An IT Professional and and IT consultant are the same. Could you clarify? If you mean, however, hiring an independent IT consultant vs. hiring an IT professional who works for you as an employee, it really depends on your needs.

For smaller businesses--with maybe 50 or less employees--having a 3rd party consultant who you retain to come into your business on a regular basis and as needed can be good strategy. Rates could be from $50 - $150 per hour. As your business grows you'll find you need a full time person to handle day to day business tasks and help you grow for the future.

Even if you hire an outside consultant, make sure you have someone in-house who can work with them on the future of your business and to know what technology is available that could serve as a competitive advantage for you.

Ramon Ray,
Editor and Technology Evangelist,
Smallbiztechnology.com