IT services and IT consulting are often used interchangeably. But there are some important differences between the two that will influence which your business needs—or if you need both.
If you want the short answer, it’s this: IT services does stuff, and IT consulting tells you what to do.
Regardless of which one your business needs, we all agree that IT (Information Technology) as an essential component of nearly every business. IT includes everything from computers to software, the internet, technical support, security, data protection (backups), and internal and external networks. If you’re reading this, you are accessing information courtesy of IT.
Fix What’s Broken vs Find What’s Broken
When your computer, server, or network crashes, you probably want to call IT services to get your site up and running again as soon as possible. Very much the ‘if it’s broken, we can fix it’ department. So, IT services are there to fix what’s already broken. But they’re also there for maintenance—like how your car mechanic can fix your car and help with preventative maintenance.
In IT terms, service technicians will perform daily, weekly, and monthly proactive routines to keep the environment healthy as well as make moves/adds/changes (new hire or termination account changes, new computer installs etc.), troubleshoot, and resolve issues.
IT consultants are experts in finding what’s broken—even if it’s not obvious to your team. This can include security breaches, missing updates, lack of backups, and gaps in training. If your car mechanic is IT services, then the engineer who designs your car is IT consulting.
The IT consultant is involved in identifying and managing risks, balancing budgets vs needs, and then implementing the right solutions. Consultants will perform SWOT and GAP analysis and perform security audits. They’ll write strategic plans to determine at the business strategy level where the clients are, where they want to be, and the things we need to do to get there regarding technology environment—all balanced against the resources and risk tolerance of the clients.
Implementation vs Assessment
IT services can connect a network, establish back-up systems, provide hardware and software procurement and setup, deliver managed services, troubleshoot, and fix problems to ensure your environment is running smoothly.
IT consultants may provide discovery, documentation, mapping of your network, assessment of pain points, strategy recommendations, and budgetary cost and timeline estimates to ensure your technology initiatives are pointing you in the right direction.
How vs What
An IT services expert knows how to implement software/hardware, implement changes, and make sure everything is working right—the ‘how’ of all your IT.
An IT consultant will evaluate your business needs and IT capability to determine what you need to do to meet your goals. Consultants need to have a broad scope of knowledge to draw from, so they can identify the right solutions for your business.
To get the best value, you need to have a good working relationship with your IT consultant. The more they know you and your business, the better their advice. Ideally, an IT consultant has time to learn your business story, deeply understand where you’ve been and where you want your business to go, and work with you over time to continue to adapt your IT so it always serves you now and is poised to meet your future needs.
Can My Business Save Money by Only Using an IT Consultant?
Yes! If you have the resources in-house to implement your IT consultant’s recommendations, you don’t need to also bring in an IT services provider. Those resources are time, skills, and experience.
Anything new in the IT field requires a certain level of expertise to set up. If someone on your team already has the expertise to do so, or can take the time to learn new skills, then you may not need IT services.
But if you have a large growth plan, limited manpower resources, or a lack of technical foundation on your team, doing it yourself is going to cost more in the long run than using IT services.
Of course, you can also hire IT services for set-up, and then move in-house for daily operations. The great thing about having an IT services expert that you know and trust (especially if they conducted the installations in your office) is that they’re always available to come back in for support when needed.