When it comes to operating a business or organization, the IT system is at the center of a lot of operational tasks. Scheduling, payroll, and data collection and storage are just a few of the necessary tasks that are handled within the IT infrastructure. It is important for all businesses and institutions to ensure that their IT infrastructure is protected and running efficiently.
The challenge that many businesses and institutions face is managing their IT infrastructures effectively. The IT industry is in a constant state of evolution, and it takes a concerted effort to keep the IT system efficient, up to date, and most importantly, protected from threats like malware and data breaches. While some businesses can manage their IT systems in-house, many do not have the resources or the expertise to handle this effectively. Businesses in this situation typically work with an IT professional to help manage their IT system or provide IT consulting.
Managed IT services and IT consulting are common options for businesses that need assistance from IT professionals. While both options involve businesses working with an IT professional, the help a business gets from each type of service is quite different. With IT consulting, a professional provides strategic advice to help a business manage and improve their IT infrastructure while IT services involve a professional taking over IT management and implementing solutions to improve the system.
In this guide, we will give a full explanation of what IT services and IT consulting entail and highlight the main differences between each service. Understanding the difference between IT services and IT consulting will help you determine which approach is better for your business.
As mentioned above, IT consulting involves an IT professional taking the role of a consultant and providing advice and coaching that will help a business implement strategies to improve their IT infrastructure and reach their technology goals. A consultant will work with your IT staff to understand your current IT infrastructure and goals and coach your staff on implementing effective solutions.
You can expect an IT consultant to gain a full understanding of your current infrastructure as well as your goals so they can come up with effective strategies and solutions for your unique situation. They will consult directly with your IT staff to form and implement the plan and evaluate the results so the plan can be adjusted accordingly. IT consultants generally provide a timeframe and quote upfront for the project.
Businesses can work with IT consultants to help manage multiple facets of their IT infrastructure or focus on just one area. For instance, a business may decide to work with an IT security consultant to help improve their protection against threats and data breaches. IT consultants are typically hired on a project-by-project basis and the quote and timeframe they provide is based on what needs to be done to complete your project.
The fees for IT consulting may be determined in several different ways. The fee could be determined by the number of consultants you work with or by the amount of time spent on your project. There are also some IT consultants that may charge a flat fee.
With IT services, an IT professional provides hands-on help to implement solutions that resolve issues and improve IT performance. This can also include installing or updating software and hardware and troubleshooting the system when there is a problem. Like with IT consulting, you can work with a professional for IT services on a specific aspect of your IT infrastructure or take a multipronged approach for a more holistic solution.
The following may be included as part of managed IT services:
It is common for businesses to change or upgrade the software they are using, which may require their staff to be trained in how to use the software. IT services can include computer training in which an IT professional will train your staff on how to use the new software for your purposes. This is not only helpful for teaching your staff something new, but also for getting everyone on your staff to the same level with their tech savviness.
Managed Print Services
If your business uses several printers but you have a problem keeping them running in coordination with your system and each other, IT services can help. An IT professional can replace or update your printers and the printer drivers to ensure that they are running the way you need them to run. IT professionals can also help with other related equipment like fax machines, scanners, and copiers.
Help Desk Support
Managed IT services generally include help desk support in which you can call the IT professional for support when something goes wrong. For example, you can call the IT professional when something is wrong with your Wi-Fi or network connectivity, and they will work on providing a quick solution.
One of the most important aspects of your IT infrastructure is the security of the system. Cyberattacks continue to become more sophisticated and if your system is not protected, you are vulnerable to malicious malware attacks, data breaches, viruses, browser hijackings, and more.
With managed IT services, the IT professional will analyze the current state of your security and look for vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. They will also implement new strategies to bolster your cybersecurity to better protect against threats and breaches. The cybersecurity services provided by an IT professional may include installing or updating antivirus software and putting a firewall in place.
The loss of important data can be devastating for a business or institution as they may lose important files or sensitive personal data. An IT service professional will help secure your data by backing it up in several places and they can help recover any data that has been lost.
Cloud computing is becoming much more common as more businesses and institutions are storing their files in the cloud. Cloud storage is secure and easy to access, and it frees up space on local hard drives. Managed IT services generally include cloud computing in which an IT professional will help set up your cloud system and transfer your files to the cloud. They can also assist with the management of the cloud.
