Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Consulting with a Computer Expert

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Consulting with a Computer Expert

Article excerpt



Say you need to upgrade a half dozen PCs in your office. Or you would like to install a network connecting a new computer in your home to an existing one to share its cable modem and printer.

You can do it yourself, listening to vendors who want to sell their products or services, reading whatever you can find on the subject, and taking advice from those who have undertaken similar projects. Or you can ease your burden by hiring a computer consultant.

"Good computer consultants spend years acquiring knowledge in their areas," says Al Cole, president of the Independent Computer Consultants Association (ICCA) and a consultant from Windham, N.H. "When you hire a consultant, you get use of this knowledge. You don't have to spend time following the trends and tracking the state of the technology."

Computer consultants typically specialize in one or more areas. Areas of specialization include specific categories of hardware and software, specific types of clients such as medical or legal offices, general office automation, networking and Web services. Most consultants target their services to businesses, but some work with home users.

How do you know if you need a consultant? Ask yourself these questions, says Leigh Weber, a computer consultant in Maple Glen, Pa., who helps clients reduce paperwork. Are you confused by all the technology choices out there? Do you lack the in-house expertise to install, learn, or troubleshoot computer products or services? Have you run into a wall in undertaking a project yourself?

The best way to find a computer consultant is through referrals. Alternatively, at the Web site of the ICCA, , you can search for consultants by geographic area and area of expertise.

You need to be careful in choosing a consultant, say Cole and Weber. Ideally, you should work with someone who has experience with your type of problem and who has no financial interest in individual products or services.

This doesn't mean you should never go with someone who's getting up to speed. You can in fact save money by helping a consultant gain experience with a new area. But the consultant should disclose this up front so you know what you're getting into. The consultant should also disclose if he feels someone else may be better suited for your particular project than him.

Some consultants also act as resellers on behalf of computer manufacturers, getting a commission for selling the company's products or services. …

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