Five Steps to Self-Help IT Support in the Home Office

Jeff Zbar,
Thumbnail image for nirvana2.JPGIf you leave the Corporate Tower to work from home or launch your own business, it’s likely that you’ll jettison the IT and Purchasing departments, too. But you won’t lose your need for smart IT support and savvy decision making.
If you don’t own them already, you’ll have to buy computers, routers and printers. You’ll need broadband Internet and wireless phone service. In short, you’ll want all the trim and accoutrements that were handed to you back in Corporate America.
Only now, the money for these buys is your own. You’re threatened by malware (viruses, Trojans and worms) that IT dutifully protected you from back in the corporate hive. And the chances of hardware and software breakdowns – and the need for upgrades – are pervasive.
How can you make smart IT purchases when you’re no geek – and fly solo with no tech support in sight? Consider your needs – and work style. Buy smart. And have IT on call…
1. Portability vs. Immobility. If you plan to work from the road, will you be better served by a laptop or desktop computer? If you go with a laptop, will you want a docking station and monitor – a plum 21-inch doozie, at that? Also think about whether you want wireless access in the home, and a wireless broadband service for when you’re on the road (or you could sniff out free wi-fi in public – it tends to be a pretty pervasive perk designed to lure customers these days.
Add to that an online data back-up and access service – like Carbonite, Mozy and iBackup – and you can work from any coffee shop, airport lounge or remote destination, and never worry about synching data back to your PC again.

2. Free vs. Fee? Gmail,, Open, Picasa, Skype. Countless applications are available free online (check out PCWorld’s May 2009 “Best Free Stuff” issue to a laundry list of gimme goodies). Or you can pay for similar solutions (MS Office, a custom-designed Website, Photoshop and long-distance phone service). Your money. Your call, so to speak.
3. Ergonomics. A wireless or corded headset, an ergonomic chair, a wrist rest for the mouse and keyboard (maybe an ergonomic keyboard) can do wonders to keep the orthopedist or chiropractor away. And when you’re paying for your own health insurance coverage and co-pays, who needs those costs beating down the bottom line?
4. Become Your Own Self-Help Consultant. When you had IT on call in the corporate office, you might not have even realized their call went against someone’s balance sheet. Have an issue? Make a call. Issue fixed. When you work alone from home (assuming you’re not an IT guru), every call to IT costs real money. Learn to troubleshoot your own problems. See if you can duplicate the issue. Take notes about what went wrong. Google a solution. Some you might be able to remedy on your own. For others…
5. Have IT On Call. Computers crash. Viruses and worms get through anti-virus protections. Feeling vulnerable? Hire George. By day, my “George” (that’s his real name) is a super-savvy IT director for a 300-person organization. By night (and weekend), he’s an IT-for-hire consultant who’s saved my sorry butt more times than I care to recall. Geek Squad, PlumChoice, GeeksOnTime are all well and good. But getting your own George delivers a one-on-one relationship that will walk you to the front of the queue – up close and personal in the face of maddening computer woes. George might even be able to fix your computer without an actual in-person service call using services like Log Me In or Go To Assist. In a word, “Priceless.”
Going solo doesn’t mean going bare. You’ll need tech – and tech support. Done wisely, you can run a smart shop with strong IT support – even if IT’s back in the corporate office.

Jeff Zbar is – in no particular order – a newspaper and online columnist; a blogger, essayist and chronicler on entrepreneurship, telework and home officing; an author (four home office books to date); married father of three grade school kids; and garage band drummer/singer. In 1989 at the age of 24, he ditched a day job and began working from his home office – and continues so to this day. Learn more at