Now that we’re so far into the digital age, you’d think businesses would have caught on to the importance of their data. Think again. Believe it or not, 60% of businesses don’t currently have a cybersecurity policy, leaving the majority at serious risk.
Well, one single breach is all it takes to tank a business, but luckily, there are ways to prevent that. With the right IT consulting services, you can keep your company protected for the long haul.
So, what is IT consulting and what are the benefits? Glad you asked.
Why Businesses Need IT Services
Before we talk about IT consulting specifically, we first need to discuss why IT services are so important for small and medium-sized businesses. Here are just a few of the most pressing reasons you need IT help today.
Growing Cybersecurity Threats
Unfortunately, the pandemic has given potential cybercriminals plenty of time to develop and hone their crafts, leading to rises in sophisticated social engineering attacks, ransomware, and other types of attacks. What’s also unfortunate is that these trends are persisting and worsening, which is causing devastation to the small business world.
If you don’t already know, the reason small and medium-sized businesses are at such a high risk for cyberattacks is simple: they’re the best of both worlds. Large businesses have plenty of money but strong security, while individuals have weak security but less money.
Well, most small businesses lack adequate cybersecurity, but still typically have a lot more cash than the average individual, making them prime targets for cybercriminals.
Consequently, the average cyberattack costs businesses over $200,000, which often leads to business failure within six months after the attack. Criminals don’t care about the fate of your business, but you should!
Fortunately, IT consulting services can help audit your current network security and offer specialized advice on how to improve your system. Remember, even preventing one attack could save your business.
Getting the Right Information
You won’t be surprised to learn that there is plenty of contradictory and conflicting information online about IT practices. Unfortunately, this often leads to devastating mistakes within the business community.
As a result, business leaders need to read between the lines and get their information from trusted professionals instead of well-worded content on somebody’s blog. There’s no online substitute for a true education on the subject.
Receiving Specialized Information
It isn’t just about finding accurate information, but also about how that information applies to your business. Every business has different needs, policies, equipment, and daily practices.
Consequently, every business needs unique information and resources to help them implement the right IT practices. Whether you want IT support services or consulting services, attention to your company’s systems is the only way to improve upon your existing strategy.
Increased Remote Work
Freelancers and remote workers are on a sharp rise, especially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Well, these trends are also persisting, with the majority of workers preferring permanent remote work.
Unfortunately, this creates a host of potential issues for businesses and their networks, as employees may use different equipment with varying security, unsecured file-sharing, and more. If your business is using remote or hybrid workers who are handling sensitive data, then you are playing with fire without some type of IT service.
Even if your workers are in-person currently or they will be in the future, if you or your employees travel at all for work, this also opens extra doors for criminals.
While cybersecurity is a big risk, it certainly isn’t the only risk to your company’s data. What happens if your network goes down, a hard drive is stolen or destroyed, or you can’t log into your accounts?
No matter what the potential cause of data loss is, there is a solution and means of preventing it, which is where IT specialists come in.
What Is IT Consulting?
IT consulting services offer your business the insight, tools, and knowledge it needs to implement a proper IT strategy, which we now know is critical for data protection. Different consultants will offer different services, but you can generally expect to have your IT questions answered.
Some consultants are specialists within a field, whether it’s with cybersecurity, software engineering, or anything else. This is very beneficial for companies looking for more specialized services.
IT Consulting vs IT Services
Now, many outsourced IT companies will offer both IT managed services and IT consulting, so what exactly is the difference? Both will help improve your systems, right?
Well, IT consulting offers expert advice and guidance based on your business’s needs. They will offer you the most cost-effective and efficient route to achieving your goals with cybersecurity, data protection, and other IT needs.
Conversely, IT managed services will offer ongoing IT support and/or system monitoring over time. They will likely offer data protection or recovery services, but not much in the way of guidance for your business.
Essentially, if you want the best help for your IT systems, then a combination of IT consulting followed by ongoing IT services will ultimately yield the best results.
What Services Are Offered?
While services vary between firms, most IT consultants will usually offer guidance on improving important parts of your network, including:
- Infrastructure planning
- Cybersecurity consulting
- Risk assessment and analysis
- Offering resources and tools for your IT needs
- Planning for disaster recovery
The list goes on, and many IT consultants will offer plenty of other valuable services. An initial consultation will help determine your business’s primary needs to help find the right services.
Benefits of IT Consulting
If you’re looking into your options for your business’s IT needs, then IT consulting is a perfect way to get started.
