Posts Tagged ‘Consulting’

7 Things to Consider When Selecting Your Computer Consulting Firm

June 6th, 2021

If you run a small business, outsourcing your IT needs is probably your most cost-effective means of supporting your computer systems. Even if you’re personally qualified to maintain the systems yourself, your time is likely much better spent running your business rather than monitoring backups and troubleshooting buggy desktops.

And of course if something really goes wrong, you’re going to want to have a professional that you know and trust to come to the rescue.

I provide computer consulting services to New York based small businesses. It’s a highly competitive market with a wide variety of IT Service providers, ranging from the Independent Consultant who serves a limited, but loyal customer base, to large firms supporting hundreds of local businesses.

A small business in need of a qualified computer consulting firm has several criteria in which to measure their potential future provider. Gone are the days where you simply wait for the computer to break and then call in the computer consultant to perform the repair at an hourly rate. This reactive support model is inefficient and very ineffective at keeping the systems operating at peak performance.

To get the most out of your IT Maintenance budget, the best approach is to be proactive and try to prevent problems from happening in the first place. If your Computer Consulting firm is operating under the correct Managed Service Provider (MSP) business model, your ultimate support costs should be approximately the same as if you were paying for hourly, reactive support, yet your performance levels and system reliability should be much higher.

The things you should be looking for in a computer consulting firm are:

1. Network Monitoring – By installing a small application on your server, your computer consultant should be able to monitor all of the critical components of your network, including:

AntiVirus updates and activity
Backup status
System Event Log alerts and errors
Security status – are unauthorized users trying to enter the system
Drive space
Processor and memory utilization and possible bottlenecks
Website and communication status – know immediately if a service fails
Many of the monitoring utilities in use today are web-based, which could allow you to monitor the network right alongside your computer consultant. Keeping an eye on your own network’s health status is a good way to remain apprised of any issues and to keep tabs on your consultant if need be.

2. Remote Computer Support – Your computer consultant should be able to log into your systems (both the server and your user’s desktops) remotely to address problems as they arise. With remote connectivity, your consultant could potentially provide support even faster than an in-house Network Administrator could.

3. Service Reporting – Your computer consulting firm should be able to provide you with timely and accurate reports as to what service was performed, for who and how long did it take. These reports will allow you to identify potential problem spots on the network (areas of repeating problems) as well as assist in budgeting for future support needs.

4. Inventory Reporting – A current inventory report of all of your technology components is useful for insurance purposes, budgeting for future needs and for identifying possible weak points in your infrastructure. Your data should be collected in real-time and your consulting firm should be able to provide you with up-to-the-minute reports via a web-accessible interface.

5. Location – Not every problem can be addressed remotely. There will be times when you need your computer consultant on-site ASAP! Make sure you select a consultant who can get to you when you need him.

6. Fees – Selecting the “cheapest” consultant you can find will most likely backfire on you and wind up costing you more in the long run. A qualified, experienced computer consultant commands a respectable salary. If your consultant is charging below-market rates, it’s likely because of his lack of experience or talents. If it takes him twice as long to complete a job than a qualified consultant can do, then you’re likely still paying the same amount, but getting a lower quality of service (which may cause additional problems in the future.)

Your consultant’s basic fees should be flat-based as opposed to hourly. This works to both of your advantages.

By paying a flat, monthly fee, you’ll be able to budget your expenses more accurately and you won’t have to place restraints on the maintenance of your systems. And unlike with an hourly rate, your consultant’s income doesn’t improve the more your systems fail. Instead, with a flat-fee, the more reliably your systems perform, the less work your consultant needs to invest to achieve the same billable amount.

Under flat-fee billing, it’s in everyone’s best interest for your network to perform reliably at all times.

7. Dedication – If you want to gain the maximum lifespan and long term performance from your network, you’re going to need someone to maintain it on a regular basis. Someone who is intimately familiar with both the systems and the users. If you’re using a larger firm, you want to have a single consultant plus a backup dedicated to your account. This can often be difficult to accomplish for a consulting firm with a large client base. Qualified consultants are expensive and a large IT Support firm will want to employ only as many as absolutely necessary at a time to control overhead. This often results in spreading the technical talent too thin and you as the customer get a revolving door of consultants who are unfamiliar and take longer to resolve issues.

In the dedication department is where an Independent Computer Consultant has an advantage over the larger IT Support Firms. An Independent Computer Consultant who serves a limited customer base can provide a level of attention similar to that of an in-house employee. Assuming he’s monitoring his client’s systems properly, provides remote support and charges flat-fee based billing, a very manageable workload can be maintained, leaving enough flexibility in the schedule to provide equal and necessary attention to each and every client.

Ideally, you’d like to find a larger computer consulting firm with diverse resources, yet can provide the level of dedication and attention you’d get from an Independent Computer Consultant.