The phrase ‘IT consultant’ has come to mean a lot of things. In the early days of commercial IT, consultants would advise businesses on how computers were able to improve efficiency and productivity and increase their bottom line. Those views are now widespread, and the role has taken on a broader set of responsibilities.
This article will outline precisely what a modern IT consultant can offer your business – be they a sole trader or an SME specialising in IT support and managed services – and provide some general guidance on what to look out for when going to market for outsourced IT services.
1. What does an IT consultant do?
‘IT consultant’ is a generalised term for a certified IT professional who advises businesses on how best to utilise on-site and cloud-based IT services, alongside recurring maintenance, support, installation and security services.
IT consultants are either contracted on an ad-hoc basis, or called upon as part of a service contract that outlines their specific responsibilities and established a partnership over a long period of time (usually 12 months or more).
In general terms, IT consultants act as trusted advisors at board or management level, as companies strive to create efficient, scalable and cost-effective internal networks that facilitate growth and accommodate emerging technologies from whatever sector a firm is associated with.
IT consultants either complement an existing team of IT engineers, or act as the sole authority on a network in an advisory and/or support capacity. Quite often, they are relied upon to craft innovative solutions to incumbent problems, utilising the latest business applications and collaboration platforms.
2. What are the different types of IT consultancy?
IT consultancies are usually generalist firms – i.e. they don’t focus on one area of commercial IT support or software development. Instead, they offer their services as a one stop shop for network, infrastructure and software support or improvements.
If you approach an IT consultancy for help with upgrading your hardware – be it standard laptops and desktops, or even high-end server replacements and migrations – they’ll usually offer a support contract alongside it.
Having said that, a number of IT consultancies prefer to offer specialist installation and support services for singular parts of an IT network, but even within these specialised fields, their expertise is usually diverse and comes with various levels of involvement.
For example, some IT consultancy forms specialise in network and data security, otherwise known as ‘cybersecurity consultants’. They’ll be able to analyse your current level of protection (consultancy), offer an alternative, and install and support the solution (software support and maintenance).
3. Why hire an IT consultant?
IT – be it networking, data services, cloud technologies or onsite services – is a dedicated profession that requires certified, experienced staff to handle business critical systems. As companies grow, they reach a point where they have neither the expertise nor the manpower to maintain an internal network or support staff who use 3rd party software platforms. This is where an IT consultant comes in.
Maintaining a secure, efficient local area network (LAN) can be a time-consuming enterprise. Quite often, if the right procedures and hardware aren’t being utilised from the start, niggling issues can spiral and the consequences are counted in lost revenue, network downtime and security breaches.
A company’s IT network is usually the most important physical asset it owns. Without it, the ability to trade is severely inhibited. Hiring a dedicated IT professional – or team of professionals – is the smart choice for any business owner looking to protect their critical data and prevent any downtime.
4. Where do I look for an IT consultant?
IT consultants’ market themselves in a variety of places, but all are available online via a Google search or through dedicated industry resources and news outlets.
It’s almost always best to choose a consultancy that’s local to you, or at the very least has a satellite office in a nearby location – they’ll have a working knowledge of local vendors and will be able to offer advice and support on how other businesses in your area utilise physical infrastructure (broadband, datacentres etc.).
Another good course of action when going to market for an IT consultant is to ask local firms in your industry who they’ve used and what to look out for. Nothing beats first-hand experience and it’ll also give you some context as to what they can offer you in terms of sector-specific methods of working.
Whoever you hire, make sure that they:
- Have a good reputation
- Posses the requisite industry certifications
- Have a strong trading history
- Can provide good sector-specific references
5. How much does it cost to hire an IT consultant?
Prices for IT consultancy services can vary wildly, depending on the level of support required, and whether or not there is a need to purchase additional hardware, or replace an incumbent solution. Usually, consultancies charge a set lump sum for project installations including parts (software and hardware) and labour. Additional support fees are normally billed for monthly under a document called an ‘SLA’ (service level agreement), or are settled annually.
Licensing also needs to be considered, and with the global shift to cloud-based subscription services, forms an important part of any IT contract. When purchasing access to software either from or via an IT consultancy, businesses should seek assurance on where ownership of the license resides both at any given time throughout the contract, and at the end of an agreement that isn’t going to be renewed.
Similarly, physical IT assets can either be leased, rented or bought from an IT consultant (although leasing almost always goes via a 3rd party). Be sure to understand whether, as a business, you own any of the kit involved in a new project.
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totality services are a customer-centric, London-based IT services provider who know precisely what it means to be a good IT consultancy… because we are one.
Click here or call us on 020 3744 3105 for a free consultation. We can help you improve your IT operation with installations and security recommendations, or we can deal with the day-to-day running of your network.