Outsourcing can be a dirty word in many IT Departments, but the fact is that almost everyone uses a third party to cover part of the overall IT function.
My preference, as a rule, is to keep services in-house wherever possible. I think it’s easier to manage people than contracts, and if you are directly responsible for something, it gives you a greater level of control over the outcome.
I also think that outsourcing is more expensive, certainly for longer term requirements, and I’m usually sceptical when I hear that outsourcing is being considered for budget reasons – it’s more likely that it’s being used to address some other sort of problem.
Against that, there are occasions when it just makes sense to use an external provider. The main argument for outsourcing a service is that it diverts staff away from more important work.
I would argue that some of the more regular operational tasks are better suited to outsourcing. The value of IT to an organisation is (or should be) its ability to support business change, and if IT professionals are poring over server logs, or ferrying backup tapes around, this doesn’t represent a good use of time.
Focussing on the more strategic aspects is good for IT professionals too; getting involved in interesting business change projects is valuable professional development, whereas undertaking routine operational tasks isn’t exactly something that jumps out from a CV.
The IT support service is definitely an area which is best retained in house. In my experience, users feel much more comfortable speaking to people that they know, and modern IT Service Desk teams do a lot more than just fix problems and reset passwords, so a detailed knowledge of the business & culture is a big part of the value that they add.
Outsourcing isn’t something to be worried about if it’s done properly. I would suggest that all the strategic and service elements should remain in-house, but there may well be a case for asking someone else to do the boring stuff.