Your business is growing – and now you have to do something about your IT, to formulate some type of plan, to put some sort of order to the chaos of your business’s chaotic IT system. And that usually means bringing in the experts.

So who do you look to? Do you hire an IT consultant? A managed IT service provider? Your tech-savvy nephew?

While all three can probably help you to streamline and enhance your IT operations, there are some key differences between them. In this article, we’ll walk you through the key differences between hiring an IT consultant and bringing on a managed IT service provider to help you make sense of your IT.

Let’s take a look.

What Do IT Consultants Do?

Scope of Work

IT consultants are professionals or firms that offer expert advice to businesses on how to best use IT to achieve their objectives.

Usually, they are limited in their scope – ad hoc experts that are brought in to analyze data or to provide a roadmap for your business. However, IT consultants rarely get their hands dirty – they simply tell you what the problems are or where you can make improvements.

The main services that an IT consultant provides are around planning and strategy:

  • Analyzing existing IT infrastructure and workflows.
  • Recommending solutions to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
  • Planning and road mapping for the future
  • Suggesting software and hardware solutions for issues
  • Working with vendors or other external organizations to secure deals
  • Assisting with specific projects, such as software upgrades or migrations.
  • Providing strategic guidance on new technologies and industry trends.

When to Choose an IT Consultant

When do you need an IT consultant? Well, when you have a specific project or problem you’re trying to fix. Consultants are extremely knowledgeable but they simply provide knowledge – they are not involved in the process of actually fixing the issues.

If you need someone who can give you some advice – and then leave you to your own devices – an IT consultant is a great choice. Anything more than that, and you should look at engaging with more sophisticated services.

Choose an IT consultant for your business if:

  • You need expert advice for a specific project.
  • You’re looking for an external audit of your IT systems.
  • You need help with a strategic technology plan.

Don’t choose an IT consultant for your business if:

  • You need comprehensive IT work
  • You need people to physically carry out any IT plans
  • You need day-to-day or consistent monitoring or maintenance

What Are Managed IT Services?

Scope of Work

Managed IT services are a framework for scalable, comprehensive outsourced IT. Under this model, a third-party provider manages all or part of a company’s IT needs, including many of the things that an IT consultant does.

The main services Managed IT providers provide to clients include (but certainly are not limited to):

  • Continuous monitoring and management of IT infrastructure
  • Proactive cybersecurity measures
  • Data backup and disaster recovery planning
  • End-user support and service desk functions

When to Opt for Managed IT Services

When do you need managed IT services?

Like searching out an IT consultant to help you grow, managed IT services are generally helpful when you begin to scale your business beyond your original size.

Managed service providers (MSPs) are like IT consultants on (digital) steroids. They can not only provide the analysis and planning that IT consultants are experts at, but they also have the resources to put the plan into action – and maintain it over time.

While MSPs are more expensive in the long term, it makes sense – they provide a far more comprehensive package of services to businesses than mere consultants. And considering they’re usually firms consisting of dozens of IT experts, they leverage the expertise and abilities of many IT professionals to get the job done.

Choose managed IT services for your business if:

Don’t choose managed IT services for your business if:

  • You need to fix one singular problem
  • You only need analysis or an expert opinion
  • You already have a robust internal IT team

IT Consultants vs. Managed IT: Scope of Work

IT Consultants Managed IT Services
Focus Strategic and project-based Operational and continuous
Engagement Model Short-term or project-based Long-term partnership
Services Advisory, planning, and project implementation Comprehensive IT management, support, and security


The Pros and Cons of IT Consultants vs. Managed IT Services

IT Consultants


  • Access to expert knowledge and specialized skills.
  • Ability to find unique IT issues and propose unique solutions.
  • Flexibility to engage on a project basis.
  • Objective advice and fresh perspectives on technology strategies.
  • Short-term relationships can limit consultant engagement with your company’s success.


  • Rarely able to deliver on the plans or analyses they provide. Consultants don’t get their hands dirty!
  • Costs can be high for short-term projects.
  • Less involvement in day-to-day operations – there may be a lack of care for your business.
  • Potential for gaps in service post-project completion.

Managed IT Services


  • Comprehensive IT support on-demand.
  • 24/7 monitoring and management of IT systems.
  • Predictable monthly costs.
  • Flexible and scalable pricing according to need and scope of service.
  • Access to a broad range of IT skills and services.
  • Leverage the expertise of a team of IT professionals.


  • Less control over specific IT tasks.
  • May include services you don’t need.
  • Long-term contracts can be inflexible.


Choosing between IT consultants and managed IT services depends on your company’s specific needs, budget, and long-term IT goals – we can’t tell you what you need for your business’s unique environment.

We may be biased, but in 2024, hiring a managed IT service provider is a no-brainer. Many MSPs offer more competitive pricing than many IT consultants, while also offering far more services at a higher level, with more frequent service, and with more interest in your long-term success – rather than IT consultants, who may just want to finish your job and collect their pay.

Ultimately, you have to analyze your business and identify your needs and goals in order to make the right choice for you. But considering how cheap quality managed IT services are in 2024, there’s no question that signing on with an MSP is a good fit for most businesses.