Differences Between IT Services and IT Consulting

Elie Vigile

The Covid pandemic probably did more in one fell swoop to teach businesses about the need for solid IT support than any other event in recent history. After all, more than 40 percent of workers went full-time as remote workers.

Of course, that brought about lots of growing pains. It exposed serious weaknesses in remote work technology, as well as weaknesses in businesses’ IT support. The weaknesses in small business IT support likely sent more than one business owner scrambling for help online.

What many found was companies offering IT consulting and companies offering IT services. So, what’s the difference between them and which do you need?

What Is IT Consulting?

Understanding what IT consulting means almost requires stepping back from the IT part of the term. In any other context, what does a consultant do?

A consultant serves as a subject matter expert in a particular area. They offer advice and will help you devise or refine plans. In some cases, they’ll even steer you away from particularly risky ideas with a high probability of failure.

When you integrate IT back into that equation, it becomes a clearer picture. An IT consultant helps you understand how IT can play a role in delivering your business goals or achieving a business strategy.

They can advise you about which technologies will best serve those ends. In essence, IT consulting helps you create a viable action plan that leverages information technology in service to your plans.

At the same time, IT consulting can also help you avoid issues like the shiny object syndrome. The speed at which new technologies arrive on the scene can leave business owners constantly spinning their wheels in an attempt to keep pace.

small business it support

What Are IT Services?

The easiest way you can approach this question is by thinking of IT services as technical solutions to specific technical problems.

For example, let’s say that you had a fire in your business. The sprinkler system did its job and put out the fire. Everything turned out okay.

Except, not everything did turn out okay. You kept all your data backups on in-house servers that didn’t survive the assault of those helpful sprinklers. You realize you need an off-site data backup solution.

This is where IT services enter the picture. They can provide you with daily backups of your data and transactions that stay in the cloud. Sure, losing those local machines hurts, but you can import all your important files and data as soon as you get new on-site hardware.

Maybe you’re a doctor who works with sensitive data that is subject to federal regulations. You want your system to meet HIPAA and HITECH standards. An IT service can ensure that your system stays in compliance.

What’s the Difference Between IT Services and IT Consulting?

The main difference between IT consulting and IT services boils down to the difference between and what and why versus how.

IT consulting deals with things at a strategic level. It helps you understand what kinds of technology will help your business and why that technology will help. IT services deal with the how of implementing that technology.

Let’s go back to fire in your business. Let’s say that you got an IT consultant before the fire. That consultant stresses that every business needs an IT disaster and recovery plan. Good data backups are one of the big components of that kind of plan because they let you restart faster.

The IT consultant addressed the big picture what and why. Yet, it’s an IT service that will provide the how by offering you the actual service, helping you set it up, and even monitoring it.

What IT services won’t do is tell you if you’re storing the right data in the right way. They won’t tell you how you can integrate other cloud services to meet your business goals. It’s up to an IT consultant to help you with those issues.

When Should I Seek IT Consulting?

If you’re looking for IT support for small businesses, you’ll likely wonder when IT consulting is the right option. IT consulting makes sense when you need help with higher-level IT decisions, such as:

  • Picking the right software options for your needs
  • Building out the right steps and calendar for tech initiatives
  • Understanding if a new technology will provide your business with real benefits

For example, customer relationship management software gets a lot of good press. Yet, it’s not right for every business.

A fast-food joint won’t benefit because it likely doesn’t collect customer information. A low-volume business that caters to high-end clients probably won’t benefit much because you probably know all of your clients by name.

A web-based business that sells physical or information products probably can’t survive without one. You’ll likely end up with too many customers to keep track of all their information without it.

When Should I Seek IT Services for Small Business IT Support?

You should seek IT services for small business IT support when you face specific, identifiable tech problems. A few common areas include:

  • IT security services
  • Network and server setup
  • Document management
  • Software training
  • Tech Troubleshooting

IT services help you deal with problems you already recognize, rather than helping you formulate IT strategy for business growth.

IT Consulting, IT Services, and Your Business

IT consulting and IT services have roles to play in providing you with small business IT support.

IT consulting works best when you don’t know exactly what IT technologies will help or why certain IT technologies benefit your kind of business. IT services work best when you already know what kind of IT help you need and want to implement the solution.

Visual Edge IT specializes in both IT consulting and IT services. If you need help with your IT strategy or must solve a specific IT challenge, contact Visual Edge IT today for more information.

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