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A freelance information technology (IT) consultant provides third-party advice and support to help manage a company's computer equipment, periphery devices and software. They also help manage the computer network and any communications devices or systems that interface with the computers or network. Typically, a freelance IT consultant provides either targeted assistance with a specific problem or strategic assistance that involves planning and capacity building. In some instances, this type of consultant is hired to support an existing IT staff, while in other instances, he is hired as a substitute for permanent staff.
With the advances in technology that have changed the business world since the turn of the century and the integration of the Internet into all aspects of ordinary life, IT has become the backbone of business operations for companies large and small. Every company is expected to have access to the Internet and to maintain an Internet presence that offers real-time interactions with customers. More importantly, back office operations in many businesses have been computerized and networked in such a way that if the network goes down or the computers stop working, operations grind to a halt. Many businesses rely on IT that works reliably and at peak capacity for phone systems, cash registers, and other key operating factors.
Technology has been changing so quickly in the 21st century that it can be difficult for a company to maintain a suitable level of IT expertise on staff. The staff that a company does employ is often inundated with maintenance tasks. They may not have the time to keep up with cutting edge IT issues, such as the applicability of new technological advances, systems security and data privacy concerns. Further, some companies cannot afford to hire permanent IT staff but still must compete in a market that requires them to properly deploy technological resources.
In many instances, a freelance IT consultant solves the need for expert help with technology issues. For companies that do not have full-time staff, a consultant can be a cost effective way to obtain the help needed, without incurring additional employment expenses. A freelance IT consultant can advise a company on computer purchases, help set up a computer network and troubleshoot the network when needed. He can be called in to upgrade equipment and software, manage the security of servers and databases, and provide expert assistance transitioning to new technologies.
Larger businesses with dedicated IT personnel will often hire a freelance IT consultant to help with strategic planning. Typically, the consultant hired will have specific industry expertise that brings a level of subject knowledge to the table that the company does not have in-house. In this case, the consultant will complete an audit of the company's current IT deployment, make suggestions for improvement, help design a plan to systematically upgrade systems while building capacity, and help implement the approved strategy, if needed.