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What’s the Difference Between a Consultant and a Contractor?

Picture it: You’re a small business with 10 or so users, getting by without a full-time IT support person. When you have problems, you call up an independent contractor who acts as your go-to computer guy.
It’s the Friday before a three-day weekend and you’ve got a big problem. Your server just crashed, your backups aren’t working, your contractor has left town for the weekend — and you’ve got to be open for your annual sale at 8am sharp on Saturday morning. What do you do?
You can call up another contractor and see if they’re available. But if you’d hired a consultant from the beginning, you might never have experienced this unfortunate chain of events.
Computer consultants combine deep technology expertise with a keen understanding of business practices in order to help businesses make responsible, strategic decisions about their IT infrastructure. They’re more likely to recommend practices and products that help you to avoid emergencies from occuring in the first place.
Independent IT contractors, on the other hand, tend to focus on immediate solutions to short-term problems. They can help get your server back online, and they can probably salvage your backups — but they might not bring up the issue of long-term planning. This doesn’t mean that they’re irresponsible or unknowledgeable; far from it. It’s just that their focus is on your technology, not your business.
And this is the difference between contractors and consultants. A great contractor is a whiz at mitigating emergency issues and fixing what breaks. A great consultant looks ahead and sees how you can get out of that cycle of breaking and fixing, and on the path to consistently high levels of service.
In many situations, your contractor and your consultant may be the same person. But you absolutely need that consultative approach if you’re ever going to get out ahead of your technology problems.
Think of technology not as a business expense, but as an asset. The right IT setup can have a tremendous effect on productivity and actually help your business to grow. When you look at it that way, your “computer guy” shouldn’t just be the cheapest service you can find in the Yellow Pages; it should be somebody whose expertise and opinions you truly trust.
“Computer consultants provide the exact same kind of services and expertise, the same intellectual property that engineers or architects do,” says CMIT Solutions client Darwin Smith, of the Lake Stevens Sewer District in Lake Stevens, Washington. “That’s a departure from the way people have looked at it and the way government has looked at it, but that is the way to look at it, and that is the way to approach hiring IT people.”
If you’re looking for fewer IT emergencies, consistently high levels of service, and predictable expenses, CMIT Solutions can act as your computer consultant. Call us at (800) 399-CMIT or go to www.cmitsolutions.com/contact-us.php and we’ll schedule an in-depth review of your technology systems. After that, we’ll give you our expert recommendation about how you can start getting more out of your IT infrastructure.

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