Tech Support For The Technologically Challenged — Getting The Help You Need At The Price You Can Afford

Computer problems are never any fun.  But if you are a sole proprietor of a company, or even the member of a small company that does not have the budget for in house tech support, you can be in real trouble if your computer breaks down.  In the past, small businesses had to rely mainly on phone support from their hardware or software vendor (while each company blames the other for the problem) and their very limited warranty, or on the help of friends or their 13-year-old techno geek cousin to solve their PC problems.

System integrators, and even general computer consulting companies are eager to make house calls for their Fortune 500 type clients, but if you want their service you often have to schlep the machine to their office yourself.  Until recently, that is.  Between the boom in home-based work and the drive-down of PC prices it seems that everyone has a computer these days.  This has allowed for the success of more computer consulting businesses that provide IT support, including house calls, to small companies and independent contractors.  The hourly rates for these types of services range from about $70 to $130 dollars an hour in most areas, flat rate fees for one-shot deals such as installing a hard drive (about 40$), and subscription IT services that run upwards of 100$ per month per person.

Not a bad deal when you consider what the prices used to be, even a few years ago.

While many larger companies still do not provide house-call services, these smaller start-ups do.  And they are in the unique position to understand the demands of a small business.  Most small business owners work 24/7 therefore need tech support that matches those hours, and more and more computer consulting companies can meet that need.

But when investigating a smaller support company there are important questions for you to ask.  They include:

  • Do you make house calls?
  • Do you guarantee that you’ll arrive within a certain window of time?
  • If I have to bring my machine to you will you repair it yourself or do you send it elsewhere?
  • How long will it take?
  • Do you guarantee a rapid return?
  • Are you available in an emergency in person or by phone?
  • How do you charge (subscription, flat rate, per-hour, etc.)?
  • If you don’t solve my problem, will you still charge me for visit?
  • Are you staffers certified?  If so, what software programs are they certified in?
  • Do you offer one-on-one training?  If so, which applications do you offer training in?

And if you are totally broke (and don’t most computer problems coincide with cash-flow problems?) you may be able to get tech support from other uses on an internet newsgroup that is topic related to the software or hardware you are using.  For example, if you are a Macintosh user, run a search for Macintosh-related internet newsgroups, join, and pose your question.  Chances are there is someone out there that can help….maybe even in jargon free plain English (well, that might be asking too much!)

Also, when purchasing equipment in the future, consider buying from stores or mail-order houses that offer free support (even if only for a limited time).  A friend of mine who does tech support for a living was the one who taught me that your system is only as good as the IT desk that supports it.  One of the companies best known for its tech support is Compaq, even their refurbished models have strong support services backing it up.  But with the strong market, there are many companies that offer quality support, when buying new equipment add that to your list of questions to ask.