The network consulting industry is expected to grow at a rate of 7% through 2021. That translates into an extra $4.35 billion each year.
Yet no two industry experts agree on the definition of “network consulting.” Usually, network consulting is explained by listing functions that also apply to in-house network engineers and system administrators. But this ignores the full range of services available.
Articles usually restrict their list of functions to four or five tasks or abilities. But it would be a waste to hire network consultants without making full use of them.
There is no reason for your consultants to ever be out of work. If they are, then here are some tasks they should be able to do…
1. Backup and Disaster Recovery(BDM) – A network consultant BDM plan should take into account business continuity so that downtime is reduced down from days to minutes.
2. Design IT Systems and Networks – This is what most people think of when they hear “network consulting service.” It also overlaps heavily with the role of a “network engineer.” Sometimes the term “network architecture” is also applied.
3. Ensure Network Functionality – This involves evaluating network systems for effectiveness, performing high-level root cause analysis for service interruptions, and forming preventative measures.
4. Create cost-benefit analysis – Some network gurus like to make recommendations based on the fastest, most expensive technology. A good network consulting firm provides recommendations based on short and long-term profitability.
5. Penetration Testing – Network consultants can’t stop service interruptions if they don’t know the vulnerabilities in your system. A penetration test will reveal how cyberattacks might happen. Otherwise, the service does nothing but damage control.
6. On-Site Installation – Don’t be fooled by contractors who say that the title “consultant” makes them too good to do manual labor. Network consultants should be able to install and maintain LAN/WAN hardware, switches, hubs, bridges, routers, and other forms of equipment.
7. Train Users in IT Systems – Once the network consulting firm has finished, there need to be people left who can pick up that workflow. Part of the job is making sure that employees know how to use whatever technology was installed.
8. Maintain Records for Account Managers – Network consulting doesn’t only occur on a company-wide scale. Consultants should be able to work within departments to optimize their workflow.
9. Manage Organizational Alerts – This is another lesser-known function of network consulting firms. Corporate alerts through SMS can be a vital part of your company’s security strategy.
10. Provide Strategic Advice on How to Use Technology – A network consultant’s job is not done after recommending a technology and training employees. The consultant should explain how that technology can be used to gain an advantage over the competition.
11. Work with Product Development – Network consultants can become a vital asset to your development team. They bring a fresh perspective to the table without having to move personnel around.
12. Produce Network Assessment Reports – Don’t let network consultants write up a brief and hand it off to a network engineer. It is their job to create readable, understandable reports for executives.
13. Routine Maintenance – If your systems administrator is too busy handling a crisis, then your network consultant should be ready to take over everyday duties.
14. Work with Vendors and Clients – Network consultants shouldn’t hide behind a computer all day. They should be in front of clients and vendors representing your company.
15. Be the Security – Good network consulting firms provide a full-service shield against current and future cyberattacks. It isn’t enough for the consultant to install some anti-virus software with automatic updates. It isn’t enough to run a few penetration tests. Only hire network consultants who can provide the full range of internet security.
These fifteen functions were taken from online job boards for “network consultant.” The roles involved with “network consulting” have grown too fast for some companies. Some of the hardest working network consulting firms can’t handle 21st-century cybersecurity infrastructure.
Because they assumed it wasn’t part of a network consultant’s job.
The key is to look for firms that provide network consulting alongside a broad range of services. They must be able to handle on-site IT support, cloud computing solutions, network security, and disaster recovery. For example, Fortress Computer Pros (http://www.fortresscomputerpros.com) in San Diego offers a network consulting service that can be bundled with all fifteen functions. Any network consulting service that offers any less is not worth your time.