What is the Difference Between Helpdesk Support vs. Onsite IT Support for Accounting Firms?

Alavanca Systems - IT Support for Accounting, Tax and Finance Firms

For most accounting firms, getting the most from their IT environment is a delicate balancing act compounded by limited budgets and personnel. While technology acts as a backbone in your firm, reaping the tech benefits from your IT investment may still feel like a mirage.

For some CPA firms, a lack of customized solutions remains a significant hindrance in reaping the full investment dividends.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all IT setup and strategy for accounting firms.

You need technology that is tailored to your unique workflow.

Help from an IT services firm can smoothen some of the bottlenecks in getting the most from your IT systems. To that end, in this article, we will explore two common IT support models, looking at the advantages and drawbacks of each:

  • Onsite
  • Remote Helpdesk

Which of the two IT service approaches is better for your business?

Here’s our analysis.


The Pros of Onsite IT Services

Before we look at the advantages, let’s first define our term:

Onsite IT support for accounting firms is where an IT solutions provider sends a technician to your organization to deal with IT issues. These professionals work alongside your team at your office, offering critical services including, break/fix work, cabling, strategic IT projects, etc.

For this article specifically, we will focus on outsourced onsite IT help as a solution. While hiring in-house IT employees offers its own set of benefits and disadvantages, our analysis is geared towards helping your organization select between suitable third-party services.

With that in mind, the following are the major benefits of onsite IT support.


Onsite IT support for accounting firms offers relational service.

Onsite IT services offer a more relational approach compared to helpdesk support because the outsourced team works alongside your staff.

While this sounds like a soft, intangible benefit, relational services enhance the IT services experience. The relationship creates trust through proximity, leading to better communication and collaboration. In fact, this model helps identify and fix issues before they stall your business or create costly inefficiencies.

End users who enjoy cordial relationships with an IT technician who is often onsite are more likely to share the technical issues they face. For example, a user experiencing unusually high spam emails may alert a technician. Typically, these issues often go unreported to help desks, but resolving them dramatically improves productivity.

Without these relationships, issues typically go unaddressed until (for instance) a cybersecurity event happens – at which point it’s already too late.


Onsite support provides more strategic service.

Accounting organizations are more likely to get better strategic advice from onsite IT personnel than remote helpdesk services.

Again, this flows from relationship and proximity. As a result, technicians understand users’ needs at a granular level and recommend better strategic plans.

Furthermore, many strategic components of a system design are simply better understood on site. For example, understanding network infrastructure gets easier when you can inspect cabling or walk to a router and run diagnostics.

Onsite support can also be more proactive, allowing technicians to focus on strategic objectives. When there aren’t any pressing issues onsite, a technician can turn his/her attention to developing incident response strategies, business continuity solutions, etc., in a way that remote helpdesk support doesn’t often allow.


Onsite support improves hardware support.

Onsite IT support outshines remote support in troubleshooting hardware issues. While remote support works flawlessly for software and operating system issues, a broken server or lagging workstation sometimes needs physical attention, and a technician must inspect it in person.


The Downsides of Onsite IT Support

Despite its benefits, onsite IT support comes with two major drawbacks:


Onsite support is more expensive.


Boots on the ground inherently come with added costs. The technician offering onsite IT support operates like a quasi-employee, incurring extra expenses such as travel, insurance, and other statutory benefits.


Onsite support is less available.

Outsourced onsite support personnel are not always available. They only come at scheduled times or for an emergency. Even when around, they cannot tackle everything at once. For example, troubleshooting a server problem might take a technician more than a day, while other issues are left until that task is complete.

There can also be other disruptions, for instance, when support personnel take a vacation.


The Benefits of Remote Helpdesk IT Support for Accounting Firms

Now, let’s delve into remote helpdesk support for accounting firms. First, the definition:

Remote helpdesk support is an IT support model where your staff can seek and receive support for IT issues you cannot resolve internally. Technicians communicate with your team through remote access software, chat, emails, and telephone.

Next, let’s look at the pros and cons of an outsourced solution compared to an internal helpdesk.

The following are the major benefits of remote helpdesk support.



Helpdesk support for CPAs is more cost-effective compared to onsite support.

  • Your organization only pays for the services rendered.
  • Technicians incur fewer travel costs coming to your premises, further minimizing costs.
  • Onsite support requires fewer human resources and hardware resources.

For these reasons, remote desktop support tends to be more affordable.


Helpdesk support offers round-the-clock assistance

With help desk support, your organization receives around the clock support. While onsite personnel may be unavailable during some hours of the day/night, remote help desks typically operate 24/7 or close, offering better coverage.

Multiple end users can call in and receive IT assistance simultaneously. For instance, if three users require help, each can talk to a technician and get assistance.


The Drawbacks of Remote Helpdesk Services for Accounting Firms

Helpdesk can be less relational.

Unlike onsite support, where technicians develop relationships with end-users, helpdesk personnel are sometimes far off and serve different clients. As such, users typically speak to different helpdesk personnel each time they call, further diluting relationships.

Consequently, remote helpdesk services can be ill-suited at exposing hidden IT issues.

It’s important for us to note here that Alvanca IT professionals are located right here in Chicagoland and do work hard to develop win-win relationships with the CPA firms we serve. Even when deploying our remote helpdesk support, we are careful to bring a personal touch to our relationship with you, your firm, and your staff.


Helpdesk offers fewer strategic advantages.

An organization’s culture tends to inform IT strategy. However, understanding the culture requires physical presence beyond the realm of remote helpdesks.

Help Desks are more tactical, reacting to users’ problems as they arise. Strategy, in contrast, requires a proactive approach.


Helpdesk can’t fully address physical hardware issues.

Hardware issues typically require physical presence that remote helpdesks can’t offer. For instance, a failed server or networking device may require physical access for diagnostics and troubleshooting.


The Bottom Line: A Hybrid Solution of Onsite and Helpdesk May Offer Better Results.

Given the considerations above, which model best supports accounting organizations?

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Remote helpdesk may be more effective for smaller organizations that require software assistance, network troubleshooting, regular maintenance, backups, etc.
  • Larger organizations with an internal onsite team may also benefit from remote IT support for accounting firms. A helpdesk reduces pressure on the internal team, helps with everyday issues, provides round-the-clock assistance etc.
  • Organizations should opt for onsite services (at least as a part of their overall services) when they require strategic expertise. For instance, an organization with more than 50 employees should consider onsite IT technicians.

Ultimately, a choice between helpdesk and onsite services shouldn’t be an either-or situation.

These two modes complement each other, offering you the best of both worlds. Most MSPs (Managed IT Service Providers) deliver both a help desk for employees to call into and onsite support (either on-demand or through scheduled check-ins).

In most cases, choosing to outsource your IT support for accounting firm needs comes with the option or added benefit of remote helpdesk services. Most Managed IT Service providers rarely offer onsite work as a standalone service.

Looking for an IT solution that offers you the best of both models?

Talk to the Alavanca Systems team.

We’ve found that accounting firms can minimize costly downtime and reap the benefits of their IT investments with the right strategy.

We strive to create custom solutions that enhance your business and empower your users.



Ciro Cetrangolo is an IT specialist with over 30+ years in the IT services industry. Ciro has a deep understanding of the software, workflow, and underlying technology of accounting organizations and helps firms like yours achieve the secure, stable, and streamlined IT environments you need to accomplish your work more effectively. See my Amazon Author Profile