Consulting vs. Contracting…. A primer….

Ok, I can say it in a sentence.

A contractor is someone you hire to do a job, a consultant is someone you hire to fix a problem.

I’ve done both, but in the last 8 years I’ve been primarily a “Consultant.”  My job is to fix whatever perceived problem.

Some companies might have a backup problem.  You streamline their process and reduce redundancy, and poof, backup problem solved.

Some companies might have a replication problem.  You analyze their environment then recommend and implement changes.

Some companies have a data management problem.  You simplify storage, identify Tiers, move storage to where it best suits the orginization.  (IE Static Image data doesn’t belong on Tier-1 Symmetrix)

Some companies have a culture problem.

Here I got nothing.

But when your culture problem interferes with the consulting that you are asking me to do, I bristle.

When your culture problem causes me to wait 8 months of a 1 year contract before I’m given the tools to do my job, I boil.

When your culture problem is making me feel like I should take up golf.  I start looking at for something better.  (I hate golf)

Maybe it’s just that I *LOVE* what I do.

I do.  I love what I do.  I get paid to do what I love.  Which is why I can’t stand seeing people who are either A> There to collect a paycheck and maybe if they’re lucky a pension. or B> try and create their little empire so they can brag to colleagues about how much money they have to spend this year on nothing.

It boggles the mind.


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  1. Hi Jesse,

    Well put.

    How do you normally bill? Im not after rates, more about when you bill by proect, by day/hour and if you bill differently for different types of work…..?

    Whether you find most clients in the states prefer daily rate or project with SoW and overall project cost?


    1. Well – residencies are always fixed rate, monthly billing.

      Smaller projects are either fixed rate for an SOW – IE

      1. Install VMWare & P2V 3 servers
      2. Migrate from McData 8 port to Cisco 24 port switch.

      Would be a single charge, no matter how long it takes. When things go wrong it’s not as good a deal, but customers like knowing what they’re going to spend up front.

      I only get into the variable billings when the requirements are vague, keeps me from getting suckered in..

      IE. –

      “I need to P2V a *FEW* hosts.” – Fixed rate per host.

      or the worst (and best):

      “I just have a few questions.” – Hourly rate with a minimum, 1 hour if it’s phone/remote or 5 hours if it’s on-site.

      “I just have a few questions” can be the most profitable. 😉

    • Will on December 15, 2009 at 12:37 am
    • Reply

    I wondered if you are seeing a overall drop in the rates your are able to get? I have about 12 years in the storage industry and about 20 years consulting, and while I don’t believe we will ever see 1999/2000 rates anytime soon it seems that Storage Vendors and direct clients are actively trying to pigeon hole me into something akin a MSCE or Operations Residency when asking me to solve complex architectural problems or develop technology road maps.

    1. I’m finding more recruiters forced by their customers into dropping depth-charge offers, some close to half what I’m used to receiving. I luckily can still politely decline and move on, though if it came down to it it would be a matter of “some income is better than none”.

      What amazes me most was recently, a large financial institution came in looking for a very VERY senior level position but when pushed on the rate they told me it was about what I was making 10 years ago when I was just entering the SAN world from the old days of SCSI.

      When I told the guy what my usual rate is he confided in me that he’d been getting rejected a *LOT* for the same reason.

      Keep in mind guys, it’s not the recruiter’s fault, he’s told by the end-customer what to offer. It’s not his fault they’re not fully engaged with the reality of the situation.

      That reality is as follows: “If you pay peanuts you get monkeys.”

    • Ryan on December 16, 2009 at 10:58 am
    • Reply


    Have you ever done any investigation into the cost / benefit of paying for maintenance on a SAN as drives fail rather than as a service contract?


    1. Drives aren’t the worry. You can ebay refurbished drives cheap and 95% of the time they work perfectly. (out of 45 drives in my Clariion, 30 of them are ebay drives.)

      The problem is when the storage processors (SPs) and DAE line-cards fail. *THOSE* you can have some trouble coming up with replacements of…

      One place I’ve been has three CX700’s they’re getting ready to retire because it’s cheaper to merge the storage into the new CX4 that’s on the floor than to continue to pay maintenance.

      Now if it were *ME*, I’d keep one of the CX700’s online, fold the second one’s drives into it, and keep the two SP pairs and one rack of drives for spare parts… Doing that they could EASILY get another couple of years out of the storage without spending a dime on it.

      It would make a *GREAT* Disk_Storage_Unit in Veritas and would allow them to get the expensive CX3-80 storage off the media server.

      But that’s just me, I’m thirfty that way. 🙂

        • Ryan on January 15, 2010 at 10:22 am
        • Reply

        The problem that I’m facing is spending 200K (or so) per year is a lot of money for drives or controllers that don’t fail (touch wood). For that sort of money, you can afford to buy the failed parts.

        Thanks for the reply. I enjoy reading your thoughts.

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