There’s no serious commitment and you’ll receive immediate benefits. Here are just a few examples!
1. Reducing Costs
One of the biggest barriers for businesses getting the IT services they need is the high cost of an in-house IT team or outsourced IT services. However, IT consulting is often very affordable and there is little need for ongoing costs.
Many businesses will choose some type of outsourced IT managed services that have regular, recurring fees, not to mention that an in-house team will come with salaries, benefits, management, and more. Most small businesses can’t afford an in-house team and instead, prefer outsourced IT services for that same reason.
Of course, we aren’t suggesting that IT services aren’t worth it. Although, IT consultants will take a look at your systems, offer specialized advice, and let you know the most cost-effective way to proceed. If anything, this will save you money rather than cost you.
Also, consulting services are a “buy once, cry once” type of purchase, meaning you won’t have to spend money every month. Once you have the information, training, and resources, you will have them. However, it is a good idea to stay up to date!
Conversely, an IT consultant may help you eliminate unnecessary costs related to your IT systems. Many businesses spend unnecessary amounts on software, programs, or services that are outdated or unnecessary.
Keep in mind, we haven’t even mentioned reducing the cost of disaster if it strikes. The cost of any IT service is significantly less than the cost of one breach, so don’t forget to factor that into your decision.
2. Improved Security
With the rise of “ransomware as a service” (RaaS), deep fake technology, improved social engineering attacks, and more, your network has to remain secure. If there is any path for criminals to infiltrate your network, they will find it if they want to.
As a result, there’s no substitute for specialized guidance on keeping your network secure. In the digital age, your data is likely the most valuable asset your company has.
However, not all security issues can be addressed by simply increasing the security of your network, which brings us to our next point.
3. Training Staff
If everybody using your network isn’t updated on the new policies and procedures, then they may as well not even happen. Staff who have access to your network and data need to follow the same principles and guidelines as management.
Well, with the right services, you will be able to easily train your staff on how to keep your data safe, how to securely share files, which devices are permitted on the network, and more.
Moreover, trained staff will also be more equipped to prevent phishing scams and other cybersecurity threats that aren’t preventable with technology or monitoring alone. You may know how to spot a social engineering attack, but if one of your staff members doesn’t know, then your entire network is at risk.
Believe it or not, between 70% and 90% of data breaches are due to social engineering scams. No matter how secure your systems are, your staff has to be trained to prevent this from happening.
If you’re unfamiliar with the terms, phishing and social engineering are when cybercriminals use psychological manipulation to get what they want. While we often think of the “Nigerian prince” scams, they have become very sophisticated in recent years, which requires training to prevent.
4. Improve Productivity
By reducing threats, helping you upgrade your systems, training staff, and more, you will notice a significant boost in productivity. If you have one hundred staff members who each lose 15 minutes a day due to IT problems, that’s 125 hours you are unnecessarily paying for each week.
If your systems are currently slow or your staff complains that they frequently run into problems, then this will ultimately cause dramatic losses for the company. This is another issue exacerbated by the increase in remote work.
Not only that, but the right consultant will help you keep your systems up to date, which will show immediate results in productivity. Technology improves every day and it only makes regular processes faster and easier.
Also, IT consultants can point you in the right direction when it comes to finding new software or equipment that will help improve productivity, boost your network, and more.
5. Data Protection
We aren’t simply expanding on cybersecurity protection, as there are plenty of ways companies can lose their valuable data. If you’re unfamiliar with how, then we strongly suggest IT consulting services.
Safe data storage is your best protection against threats. Hard drives fail all the time and they are at risk of water damage and theft. However, safe cloud storage allows you to access and backup your data from anywhere, especially when taught how to properly use it.
Some data, especially unstructured data, is difficult to store. While around 90% of data is unstructured, the vast majority of data storage infrastructure is only equipped to protect structured data. Because of this, you will need an expert to help point you in the right direction for your company’s data needs.
Also, data recovery is a major part of IT planning, as there are no guarantees in the world of data storage. However, it isn’t just secure data storage an IT consultant can help you find.
6. Finding the Right Resources
When hiring IT consulting services, you will receive the proper updated resources to help your company implement and expand its IT strategy. Again, you will have this for good.
Conversely, this could include using virtual private networks (VPNs) when off-site, using the proper equipment, following the right procedures, utilizing the right software, and accessing IT support when needed. All of this can be shared with staff and implemented immediately.
