Internal vs. external IT teams: Which one fits your business?

An overhead photograph of four women in business attire sitting at a long wooden table. Two women are working on laptops, and the others are writing on paper.

Technology continues to grow more important for businesses. It helps companies produce and sell products and allows them to communicate with partners and clients.

So how do you choose someone to manage all of your technological needs?

Most businesses either partner with an external IT provider or hire an internal IT team. Both have their benefits and disadvantages. But how do you know which one is right for you?

WEBIT Services has provided IT strategy, service, and support to the greater Chicago area for over 25 years. In that time, it has served hundreds of satisfied clients.

We realize that, as an IT provider, WEBIT has its own bias towards external services. However, an external IT provider is not the best choice for every business. Therefore, we collected a list of pros and cons for both IT team styles.

However, you know your business and its needs best. We hope this article helps you make an educated decision for your IT needs.

By the end of this article, you will learn the pros and cons of both IT team styles and tips for determining which team is right for you.


What does an IT team do?

An IT team manages and maintains the current IT infrastructure (hardware, software, procedures, etc.) while also planning for the future of that environment.

Essentially, any IT team ensures that the business has the technology, IT tools, and practices it needs to function. This includes confirming emails work, the internet connects, and employees have access to critical data and applications.

Both internal and external IT teams will perform these same functions and have similar, if not identical, goals. The differences lie in how they perform these tasks, the experiences they bring, and how they interact with your business.


Internal IT team

An internal IT team works on-site for your business. They are your tech-savvy “boots on the ground.” You’ll likely run into them getting coffee or at the company barbecue. They’re a part of your company community.

The size of an internal team will vary depending on your budget and business needs. For example, businesses with smaller budgets and minimal IT needs may only hire one specialist, while a larger company may need several IT employees.

The benefits of an internal IT team

An internal team has the advantage of being on-site. This gives it an edge when it comes to:

  • Understanding your company culture and needs.
  • Using and maintaining customized applications.
  • Responding promptly to employee IT questions and needs.
  • Committed focus to your company alone

Understanding your company culture and needs

Because internal teams are on-site, they know your business inside and out. They deeply understand your company’s culture, structure, employees, equipment, and procedures.

Using and maintaining customized applications

This in-depth knowledge is incredibly beneficial when it comes to customized applications. Your internal IT team will be specialists in the tools and programs unique to your business.

Responding promptly to employee questions and needs

Internal teams also have an advantage in making speedy replies to employee questions or concerns. They’re in the building and are only committed to your company, so they are typically more accessible than an external team.

In addition, internal IT teams more easily contact mobile employees (i.e., employees who don’t work at a desk all day).

Committed focus to your company alone

Finally, internal teams focus on your company alone; their attention and time are never divided between you and another company.

The disadvantages of an internal IT team

The disadvantages of an internal IT team are summarized as limited time and experience.

Limited time to be proactive or grow

Due to the nature of their work and their often smaller sizes, internal IT teams are frequently more reactive than proactive. They must keep up with the organization’s IT needs, putting out IT “fires” as they pop up. They are, in a sense, firefighters.

With all of the firefighting, internal IT teams rarely have time to research and study new technology advancements, recommended procedures, and risks. As a result, They often focus on day-to-day IT necessities rather than long-range potential.

Limited knowledge and experience

Internal IT teams may also be limited in their experience. The smaller your team, the less combined experience they have.

They may not know firsthand how other companies currently resolve more complex IT concerns or what beneficial new strategies and procedures are applied outside your company.


External IT team

An external IT team is anyone from outside your organization that you hire to take care of IT needs. Usually, an external IT team refers to a managed service provider, also known as an MSP or IT provider.

IT providers are independent companies that manage the IT needs of their various clients. They handle support, proactive maintenance, and IT strategy.

