Preferably the person providing the technology consulting will be what is called a “turnkey consultant” or “turnkey provider”. That means whatever is thrown at them they take care of, from virus removal to time clock installations. It’s sort of like a general contractor for a technology. They may handle 90% of whatever is needed themselves, but they will delegate tasks that they are not experts at to true specialized professionals. If a technology consultant turns down helping with fields of technology completely, or they try to handle everything from phone systems to servers it could be a sign that they are either too inexperienced to have proper relations with others in their field, or overreaching their experience for the money. Both are equally dangerous to the consumer.
A computer consultant needs to have insurance. Don’t just ask, ask for a copy of the policy. If they are going to be working around anything very expensive it might be a good idea to be listed as an additional insured on their insurance. Insurance is inexpensive for a technology professional, so not having it may mean that the consultant doesn’t take his work seriously. Also, quite a bit of technology delves into construction work, especially cabling. One wrong move with a drywall saw white mounting a display, and contractor insurance is the difference between an insurance claim, and bankruptcy.
If the technology consultant runs a cable make sure that they use a cable certifier and provide the results. Cable certifiers are not cheap, but certified cable can mean the difference between frustration or wonderful results.
Make sure that the technology professional guarantees their work. That may seem like a no-brainer, but most computer repair shops have no guarantee whatsoever. Some computer repair companies remove a virus from a PC and it shows back up three days later leaving the consumer in the same place with a lighter wallet.
Make sure the technology consultant knows were all of the important data is, and has a good solution to do on-site quick backup and restores, and remote backup for disaster recovery. Make sure that there off-site backup is through reputable data center such as Amazon S3, or rack space, and not at their office which could get hit by the same tornado as the office that they are supposed to be protecting.
Think twice about getting a computer consultant that is also a retailer. The old saying goes “When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail.” When a consultant is a retailer every problem looks like a chance to sell expensive hardware. Some retailers have really great technology consultants working for them, or they are excellent technology consultants themselves. The danger is always that there is a conflict of interest when someone recommends a product that they have a vested interest in getting rid of.
Make sure that the technology consultant provides an encrypted file with all of the logins and passwords. Nothing is worse than firing a technology consultant, only to find out that whoever is hired to replace them has to spend 20 to 40 hours reconfiguring everything in the office and resetting all of the passwords in the organization because the previous IT consultant is mad that they got fired.
Make sure that the invoices you get have a good breakdown on them. Understand that the technology consultant must charge a markup on hardware, software, and services or they will go out of business. However it does not mean that they should be charging $50 for something they purchased for a dollar. They probably won’t if they have to give a good breakdown on the invoice.
Consider doing work with a consultant that gives terms such as 15 or 30 days. It is much easier to get warranty work rectified by your computer consultant when you are not in default on your account, but have also still not paid your bill.
Make sure to ask for referrals. When talking to the referral ask them how they found the technology consultant (make sure it is not a family member) and ask them for an example of a problem and how it was overcome. Every technology consultant and consumer has problems at some point. The difference between a good technology consultant and bad consulting is how they handle those problems when they arise.