3 Common IT Management Options

What’s the difference between internal, managed or co-managed IT?

Technology management for small- to medium-sized businesses typically comes in three options. Most business owners know what internal IT is, but what is the difference between managed and co-managed IT services?

And, more importantly, what is the right IT management solution for your business? This overview is written to guide you, fairly and honestly, on each IT management option.

As an IT managed services provider, we see pros and cons in each of these IT management options. We also are frequently asked questions like, “What is co-managed IT?” and honestly, not many folks outside of the technology industry know the differences of managed vs. co-managed IT. For anyone wondering ‘What is the best IT management option for me?’ First assess your IT needs, then match the management option to your business needs.

As you read on, think about how each solution would, or would not, work for your business as it is today. Then, keep in mind, as your business matures, your IT management needs to keep pace as well.

Internal IT Departments

With internal IT, your company has direct management over infrastructure, support, equipment and projects. Typically, internal IT doesn’t make sense for organizations with fewer than 50 employees and it might not make sense at any size. As a general guideline, most organizations will need one to two IT professionals for every 100 employees, however, there are many variables to this ratio, such as the skill level and diversity of the IT professionals.

However, in industries with advanced software applications like architecture and engineering or in any environment that needs technology expertise with detailed line of business systems, internal IT may make some sense. Also, businesses with tight deadlines, such as media or advertising agencies may want an internal IT specialist for immediate, onsite resolution.


  • Faster on-site presence
  • Subject matter expert knows your business


  • You need to create a career path, otherwise IT employees will get bored and leave every few years.
    • Frequent IT turnover is painful for the organization and creates higher costs in terms of sourcing, hiring and onboarding new employees.
  • Hard to get depth of skill in one person.
    • Either you overpay for basic support or you lack the talent you really need to grow.

Co-Managed IT Services

In a co-managed environment, an IT services provider collaborates with your internal IT department to support your business. Co-managed services blends the benefits of managed services with internal IT.

There are many ways to approach a co-managed IT partnership. If you need someone on site 24/7 but also want advanced security and monitoring tools, like Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) or a Security Information Event Management system (SIEM), you could hire a deskside support technician and use an external IT partner for compliance, security and monitoring.

Or, you could rely on your internal experts for specific software, like CAD, while using another company for technical and deskside support.


  • Immediate deskside support from people who see and know your daily operations
  • Less overhead and training
  • Partnership allows internal and external IT to work together to support each other
  • Managed services providers can provide and manage a higher-level IT stack
  • Protection with advanced security features like SIEM, IDS, dark web monitoring, vulnerability scans, etc.


  • Career paths and continual learning opportunities are needed for IT staff
  • Internal staff turnover can be more frequent

Fully Managed IT Services

From C-level strategic guidance to basic support, your IT is taken care of by an external managed IT partner. They’ll support your day to day operations, monitor and manage your servers and networks, and help ensure that proper security measures are in place. Managed service providers will also guide you on the strategic use of systems to support your business and should provide you with equipment lifecycle management, budgets, and technology road maps.

The best working relationships occur when the business understands that technology is an investment in driving results for their own organization and the IT provider works to make the business stronger.


  • Expertise of a team at multiple levels that can fix technical problems, understand your business, and advise you on effective strategies to leverage technology to meet your business’ goals.
  • A team that understands the latest needs and trends in technology and can apply what they know to your business.
  • You can leverage security tools, applications, cloud tools, and hardware that can be otherwise too expensive to purchase for one business alone.
  • IT hiring, firing, training, vacations and turnover aren’t your concern.


  • There are a variety of MSPs in existence. Choosing the right MSP to work with can be difficult if you do not understand technology. You will need to take the time to understand the offering.
  • The provider could own your hardware, software, or licenses
    • If you decide to change strategies or providers some day, an MSP may own your servers, software, etc. No reputable MSP would shut you down if you decided to leave them, but make sure you understand what you can and cannot do as things change.

Word to the Wise:

Read contracts carefully as you compare providers.
Many do not include on-site support and charge for visits.

Choose a Provider Based on Your Goals

Whichever service you choose, you’ll want to tailor it so that your technology resources are supporting your business’ long-term strategy. If you want to discuss any of these options in greater detail or how you can benefit from additional IT assistance, call us at 317.596.3650 or online.

Accelerate, formerly Spectrum Technology, is proud to be a “Best Places to Work in Indiana” recipient. We live by our values and believe People Matter, Service Matters and Ethics Matter.

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