The benefits of an external IT team

IT providers bring a team of IT specialists into your company, bringing unique benefits. These benefits include:

  • Varied expertise and experience.
  • Ability to commit to time-consuming tasks.
  • Proactive IT maintenance.
  • A focus on IT strategy and growth.

Varied expertise and experience

An IT provider brings in an entire team of experts with various expertise and experience. Within a quality provider, your company will reap the rewards of the provider’s combined knowledge and skillsets.

By hiring an IT provider, you gain access to their entire team—not just one or two members.

IT providers also work with several clients at once, allowing them to problem-solve based on their experiences with clients. As a result, they know what tools and strategies worked for similar businesses and what didn’t.

Ability to commit to time-consuming tasks

Because of its team structure, IT providers can commit to more time-consuming tasks.

For example, if you need new laptops, your provider can research the best machines to fit your needs and budget, order them, program them, and deliver them. You don’t have to invest hours or days into this process.

Proactive IT maintenance

While internal teams are often reactive, quality IT providers have structured themselves to be proactive.

External providers analyze ticket trends, asset lifecycles, and risk assessments to find potential concerns and resolve them before they become a crisis. Their goal is not only to put out existing fires but keep new fires from lighting.

Focus on IT strategy and growth

To succeed, IT providers must stay abreast of new technology, procedures, and risk. Then, they bring this knowledge to clients and use it to build effective IT strategies.

This strategy will help both with IT budgeting and planning for the future. For example, if you want your company to double in size in three years, your IT provider can help you find technology to help you reach that goal.

The disadvantages of an external IT team

IT provider disadvantages stem from their being external. This means:

  • They do not know your company as well as your internal team does.
  • An external team may take months to learn your company’s complex customizations or unique applications.
  • You are not their only client; their attention is divided between multiple clients.


Can internal and external teams work together?

Yes, internal and external teams can work together, but this will depend on how your teams’ compatibility, your needs, and your budget.

The internal team knows the company and specialized software. The external team can bring creative problem-solving and the ability to perform complex or time-consuming tasks. Together, they can build an exceptional IT experience.

However, either team may initially be suspicious of newcomers, which often means the business is transitioning to another service. With this mindset, both internal and external teams may be hesitant to partner with each other.

If the teams can build a trusting relationship, your business can have the best of both IT worlds.


Choosing the best team for your business

When choosing between an internal and external IT team for your business, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I willing to spend on IT? How much of this budget can I allocate to a team?
  • What is my time worth, and which team best supports my time?
  • How much and how quickly would I like my technology to grow and develop? Which team could manage this best?
  • Which team can help me build an IT strategy?
  • Is my current team able to accomplish tasks AND grow? If not, why?

Answers will vary based on your individual business and needs.

IT teams are not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Instead, their specialties, services, and advantages should be as unique as the businesses that hire them.

Some companies find great success with internal teams. Others require the extra support of an external provider.


Next steps to choosing your IT team

An internal team has in-depth knowledge of your company, its values, employees, procedures, and customized applications. However, internal IT teams are often more limited in their ability to be proactive and grow.

An external IT provider brings in a team of experts to help meet IT service needs while providing strategy and proactive IT management. Its disadvantages lie in being an outsider.

Unlike your internal team, an IT provider does not know your company or customizations as deeply.

To find the best team style for you, develop metrics to help evaluate and track your IT team’s success and growth. Metrics can involve ticket resolution times, the number of IT-related crises you experience, and how well you stay within your IT budget.

If your IT team’s stats are trending in the right direction, you have a setup that supports your needs.

However, if this is not the case, it may be time to reevaluate your IT partnership. Don’t be afraid to look closely at your IT setup and satisfaction with your IT service.

For over 25 years, WEBIT Services has served hundreds of satisfied clients in the greater Chicago area.

If you are looking for a new IT provider, schedule a free 30-minute consultation to see how WEBIT Services can help.

If you aren’t ready to make a commitment but would like to learn more about IT providers, we recommend the following articles: