When it comes to protecting your data on a companywide basis, you likely rely on one IT professional or a team of them. Perhaps these pros are hired members of your staff, or you work with them on a freelance basis. Either way, knowing whether you need IT consulting or IT services can get you the data protection you most need. What’s the difference between the two?
In today’s informative guide, we’ll first delve into clear definitions of both IT consulting and IT services. Then, we’ll further spell out the differences between the two as highlighted above. Finally, we’ll discuss when you need IT consulting vs. IT services so you can make the best decision for your business.
Let’s get started.
We’ll begin by defining IT consulting. To understand the duties of an IT consultant, you only have to think about the project role of a consultant in general. A consultant is someone trained in giving advice in career sectors of all sorts. Thus, you can expect your IT consultant to be a pro in all things computer technology.
Besides being referred to as IT consulting, a firm that offers this service may also call it technology consulting, computing consulting, business and technology services, or computer consultancy.
As we touched on in the intro, the job of your IT consulting expert or team is to help your company succeed in your tech goals through the consultant’s expert advice and coaching. The consultant will listen to your current tech concerns and then craft a solution that’s workable for your unique issue.
The consultant will give you a timeframe for when they expect the work to be done as well as a quote upfront. Should you proceed, you’ll work with your IT consultant pro or team to formulate, execute, and evaluate your plan of attack. Only once your issue is solved should the project be considered over.
Depending on the firm offering the service, IT consulting can be a multi-pronged methodology involving several teams or professionals. You may work only with IT security consultants if your company’s issue pertains to data security or other areas of protecting proprietary data.
You can also partner with independent consultants, some of whom belong to staffing firms and others who work independently, aka freelancers or self-employed professionals. If you need a higher level of assistance or if you want to work with a team, then you might look into a staffing firm, as they can connect you with the IT consultants you seek. You can also go to professional servicing firms, although the bill for work might be higher compared to using other methods.
What might your IT consulting fees look like? If you’re working with a team, you may be charged by the number of consultants you have. Other firms charge by the number of days you work together. A third option is a fixed fee. That said, this pricing structure is typically only applicable for infrastructure capacity planning, network design, refreshing infrastructure, and similar jobs.
Besides or in lieu of IT consultancy, your company might opt for IT services. Also known as information technology service management or ITSM, IT services generally encompass areas of software engineering and IT management.
Your IT services pro will offer solutions to your technical problems. These problems might crop up on the way to achieving your IT consultancy objectives or between said projects.
Here are some services you might receive in the realm of IT services.
Your workforce could comprise of staff at all different levels of tech savviness. To get everyone up to speed so they can do the best work in your office from day to day, you might request basic IT services like computer training. The same would also be true if your company had just switched from Windows to Mac (or vice-versa), a new operating system has come out, or your company moves to new software or hardware.
Your office probably has a series of printers, but getting them all to work in concert with one another can be difficult. The managed print services under the umbrella of IT services can get your printers running the way they’re supposed to, every last one of them.
Whether managed print services call for updating printer drivers, replacing older printers, or upgrading the framework the printers rely on, you’ll be able to print off documents in a jiffy. Other related devices outside of printers, including copiers, fax machines, and scanners are also included as part of managed print services.
The help desk support under IT services is your go-to when you and your employees have questions about how certain tech elements work or why they’ve stopped working. The help desk support would cover areas such as Wi-Fi, network connectivity, printers, and computer issues.
Speaking of your network, its security should be a paramount concern at your company. IT services can get your network up to snuff so data thieves, spammers, and hackers can’t get through. Your network will also be fortified against viruses like trojans, web-scripting viruses, browser hijackings, and more.
As part of network security IT services, your IT pros might schedule checkups on your network, add a new VPN, use patch management and web filtering, install new antivirus software, and place a firewall.
Data loss happens all the time, but if you happened to lose crucial files and documents, a computer wipe can be devastating. As part of IT services, you can get your files backed up to several different places. Besides helping if you accidentally delete files, your IT pro can also step in if a virus cleaned out your computer, a fire or flood occurs, or if the computer fails and won’t turn back on again.
A modern solution that many businesses take advantage of is cloud services, as storing files in the cloud is a great means of security. It’s also easy to access cloud-stored files, and this solution is scalable for your business as well.
If you want to get your first cloud system set up or if you need help managing cloud files, IT services can help.
Yes, it can be confusing, but indeed, IT services do sometimes include IT consulting. That said, just because IT pros offer IT consulting as part of IT services doesn't always mean that IT consultants will provide other IT services.
Your IT service provider could step in for the role of consultant rather than you hiring someone trained only in IT consultancy. This can save you money, because instead of possibly seeking IT services and IT consulting, you’d only have to choose one.
Now that we’ve discussed what IT consulting and IT services are, we can take a deeper dive into the differences that we laid out in the intro.
When you sit down with an IT consultant, it’s for the purposes of creating or upgrading your company’s tech strategy. You’ll have a short-term or long-term plan with many elements that must be achieved, and your IT consultant will work with you until you check off every last one of your boxes.
Compare that to IT services. These services can be about creating a strategy, especially when you use IT consulting in the realm of IT services, but not all the time. For the most part, when you train your staff on a new software, that’s not really part of an overarching strategy. It’s mostly so your employees can continue to work productively.
That’s not to say IT services aren’t involved in IT consulting as part of your strategy, as that can most certainly happen. Data security measures and cloud computing are two areas where that’s especially true. Just as easily though, if you need helpdesk assistance because your computer’s Wi-Fi is down, that’s an IT service and not really considered part of a strategy. As you can see then, it can go both ways.
IT consultants are trained in areas like technical language and advisory language, but they’re more business-minded than experts at tech. Areas of management and communications are where they mostly excel. Thus, while they can certainly help you plan what your IT strategy may look like and oversee the progress of your strategy, they cannot always carry out every last element of said strategy.
For example, through the guidance of your IT consultancy firm, you may realize that your company needs cloud computing because your computers are old and your hard drives are full. Or perhaps your consultant suggests data security after several breaches have affected your company within the past year.
Rather than always supplying those services themselves, your IT consultants may work with third parties, such as freelance IT services, to get you the services you need. If you used IT services for IT consultancy, they could both create a plan for you and carry out the aspects of that plan, as we mentioned.
The above shows then how IT consultants cannot necessarily do every duty necessary to achieve your company’s tech advancement plan. This limit may be due to having more business than tech skills, which is the case for some (but not all) IT consultancy firms.
That said, while they can’t do it all, IT consultants can always point you in the direction of someone who can, and a trusted firm or individual at that.
The last area in which IT consultants and IT services differ is in their level of relationship building.
An IT consultant must establish a good working relationship with you, the client. This bond should be cordial and warm, as you need a positive rapport with your consultant. After all, they want to be the person you call when you have a tech question or concern, not a third-party IT services pro.
If the relationship between you and the consultant is rocky, then not only will you not want to reach out to them when you need help, but you’ll discount the help they try to give. As things continue to sour, you’ll wonder why you hired the consultant in the first place. You may just discontinue using their services.
That’s not to say that IT services don’t involve building professional relationships, as they can. If you have one trusted IT pro at your company or a small team you rely on, then you of course want to be able to trust in them with all your tech problems. You’ll also expect that they’ll be available when you most need them.
However, IT services don’t depend on building relationships to the extent that IT consultants do.
When you have an IT problem, it’s easy to feel panicked. Depending on the nature of your issue though, you don’t want to call just anyone. Here is a list of instances in which it might be better to trust an IT consultant compared to IT services and vice-versa.
If the following issues are ones that befall your company, then IT consulting may be best for you.
You want to ensure the IT consulting individual or team you choose to work with possesses the requisite skills to excel at the job. These skills include knowledge of technical languages, business management skills, advisory language abilities, communication skills, and technical abilities.
If these issues are affecting your company’s day-to-day operations, you’ll want to look into IT services.
IT consulting is about creating a plan for improving certain areas of your company’s tech. You can rely on your consultant for answering questions, addressing concerns, and guiding you through the steps necessary to achieve success.
IT services include cloud computing, printer repairs and restoration, backup recovery, network security, and everyday troubleshooting. Sometimes IT services can bleed into IT consulting, but not always.
Now that you know the differences between IT consulting and IT services, you can select the service most appropriate for your company at any given time. Best of luck!
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