Staff Augmentation vs Managed Services in CyberSecurity

Staff augmentation and managed services are both ways to deal with a shortfall in skills or labor for your IT needs. Despite some similarities, the two work in different ways and suit different needs. Here’s what you need to know to decide whether staff augmentation or managed services is right for you.

What is staff augmentation?

Staff augmentation involves hiring extra staff, usually through a specialist agency, on a temporary basis. It’s commonly, though not exclusively, associated with information technology roles. You’ll pay a fee to the agency rather than directly paying the staff.

This isn’t simply a case of getting more people in to cope with temporary demand, as happens with seasonal workers. Instead, it’s about getting people with particular skills and experience to perform a specific role, for example on a one-off project. These people then work alongside your permanent staff, following your instructions.

What is managed services?

“Managed services” is a form of IT outsourcing. The key is that a managed service provider doesn’t simply carry out work on your behalf, but is responsible for deciding how to do the work. They’ll have their own staff, who may be assigned to work exclusively on your needs or may be split among multiple clients.

In most cases, managed services is an ongoing arrangement. The provider will take care of particular elements of your IT in return for a regular fee. This often works well by giving the provider an incentive to think long-term and make your IT run more efficiently. It also means they can work on pro-actively preventing problems rather than simply dealing with them.

Exactly what managed services covers varies between each client and provider. It could include any of the following:

  • Providing tech support to your staff (or even your customers.)
  • Maintaining security, including preventing, detecting and responding to attacks.
  • Networking management so that your staff’s devices can communicate with one another, with each employee getting the level of access you choose.
  • Sourcing, updating and maintaining software to improve performance, remove bugs and avoid compatibility problems.
  • Hosting your apps or systems on their own servers or a third-party cloud service, reducing the need for hardware and maintenance on your premises.
  • Physical infrastructure work such as installing network cables across your premises.

Is managed services the same as professional services?

These two terms are often confused as they can both involve IT services. As we’ve noted, managed services is usually an ongoing arrangement where a service provider takes care of your day-to-day needs in a specific area or areas of IT.

In an IT context, professional services usually involve hiring a service provider to carry out a one-off task. This could be moving your website to a new host, installing new network cabling or running a security audit. The service provider will use their own staff to perform the task and you’ll pay a one-off fee.

In both cases, the service provider not only does the work, but uses their skill and judgment to decide how to carry out the task. Your input is usually limited to deciding the intended outcome of the work. (That’s in contrast to staff augmentation, where you bring in extra staff to carry out the task following your plans and procedures.)

What are the similarities between staff augmentation and managed services?

Both staff augmentation and managed services involve dealing with an outside business, either a specialist recruiter or a managed services provider. In both cases, you’ll be looking for somebody with specialist knowledge of IT services and how they fit your needs.

Both models allow more flexibility than hiring full-time permanent staff, helping you cope with changing needs, for example when launching a new product or service.

Both models offer some degree of scalability, for example bridging the gap when your existing IT staff isn’t sufficient, but you don’t have enough work to justify adding a new permanent team member or your needs are short-term and temporary.

In both cases, you usually won’t have to worry about handling payroll taxes and benefits for the workers as these will be taken care of by the recruiter or service provider.

What are the differences between staff augmentation and managed services?

The biggest difference between staff augmentation and managed services is who maintains control and responsibility. With staff augmentation, the temporary workers become part of your team. You decide what they do and then you take responsibility for how that does (or does not) help you achieve your specific goals.

With managed services, you simply decide what you want to achieve. The service provider then takes responsibility for how to achieve it and tells their staff what to do.

Other differences include the following:

  • The managed services model usually makes it easier to scale up quickly, for example if you add new employees or open a new office and thus have more IT requirements. Staff augmentation is more suitable when your increased demand involves something specific, for example a one-off project, where the extra workload or specialist needs may be only temporary.
  • Staff augmentation usually has a simple pricing policy where you pay an hourly, daily or weekly rate for each staff member. (The rate will depend on their experience and skills.) Managed service providers use a wider range of pricing models that could be a flat monthly rate or take into account how many staff you have or how many devices the service providers must cover. These could be a literal “per person”/”per device” rate, or wider price bands such as “up to 50 employees” or “101-150 devices.”
  • With staff augmentation, the provider’s main responsibility is finding reliable, available staff with the skills you need. With managed services, you’ll usually need to negotiate an ongoing service level agreement. This sets out what guarantees the provider makes (eg “keep your server running at least 99.99% of the time” or “respond to tech support requests within 60 minutes”) and what happens if they fall short of these promises.

Which businesses benefit most from staff augmentation?

Staff augmentation is usually most suitable for businesses that have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • You have an established IT department and want to fill specific short-term gaps.
  • You are happy to have both responsibility and control for your IT operations and projects.
  • You know exactly what you want to do and you just need the manpower and expertise to do it.
  • You would find it easy to on-board new staff into your workforce and bring them up to speed on your particular working culture.
  • You either don’t require additional permanent staff or don’t want to go through the full recruitment process right now. This is particularly relevant when time is an issue, for example when you open a new location or expand your offering.

Which businesses benefit most from managed services?

The managed services model is usually most suitable for businesses that have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • You are short on time and don’t want to plan or make decisions about how to achieve your IT needs.
  • You either don’t have a dedicated IT department or don’t want to expand it.
  • You don’t have expertise in IT and so aren’t sure what is and isn’t possible. (Managed service providers will usually be up-to-date on the latest products, approaches and security threats.)
  • Your IT needs are changing, for example as you expand.
  • You want medium or long-term certainty about your IT costs and your staff’s availability for other tasks.


Staff augmentation and managed services sound similar in principle: people outside of your business help you cope with changing or expanding IT needs. In practice, the two work very differently.

As we’ve covered, managed services can work well if you want particular areas of your IT taken out of your hands, giving up control in return for reducing your responsibility. A good provider will take the time to talk through your needs and offer a custom service that reduces your hassle and headaches without wasting money on services that aren’t relevant to your business.

Staff augmentation is about keeping control and responsibility. It’s more of a tool that helps you achieve specific goals in the way you choose without the need for delays or long-term expense and commitment.

To make the most of staff augmentation, look for a specialist recruiter such as Intercast who can find staff with the right experience, skills, attitude and mindset to work with your team and carry out the specific functions you need. Call us today and we can talk you through whether and how staff augmentation could help you work better.