The Differences Between IT Consulting and IT Services
The main difference between IT consulting and IT services is the role of the IT professional. With IT consulting, the IT professional takes more of an advisory role and IT services involve a more hands-on approach in which the IT professional manages the IT systems and implements strategies to strengthen and improve the system.
IT Consulting is Strategy Based
Businesses that work with an IT consultant are seeking a professional to help improve their tech strategy. The consultant will consider your short-term and long-term tech goals and create a strategy for your business to implement to achieve your goals. The IT consultant does not implement the strategy but instead coaches your team with the implementation as well as adjustments that need to be made.
IT services are more action based than consulting. Managed IT service providers will devise strategies to improve your IT performance, and they will also be the ones implementing the strategy and maintaining the system.
IT Consulting Provides the Blueprint, IT Services Implement the Plan
IT consultants look at the big picture when it comes to your IT infrastructure so they can identify strengths and weaknesses and form an effective strategy. The strategy forms the blueprint of what you need to do to achieve your tech goals, but IT consultants do not implement the strategy. However, they can help you find IT service professionals that can carry out the plan.
IT consultants may recommend a third party to handle implementing their plan. Some IT professionals provide managed IT services along with consulting as part of these services. If you choose to work with a professional like PSM, you can expect expert consulting as part of your overall managed IT services and the plan will be carried out by IT professionals.
IT Consultants Have Limits
IT consultants tend to be more business savvy than tech savvy and may not be able to carry out every aspect of their strategy. In cases like these, consultants will refer you to a professional that can implement aspects of the strategy that they cannot.
Firms that provide managed IT services as well as IT consulting have the tech professionals to fully implement the strategies formed by the consultants.
IT Consulting is More Relationship Based
While building good professional relationships is important with IT consulting and IT services, the nature of the relationship will have more of an impact with IT consultants.
Establishing a good professional relationship with an IT consultant is very important as they must have a good understanding of your business and tech goals at a high level so they can advise you on strategies that will best achieve your goals and grow your business. You are trusting them to be somewhat of a business partner as their strategies may play a major role in the growth and operation of your business. You also need to depend on them when there is a problem.
A bad relationship with an IT consultant can be detrimental to your business as this can make you hesitant to reach out to them when there is a problem. This will cause problems to go unaddressed and if the relationship has really deteriorated, you may be apprehensive about taking their advice.
Forming a good working relationship with IT service professionals is still important as you should be able to trust them to effectively manage your IT infrastructure and resolve issues. However, because IT services are more action based than strategy based, there is not as much at stake in the working relationship as there is with IT consultants.
Do I Need IT Consulting or IT Services?
Once a business or organization decides to seek outside help with their IT infrastructure, they must determine if they would benefit more from IT consulting or IT services. The answer to this question depends on the specific needs of your business.
You should work with an IT consultant if you experience any of the following:
- Difficulty creating multi-step strategies and estimating their timelines
- Uncertainty of where to start with outsourced IT services
- Lack of expertise within your current staff
- Lack of guidance in creating and implementing tech solutions
- Unsure of the best hardware and software to incorporate into your IT infrastructure
Your business will benefit more from managed IT services if you need help with the following:
- Training your employees on how to use a new operating system
- Training and troubleshooting new software or hardware
- Making a big change in your tech strategy like switching to cloud-based data storage
- Strengthening network security
Managed IT Services and IT Consulting from PSM
There are many ways a business or organization can benefit from reaching out to an IT professional to help improve and maintain their IT infrastructure. First you must consider the unique needs of your business. If you want the help of a professional to evaluate your current IT infrastructure and advise you on the best strategies to improve IT performance, IT consulting may be best. If you need the help of a tech professional to provide upgrades and maintenance, data backup, cloud storage troubleshooting, or cybersecurity services, you will benefit from managed IT services. If you are not sure where to start, talking to an IT consultant first is best.
At PSM, we provide IT consulting and managed IT services to help businesses and institutions implement strategies that improve IT performance and help you achieve your tech goals. Our IT consultants will understand your tech goals and form unique solutions to help you achieve these goals while our tech professionals can implement every aspect of this strategy through our managed IT services.
You can call our professionals at PSM at (312) 940-7830 for more about our IT consulting and managed IT services in the Chicago, IL area.