IT support is provided by experts to assist less qualified people in solving specific problems with their IT system or to provide consulting services necessary to expand their IT capacities. IT support specialists also play a role in maintaining the systems and infrastructure to ensure it is up-to-date and secure. Larger organisations typically have their own in-house IT staff, whereas small businesses will typically outsource their IT support an IT consultant, as their systems are typically smaller and less complicated.
What do IT consultants do?
There are many tasks which are performed by IT consultants for other businesses, starting from high-level planning and problem solving and getting right down to the minutiae of connecting the system and resolving bugs. The roles an IT consultant might take on include:
- Formulating a plan and product list to deliver the computing functions needed by an organisation
- Recommending a network topology and the necessary network infrastructure to meet organisational needs
- Sourcing parts to build the computers, servers and network
- Building the computers and servers to meet client specifications
- Installing operating systems and application software
- Setting up and configuring the network
- Configuring modems and other infrastructure to enable internet access
- Setting up and configuring email addresses for employees
- Putting automatic backups and fail safes in place to protect data
- Recommending and installing antivirus and other security software
- Keeping hardware and software up to date
- Solving IT problems
- Providing outsourced or cloud services
When a system is well maintained, the IT support staff can seem nearly invisible. That’s because problems don’t arise often and are fixed swiftly when they do. Proper maintenance is vastly cheaper in the long-run than constantly trying to address problems as they arise.
How are IT support services delivered?
There are three main arrangements available for businesses seeking to outsource IT support:
- Time and material: customers pay their IT consultants for any materials they might need and a pre-arranged hourly rate for the time taken by the consultant to complete the necessary task. This is the most common arrangement. The benefit of this arrangement to small businesses is that they only pay for services they need, as they need them, which is ideal for organisations which do not have heavy or regular IT support requirements.
- Block hours: customers are able to buy a number of hours at a discounted rate, to be used at their discretion over a time period (typically a month or a year). This arrangement has benefits for businesses with regular but infrequent IT support, as they pay less per hour than on a time and material basis. The drawback is that hours which are not used are typically not refunded, making this inappropriate for businesses with unpredictable needs.
- Managed services: customers pay a regular fee for specific requirements, such as 24/7 IT support or for ongoing maintenance. This arrangement is ideal for businesses with regular and frequent IT support needs, as it generally offers the lowest price per hour of time and the greatest amount of support.