If you’ve had any dealings with your business technology systems or managed IT service providers (MSPs), you’ve probably run across the term, “vCIO”. What is a vCIO? It stands for Virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO) Essentially, a vCIO is a third-party IT consultant who provides strategic guidance and support to businesses on a wide range of IT issues.

Ordinarily a CIO is an on-staff employee charged with the management of a company’s technology and IT activities. vCIOs, on the other hand, are typically part of an outsourced MSP service team and function as a sort of remote third-party IT management resource. They usually have a deep understanding of the latest IT trends and technologies and focus on helping businesses make the most of their IT investments.

If an organization doesn’t have an internal IT department or has a limited IT staff, a vCIO can be a good choice for acquiring in-depth IT management resources in a very cost-effective manner. Even with a full in-house IT presence, a vCIO can offer valuable ideas and viewpoints from an objective source.

A study by Aberdeen Group found that businesses that use vCIOs save an average of 15% on IT costs and experience a 20% increase in IT satisfaction.

What role can a vCIO play in a company’s managed IT service?

A vCIO can play any number of important roles in a company’s managed IT service. Here are a few of the more prevalent ones:

Developing and implementing IT strategies: vCIOs can help businesses create and deploy IT plans that align with their overall business goals. This can involve identifying the right IT solutions, developing a budget, and managing the implementation process.

Managing IT infrastructure: vCIOs can help manage servers, storage, and networks. This usually involves monitoring performance, remote management, troubleshooting problems, identifying end-point lifecycles, and ensuring security.

Supporting end users: vCIOs can provide support to end users with IT issues such as answering questions, troubleshooting problems, and providing training.

Overseeing IT projects: vCIOs offer project oversight, such as the planning, budgeting, and implementation of new IT systems, migration to the cloud, re-locations, remote worker communication systems, VoIP phone system installation, etc.

Directing existing IT staff: If a company already has an IT presence in-house, a vCIO can offer important organization and direction. Potentially the in-house staff could tackle daily break/fix situations while the vCIO could work of bigger picture projects.

What are some other specific tasks a vCIO may perform?

Conducting IT audits: vCIOs can conduct IT audits to identify potential security risks and areas for improvement.

Developing disaster recovery plans: vCIOs can develop disaster recovery plans to help businesses recover their data from cybersecurity attacks, malicious employee activity, equipment malfunction, or catastrophic events such as fires and floods.

Implementing security measures: vCIOs can help businesses develop and implement comprehensive cybersecurity measures to protect from malicious attacks.

Advising on IT purchases: vCIOs can help businesses get the most value for their hardware budget. They can identify the best equipment and the timing to implement into the network. In addition, they often have access to pricing that is not available to other purchasers.

Training employees on IT best practices: vCIOs can develop training programs and materials to keep business staffs informed and productive.

What are the benefits of using a vCIO?

vCIOs can help businesses save money on IT costs by providing more efficient and effective IT management. This can be done by consolidating IT services, negotiating better deals with vendors, and eliminating the need to hire in-house IT staff.

vCIOs can help businesses increase productivity and reduce downtime by providing a more proactive and strategic approach to IT management. They can identify and resolve IT problems before they cause outages, developing disaster recovery plans, and implement security measures.

Improved data security is a vital benefit. vCIOs can help businesses improve their IT security by developing and implementing more comprehensive approaches to security. A good vCIO is up on the latest cybersecurity options and services. They can negotiate with the top providers, conduct security audits, implement security policies and procedures, develop recovery plans, and train employees on security best practices.

How do you choose the right VCIO?

Ideally, your vCIO should be part of a coordinated managed service team. vCIOs should have experience/expertise working with businesses of all sizes in a variety of industries. They should be well-versed on a range of IT issues, including infrastructure, security, and support. They should have a good reputation for providing high-quality IT services. And, of course, there is always cost. vCIO services should be affordable, preferably as part of a comprehensive MSP package that is focused on service delivery and value.

By providing strategic guidance and support, vCIOs can help businesses make the most of their IT investments and improve their IT efficiency, security, and risk management.