7. Planning for the Worst
All you can do with your cybersecurity strategy is to protect against and plan for the worst. In the event your company loses its data, its system is infected by ransomware, or any other disaster, your company needs to be prepared.
We mentioned how devastating one breach is to small businesses, putting over half of them out of business. Believe it or not, it’s quickly becoming one of the leading causes for small business failures, accounting for around 10% of all failures.
Fortunately, with the right planning, your business can survive a disaster. However, a disaster recovery plan can’t just be copied and pasted from the internet. It needs to account for the intricacies, practices, infrastructure, and nature of your business.
For that reason, disaster recovery plans need to be crafted with the guidance of an IT professional, which is another major benefit of IT consulting.
8. A Road Map
Again, you might be looking into IT services for the first time and unfamiliar with what you need to do. If that’s the case, IT consulting is the way to go.
Without any commitment, an IT consultant will help you understand the best plan of action for your business moving forward. Whether you need IT services or not, you will have a road map for implementing your strategy. Starting with consulting is a commitment-free way to start protecting your company from the worst-case scenario.
Here’s the thing; there is a lot of variety in the IT field and it’s best to have highly specialized and knowledgeable services. Well, that’s exactly what you get from a consultant, as consultants tend to be experts in their fields.
Also, you’ll be getting exactly what you need. No more, no less.
Many small businesses only require minimal IT support and wind up getting tricked into paying expensive sums for the ongoing support that isn’t even helping.
With consulting services, you’ll be getting quality, expert advice on your systems as needed and nothing more.
However, it’s important to look into the qualifications before starting to ensure you’re getting the right services and information for your business. Let’s talk about that.
What to Look For in IT Consulting Services
Now that you know some of the main benefits of hiring an IT consultant, you still want to make sure you choose the right one. Here’s how to find the right consultant for the job.
When looking into their qualifications, education is important. However, in the IT field, ongoing education and consistent self-education are even more important than a degree.
Keep in mind, most IT specialists will hold at least a bachelor’s degree, but there is no education requirement for somebody to work in the field. Because of this, it’s important to determine if you have a consultant with the right educational background.
On the other hand, somebody with a computer science degree from 20 years ago may not have the same knowledge as someone newer to the field, as practices change rapidly in the digital age. It really depends on what you’re looking for.
For that reason, somebody with a cybersecurity certificate from a community college may have a better understanding than a veteran of the field. That’s where experience comes in!
What experience does the consultant have with IT work? Did they work as an IT professional for ten years with plenty of ongoing education and training?
Depending on the types of services your company needs, a consultant’s experience will play a large role. For example, someone who worked as a cybersecurity analyst for the last decade will be perfect for one small business, but another may require a more generalized approach.
If you’re looking for overall help with your networks and systems in the workplace, then a consultant’s experience should reflect that.
Either way, the right consultant can help you find the right security services for your business.
Remember, you don’t just want to look for years of experience. You want to know their areas of expertise as well as where they may be lacking.
Of course, online reviews and testimonials will go a long way. However, there’s no substitute for talking to other companies that worked with your consultant and asking them the questions that matter most to your business.
While online reviews are trustworthy in many cases, a one-star or five-star review without context is far from helpful. If you take the time to read through the actual reviews and ignore the ratings, then you may receive some valuable insights.
Now, this is especially helpful if you’re able to contact similar companies to your own, especially within your industry. If you’re still shopping around for consultant services, ask them for references!
If the consultant or consulting team has knowledge or experience within your industry, that’s a huge bonus. This means they will be able to offer advice based on industry standards that won’t interfere with your regular business operations. While this isn’t entirely necessary from a consultant, it certainly is helpful!
Finally, just like with references, you should ask the consultant plenty of questions.
If you’re unsure about a consultant or consulting service, you can always ask questions that you want to know.
If you want the best of the best, then ask questions like:
- What drew you to the industry?
- How long have you been doing this?
- What do they know about your company?
- What certifications or degrees do they have?
- How will technology impact my industry in X years?
- Do you offer staff training services?
The list goes on, including any pressing questions you may have to help with your decision. Once you’ve found the right consultant, it’s time to get started.
All Systems Go
Now that we’ve answered the question “what is IT consulting?”, you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your company. Protecting your data is only becoming more important as time passes, and it’s essentially a ticking timebomb to go without.
If you’re ready to take that next step and protect your data, then why wait? Stay up to date with our latest IT news and get started today!