How a Virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO) Can Help SMBs

How a Virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO) Can Help SMBs

A lot of people don’t know what a virtual CIO does, which isn’t too surprising. There aren’t a lot of good articles on the internet regarding this subject, and most of the ones you find will be commercial. However, we want to do a better job of explaining this matter to you. To be more specific, we want to explain all the ways in which a virtual CIO can help a small business to prosper.

What Is A Virtual CIO?

The first thing to understand is that a virtual CIO is a real person. Unlike some things which are termed “virtual,” this type of CIO is not a simulation or an AI. Instead, they are called virtual CIOs because of the unique nature of their jobs. While they do the work of a CIO (Chief Information Officer), they only fulfill that role on a temporary and as-needed basis. That makes them a good middle-ground option.

The entire purpose of a CIO is to make sure that technology goals stay in line with business goals. They manage everything that is tech-related and make sure that it stays consistent with the needs of the organization. Unfortunately, many small businesses do not have a CIO of any kind. This creates a serious problem, even if you have a good IT crew. Without a CIO, there will be no one to direct their efforts properly.

Benefit #1: You’ll Save Some Money

We should begin with this one because it represents the main purpose of a virtual CIO. Many small businesses cannot afford another salaried executive, especially one whose talents are so specialized. The services of a CIO are not needed on an everyday basis. And so, that salary represents a lot of wasted money.

To find out how much, let’s look at the salary packages of several well-regarded CIOs. As you can see, these packages can be worth as much as $2,500,000 annually. Even the lowest-paid entries on the list are getting nearly $2,000,000 in paychecks, bonuses, and stock options.

It is much harder to calculate costs for a virtual CIO, but there is no doubt that they are much cheaper. We know this because a virtual CIO is generally not paid a salary. Since you are paying by the hour, you will only be paying for the services you need. To get a better idea about specific costs, you might want to read this article.

Benefit #2: Better Tech Integration

Most modern businesses use a wide range of technology, even if it’s not all that complex. For instance, you always need your computers and printers to work well together, and the same goes for network compatibility. Unfortunately, this can be a very difficult thing at times. All of these devices and all of this software is (probably) made by a bunch of different companies that don’t necessarily do things in the same way.

A CIO is supposed to have the expertise to make sure that a system (And all of its components) can function efficiently. You would get this benefit from any CIO, but here’s the good thing about hiring a virtual CIO: These integration issues don’t need to be addressed that often. Thus, you can get the benefits of a salaried CIO at a fraction of the cost.

In general, there are only three occasions on which tech integration will be a big issue. They are:

  • 1. The initial set-up of the system
  • 2. The addition of new components
  • 3. The removal of existing components

When your system is first set up/overhauled, a tech professional will be needed to ensure proper integration. After that, there shouldn’t be much cause for concern in this department. Of course, whenever something is added or removed, there will be a need for your virtual CIO once again.

Benefit #3: Better Support From Your MSP

In most cases, the services of a virtual CIO are contracted through a managed IT support provider. These companies might also provide a number of other tech-related services, such as cloud networking or general IT guidance. Anytime you can get a multitude of essential services under one roof, it is probably a good deal. When your virtual CIO also works for your MSP, you can basically deal with both of them at the same time.

Just as all the technology in your system must be properly integrated, it is also helpful for people and services to be integrated. This will allow multiple individuals and departments to coordinate their efforts for maximum efficiency. For instance, let’s say you have a problem that requires the help of your MSP. Chances are, your vCIO can get a faster response from the company than you or your regular staff.

Benefit #4: Increased Security

Although this may not always be the case, the use of a vCIO will probably lead to better security. Naturally, this will depend on the expertise of your particular vCIO, but that’s why you need to vet your applicants carefully. Let’s start with one essential point of security: Don’t always accept the first person that your MSP sends. All good managed IT service plans should include the option to change your virtual CIO at any time. This way, you can quickly remove those who are found to be untrustworthy or negligent.

Once you have found a good vCIO, they will certainly do a security evaluation and determine what needs to be done. They will probably work closely with your existing IT team, especially if they all work for the same MSP. They will be able to determine how much security you need and how best to implement any changes. The role of a CIO in security is well-known.

In many cases, a CIO will be the first one held accountable for a high-profile breach. Thus, they have a strong motivation to stay diligent and watchful. Even with their limited terms of employment, a virtual CIO will be accountable for network security. As you can see here, CIOs have been dedicating a lot of time and effort to the proper integration of security and convenience.

Benefit #5: Better Updating, More Efficiency

We’ve all been annoyed by those little pop-up windows that tell us to update some piece of software or another. Now, imagine the aggravation of running an entire network from that perspective! Keeping every device updated, and keeping all their programs updated, could be a full-time job in itself. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be like that when it’s handled efficiently.

By employing someone who is intimately familiar with the latest tech trends, you can ensure that the updating processes go as smoothly as possible. There are ways to update an entire network at once, and any good virtual CIO will be familiar with those procedures.

It can be very easy for out-of-date software (or hardware) to cause network downtime. At the very least, it can render that particular machine unable to do its job. For an example of how this works, consider your SSL certificates. These are credentials that your computer uses for secure (encrypted) communications with other websites. Like any other sort of ID, it must be renewed from time to time. Expired SSL certificates have been known to cause serious problems and extensive downtime.

Benefit #6: Greater Experience

We have talked a lot about the ways in which a virtual CIO can help your business. However, there is one matter that relates to small businesses in particular. Many small business owners are people with relatively little experience. Because technology is a constantly-changing field of study, it is not realistic to think that every SMB owner is going to understand it properly.

For these and other reasons, it can be very helpful to have the advice of a more experienced person on hand. Your virtual CIO has probably worked with other businesses in your industry, and they can probably offer you all sorts of valuable insights. If nothing else, they can help you to keep up with all those compliance and regulatory matters that can pose such big problems for an SMB.

Benefit #7: Much Better Disaster Recovery

No matter how good your CIO might be, there is always the chance that some kind of disaster will occur. This could be something virtual, like a data crash or a ransomware attack, or it could be something more physical (like burglary or natural disaster). Either way, the only way to deal with the problem is to foresee and prepare. That’s something a virtual CIO can definitely help you to do.

Any good vCIO will set up an automatic backup system so that crucial data is not lost. They should make sure that the data is stored in a way that is both safe from loss and safe from hackers. This is a tall order, and no computer can ever be completely hack-proof. Thus, they should also create a contingency plan to deal with the potential of system intrusion.

Benefit #8: A Good On-Demand Educator

While technology can sometimes be a little buggy, most of its failings come from human error. Because there are many people who do not understand technology very well, it can be easy for bad actors to manipulate them into giving up crucial (and damaging) data. For instance, consider the fact that most hackers use a phishing email as their primary attack method. Instead of trying to outsmart the security measures that are in place, they just try to trick an authorized user.

All of this comes down to one essential point: Education of your employees is key if you want to get the most out of your technology setup. The easiest way to do this is to hold seminars and classes for your employees, and that can be expensive. Getting a high-profile expert to give a speech on cybersecurity could cost you thousands, but a virtual CIO will consider it to be a normal part of their job.

Conclusion

Whether we like it or not, technology is moving toward a service-based model in which people pay for services on demand. This gives people and businesses a lot more flexibility and should lead to greater productivity for all involved. Virtual CIOs are something of a new arrival on the scene, but they have already proven to be quite popular. If you have enjoyed this article, we invite you to fill out the contact form below and learn more about fascinating subjects like this.