Managed Service Provider vs. IT Consulting: Which One Is For You?

Managed Service Provider vs. IT Consulting: Which One Is For You?

Managed Service Provider Vs. It Consulting: Which One Is For You?

There are plenty of reasons for outsourcing a portion of your business’ IT workload. Perhaps:

  • your business is a small to medium-sized business (SMB) with growing IT demands, or
  • you plan to implement a new software infrastructure, or
  • there’s a big IT project you need to get under control, or
  • your in-house IT staff is simply overwhelmed with work, requiring outside assistance.

Whatever the reason, outsourcing some or all your IT work to a third party is a common solution, saving businesses time, money, effort, and headaches. But which type of tech assistance do you need: IT consultant or managed IT services? What’s the difference, anyway?

Benefits of IT consulting and managed IT services

IT consulting and managed IT services have much in common. Both provide IT help from highly trained experts while keeping costs low for the businesses they serve.

But when it comes to choosing between an IT consultant and a managed service provider (MSP), you should ask yourself some questions about the specific deliverables you expect from a third-party IT service provider. Some questions to ask when determining which type of service you need, IT consulting or managed IT services, may include the following:

  • How much assistance do I really need?
  • What type of tasks do I need help with?
  • What type of relationship do I need from my third-party IT help?
  • How much physical infrastructure do I need from my third-party IT service provider?
  • Is there a specific area of IT that I need help with?

Let’s review each of these questions to offer insight into when it might be good to engage an IT consultant (or team of consultants) and when it might be better to bring in an MSP.

How much IT help do you really need?

When asking this question, we’re referring to how much hands-on work you’re going to need from your third-party IT service provider. MSPs will often take control of major IT business operations, like monitoring and management of your network or handling data protection and backup. IT consultants are less hands-on in the sense that they will more often provide advice or insight into how to tackle problems, rather than physically bringing in a team to do the work.

What type of tasks do I need help with?

When considering whether to hire an IT consultant or MSP, you should ask yourself whether you need consistent, day-to-day assistance with your IT network and infrastructure, or if you just need help with a project, such as implementing new software. If it’s the former, an MSP is a longer-term solution, taking on a variety of operational duties. If it’s the latter, an IT consultant provides insight to guide projects to completion.

MSPs can also manage specific projects if these are within the scope of the business agreement (often referred to as the service level agreement or SLA), but businesses will often bring in IT consultants for shorter-term IT projects because of their unique expertise in a specific task or project.

A relationship or SLA with an MSP typically includes multiple IT tasks, for example, systems administration, patch management, or security audits. MSPs even take on daily operational IT tasks. IT consultants are more likely to be engaged for a specific project or task.

What type of relationship do I need from my third-party IT service provider?

MSPs tend to offer month-to-month or longer-term SLAs in which they work with the business to keep the IT running smoothly and reach new heights within their IT department. These areas of service can include 24/7 support and ongoing management of operational tasks. This long-term working commitment leads to a close business relationship. IT consultants can also develop a close relationship with a company as they partner to work on a big project that goes on for multiple months, but they’re less likely to be as heavily involved with day-to-day operations as an MSP’s team would.

How much physical infrastructure do I need from my third-party IT service provider?

It is more common for an MSP to host a client on their own remote server or bring other physical infrastructure to the client relationship. If you need IT help that includes providing infrastructure, software, or hardware of any kind in addition to management and monitoring, you’re looking for an MSP over an IT consultant. If you have all your infrastructure in place, but need help implementing or using your products, an IT consultant might be a better option.

Is there a specific area of IT that I need help with?

IT consultants often assist businesses who are looking for help on a project in a specific area of IT in which the consultant is well-versed. MSPs also advertise their different areas of expertise, but often will have a broader list of what they offer clients.

A few other considerations

Some other considerations include costs. While both can be cost-effective when compared to hiring and training a full-time IT employee,  IT consultants are often paid by the hour or by the project, while MSPs will be paid per month or as arranged per the SLA.

Another difference (depending on the IT consultant and the MSP you hire) between the two is service customization. An IT consultant might have more wiggle room in what they are able to offer to fit each businesses’ needs, while an MSP will offer packages that often offer services a business might not need. Also, every package, level of service, and costs differ, depending on the MSP.

Call us

Deciding what you need and who can best provide it is always a difficult task. Our professionals at Royal Network IT Solutions, Inc. have over 50 years of experience providing technical support to businesses in the Tustin and Eastvale areas of California. As technology has evolved and challenged a company’s need for technology support, we have expanded our ability to provide a range of services to our clients.

Call or email us today for a consultation at (949) 236-7700 or

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