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Data Center Training: Hire a Pro or Do It In-House?

August 19, 2017

Data Center Training: Hire a Pro or Do It In-House?

In addition to designing and maintaining the data center, IT management has to worry about staffing and training. The data center team needs to be trained in data center operations, performance optimization, emergency procedures, analytics, and more. Some CIOs like to handle training in-house, since they know more about their data center than anyone else does. Other CIOs recognize that keeping data center training strictly in-house can create a form of myopia, limiting the introduction of new technologies and new best practices. Whether you adopt in-house training or hire a training professional depends on your needs.

Most data centers are in a constant state of flux. There is always a need for new cabling, a server rebuild, new data storage, or some new configuration that will bring on new systems or improve performance. For every new installation or system change, there has to be new documentation and new best practices and training. In addition, documentation and training for supporting systems and protocols, such as disaster recovery, have to be updated accordingly. In addition to maintaining the data center, is IT’s time best spent training others to keep data center systems operational?

As with most data center solutions, there is no clear-cut answer. The challenge is to know when to take on training in-house and when to outsource.

Nurturing New Talent

IT professionals are still very much in demand. A recent study by CompTIA showed that 54 percent of IT executives polled will have trouble finding qualified IT professionals in 2015. The same survey shows that 43 percent of IT companies are understaffed, and 36 percent of companies are fully staffed but want to hire more IT professionals to accommodate growth.

Companies seeking to expand and improve their data center management team are faced with three options: hire, buy, or build. To maintain company operations and lay the foundation for growth, CIOs need to hire, retain, and train the best IT talent they can find. If they can’t find the talent, they have to contract with an outsource company. Alternately, they can build the talent with better in-house training.

Part of what IT professionals are looking for, and what helps retain talented employees, is training in the latest techniques and technologies. This is clearly an argument for outsourcing training to experts. To stay competitive means hiring the best talent available and providing ongoing training to promote technological excellence in order to meet customer expectations. Hiring the right outside training resources means you can keep your staff abreast of the latest trends without having to try to keep track of new technologies and market trends.

Of course, even as part of an IT employee education and retention program, you still have to train the staff in internal protocols and procedures. Some training is best addressed in-house, while other training should be conducted out of house.

Perform a Needs Assessment

To determine how to approach data center training it’s best to start with a needs assessment.

If ongoing professional development is part of the company’s goal, then hiring IT experts who can provide ongoing training and mentoring can be a good way to maintain an in-house training program. Providing ongoing training and support in-house is one way to promote employee retention and a more nurturing professional environment.

Of course, just because you have experts on staff doesn’t mean you won’t need outside training as well. New technologies and new products are going to demand new expertise. IT managers can expect to call on outside resources to provide updated training on new technologies and new best practices, and manufacturers and resellers should be prepared to assist with training in new products and new data center infrastructure.

Providing Specialized Instruction

Certification by industry organizations can be an added incentive for employees and should be supported with external resources. A different CompTIA survey reveals that, in 2015, 66 percent of employers see IT certifications as extremely valuable, up from 30 percent in 2011. Since certifications are granted by third-party organizations, specialized training is usually needed, either by the professional organization providing the certification or by specialized instructors. Those familiar with the certification requirements and exams are usually better at handling this kind of continuing education.

Another area requiring specialized instruction is regulatory compliance. For example, if the data center is required to meet security regulations for compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, FINRA, or other regulations, that requires specialized knowledge. Of course, you could put a regulatory expert on staff, but in many cases, it’s easier and more cost-effective to hire a third-party expert who can provide the training needed for regulatory compliance.

So is it better to provide in-house or outsourced data center training? The answer is “it depends” or more likely “both.” Different types of training are going to be required to meet different needs. While no one else may know the in-house protocols and procedures as well as the company IT team, the IT team can’t be expected to know it all. Outside experts are going to be needed to provide training on new hardware, new technologies, new best practices, and certainly for certification and regulatory compliance.

IT administrators should consider VARs their first point of contact when seeking the right training resources. Even if the reseller doesn’t have the right training expertise they should know where to find it, or whom to ask. Training is part of the value chain so when the customer asks the VAR and the VAR needs to find the right training experts; they should ask their distributor. That’s why we’re here.