When you run a small business and don't have your own in-house "techie," finding good tech support can be frustrating. Just locating a phone number is a challenge. Tech companies actively discourage support calls (costly to them). And if your problem involves multiple software, hardware or service brands, the support person you get on the phone may point a finger elsewhere. Many manufacturers now charge for support. Another way to keep your tech in tune is via subscription tech support centers that cater to small business and home office. They aim to fix problems and don't care who makes the hardware or software. You can also hook up with an independent consultant to fix problems "as-needed" or call one of the tech support franchises that are flourishing. Tech support services can:
- Provide 24/7 tech support by phone, live chat or e-mail for PCs, Macs and peripherals of all kinds, plus onsite repair.
- Help you set up systems, solve computer or software problems quickly, or give an employee tips on using business software.
- Deliver automated diagnostic and system maintenance tools, business software support and more.
- Take over operation of your computer remotely to help diagnose a problem and facilitate repairs.
- Answer your questions on computer-related issues, from apps to hardware-software conflicts.
- Help with networks, routers, servers, Web design, business applications, anti-virus, wireless networks and intranets.
Locate a qualified IT technician quicklyYou can find local tech pros by category or location easily online.
Sign up for quick and easy subscription support serviceFor a flat fee, your business can get all the tech support it needs.
Call in the Geek SquadThey are focused solely on computer and network support, with flat rate pricing for carry-in, on-site or emergency service for everything from setups to upgrades.
Get instant technology reliefOne of the newest online computer support entries promises "instant technology relief" and claims to have patented remote access software that's been proven and deployed to millions of PCs at companies such as ADP, Bank of America, BellSouth and others.
Hire your own IT consultantServices that help small businesses locate IT support have blossomed.
See if Bill Gates can helpMicrosoft has a traveling tech support road show for small business.
Offer online tech training to employees (and yourself)The e-learning field is electric with good tutorials you can order or view online. Some basic help is available free, though you can expect to pay $20 to $100 or more for the best training courses.
- Make your outside tech person an extension of your business - someone you want to develop a long-term relationship with.
- Look for a tech consultant who does this full-time for you and other clients - not someone with another job who dabbles in computers on the side.
- Before hiring, develop a detailed list of your needs, the desired results and how you want the person to work (part-time, on-call, project basis, etc.). Talk to the consultant in person. Look for someone who understands your business and can explain what he or she plans to do in plain English.
- Experience with businesses of your size is vital. Someone who works mainly with mid-sized firms may not be familiar with the best solutions for you.
- Consider whether you need an IT "generalist" - someone familiar with all types of tech from fax machines to DSL and office software applications - or a specialist in an area of key need such as e-commerce or Web sites.
- Designate someone internally to be your point person on tech matters. This individual can resolve many of the simple issues without calling in the consultant.