We all want to minimize costs – both planned and unexpected – but not at the expense of keeping systems and essential equipment running smoothly. Small businesses without an IT department often wait until something breaks to call in an expert for help, or simply rely on the most techy person in the office to take care of the computers in addition to his regular duties.
However, there are practical alternatives that can save a ton of headaches and not break the pocketbook. You can use a remote online/phone support service like Plumchoice or Support.com and pay by the service, hire a local IT consultant and pay him/her by the hour to come onsite just as needed, and you can contract with local IT outsourcing firm that can give a combination of online and onsite support and preventive maintenance for a fixed monthly fee.
Support.com recently expanded their by-the-service fee structure to include a tech support subscription option that covers both maintenance and support (remotely). Their small office/home office packages start at $50/month and include diagnosing and removing viruses, spyware, and other malware, tuning and optimizing your computers for peak performance, setup, configuration and troubleshooting of network and peripherals like printers and cameras, and diagnosing issues and errors with software applications.
So how do you decide whether a service like this is enough for your needs? The size of your company and the number of computers, printers, servers, and the size of your network are a good place to start. If you’re a solo professional or a very small office, it could be all you need for most support issues. The larger and more complex your system is, the more likely you will need the ongoing support of someone who can handle your big picture support and planning.
Chris Zawacki, Partner at IT outsourcing provider Greenhouse IT, suggests starting by asking yourself whether you have adequate security protection and data backup planning in place. “You should also run through ‘worst-case’ scenarios, as in, ‘what if my PC were to crash today?’ What position would that leave you in? What would be your plan to get back up and running? In asking yourself a series of questions such as these, you’ll be better prepared for these types of instances, which are inevitable. They will occur at some point in time, with some degree of severity. As you put your plan in place, including finding appropriate technology consultants, you can start evaluating your options by identifying what investment the various types of consultants make in you and your business.
“Services like Support.com will perform well when you have issues such as loss of connectivity to the internet or the integration of peripheral devices such as digital cameras. However, when problems become more complex or require physical intervention (think of hardware failures), a service like this will typically stop short. While there can be great value in the right circumstances, if your needs aren’t basic and low maintenance, it likely won’t work.
“Whereas Support.com and other similar services make minimal investment in understanding your business and IT setup, there are alternatives if you have a growing entity or a network with a central storage device (server, etc). At that point, you should be looking for more in-depth knowledge of your systems, architectural planning so you stay ahead of the curve, and continuity and dedicated of service (proactive and preventative service). Your best bet at that stage is to contact a local consultant or consulting firm to determine if the services and pricing meet your needs and budget.”
Laura Leites, Assistant Editor, Smallbiztechnology.com