In many ways, navigating the world of information technology (IT) has never
been easier. Websites that once required extensive programming and development can
now be created within hours using WordPress and other technologies. You can pick up a
Wi-Fi router and be online from anywhere in your facility the same day. The proliferation
of hardware—PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile devices—allows you to make purchases
based on price as well as capability.
Not all aspects of IT are so easily mastered, however. Things like internal
networks, servers and Internet support require a certain level of expertise. Then there’s
the matter of system maintenance and troubleshooting problems when they arise.
That’s why many small businesses opt to outsource some or all of their IT
requirements to qualified consultants. They are typically entrepreneurs themselves who
apply their knowledge of technology systems to meet the needs of other small enterprises.
Because they’re specialists who stay abreast of emerging trends in IT, they can provide
expert advice on what’s needed to keep your technology investment in step with your
small business needs.
And most important, they can respond immediately to emergency problems and
minimize downtime—something no small business can afford in the digital age.
Selecting a qualified IT consultant does require some upfront work on your part.
You must first determine what your IT needs are, and which ones you want to outsource.
Though most consultants offer a wide range of services, it may be more practical to keep
some functions in-house.
An Internet search will likely turn up several consultants in your area, but you can
also ask your small business colleagues for referrals. Consider several candidates before
making a selection. Look for someone who has demonstrated expertise in key areas, and
has done work for businesses similar to yours.
Interview the candidates as you would prospective employees. After all, you’ll be
working closely with them, so you’ll want to have a good comfort level as well as
confidence in their abilities. A key consideration is their ability to convey technical
jargon in plain terms, both to you and to any employees they may work with.
And be sure to request and check references. Ask about the consultant’s
responsiveness to problems, as well as his/her initiative in assessing your needs. Whoever
you choose will be responsible for a critical component of your small business
infrastructure, and you want to be sure it will be well taken care of.
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