, since they are actively present in daily business operations.

Virtual CIOs are guaranteed to keep small businesses running and innovating

Making smart purchasing decisions is only a small part of a vCIO’s responsibility. They also ensure the entire IT environment is working to the best of its capability. Virtual CIOs constantly monitor a business’s IT environment, make sure everything is up to date with the latest patches, and ensure that security posture is stalwart. They also actively manage data and storage to ensure the fluidity of assets to maximize productivity and foster collaboration. vCIOs also use their knowledge of the latest technology trends to optimize infrastructure resilience and efficacy. With the vCIO staying on top of the latest trends in technology, the small business owner is freed up to focus on the latest trends in their industry and growing the business.

Evade disaster with a virtual CIO

Too often, small businesses don’t establish a strong enough security program until it’s too late. Unfortunately, 43% of cyber-attacks target small businesses, because hackers take advantage of their lack of resources. This can be a massive set back as a single breach is enough to shut down a small business forever.

With limited budgets, small businesses tend to hire the wrong contractor or assign an unequipped employee to manage their security regiment, creating significant risk. Virtual CIOs come with the knowledge to mitigate security risks and are familiar with the best security tools on the market to set up the best protection. vCIOs offer an affordable way to implement enterprise-grade security and management as the threat landscape is constantly changing. Security strategy is often compared to an onion with several layers that need to be protected. vCIOs know which tools are best to implement at each layer.

Get peace of mind to focus on your business

Rather than relying on a single person holding CIO authority, a virtual CIO dedicates a multitude of consultants with varying specialties that all work together to make key decisions. Virtual CIOs take care of all facets of infrastructure management, from firewall and virus protection to WAN/LAN health monitoring to disaster recovery.

Following an initial discussion related to business goals upon onboarding, small business executives don’t have to stress about technology-related decisions, knowing the vCIO will handle that responsibility with the aim of furthering the company’s mission. With an impartial, outside perspective, vCIOs forge a strategy that will benefit the company as a whole and not just a particular aspect of it. A vCIO isn’t bogged down with internal politics and can make an objective decision when it comes to technology. This allows small business executives to focus on their core competency, while the vCIO handles all short-term and long-term technology planning and execution.

Qualities to look for in a vCIO

While there are many service providers and contractors that could fill the vCIO role, small businesses should look for certain key capabilities. They should show a penchant for linking technology to business objectives and clearly demonstrate a vast knowledge of the products available on the marketplace and innovations to come. When it comes to strategic initiatives, they should exhibit a project management acumen and a knack for budgeting.

It’s critical that a small business ask prospective vCIOs for client references and provide proof of their technological certifications. And from the onset, a regular meeting cadence should be agreed upon to ensure a seamless flow of communication with the vCIO. The ideal candidate must be able to communicate effectively, not only to technical employees but all stakeholders, including board members and customers.

No matter what, don’t let the “v” in “vCIO” lower your expectations. A virtual CIO should fully stack up to an enterprise CIO.