Remote Tech Support Resources
An excellent way to keep tech support costs low is to sign up for remote support. This allows a support technician located anywhere in the world to log into your system to fix any issues without having to come on site. There are a variety of tools available for this purpose.
"We use LogMeIn Rescue for on-demand remote support," said Shanabrough.
In addition, you can find plenty of companies that offer support services wholly or mostly over the Web. Computer Systems and Methods is one such provider.
Local IT Support Resources
Some companies prefer to have a local IT person who they know and trust. In cases where you have someone who can expertly deal with your IT problems, this is often the best option. He or she becomes involved in the operations of the firm and takes an active interest.
Pore recommended an easy place to start looking for such a person—at the very resellers you may have bought your computer equipment from in the first place. As well as being local, they already know something about your operations, and they are often staffed with knowledgeable people.
"Resellers often provide direct product support as a value-add and will help proactively maintain support contracts," said Pore. "Alternatively, you can use managed service providers (MSPs) to outsource IT support, as well as helping with technology decisions."
When it comes to who to trust as your MSP, Kelly advised SMBs to use search terms for their specific needs and the programs they may already use. Once they have a few candidates, obtain recommendations from the IT vendors whose products they use, as well as from existing clients. Preferably, you look for references at firms similar to yours.
National IT Support Resources
Some of these MSPs, such as Magtype/CR, are local. There are similar companies that serve specific markets around the country. Dataprise has a territory that extends throughout New York, Philadelphia, DC and Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey.
Pope considers the nationals the best option, particularly for companies that are based in more than one location.
"These organizations can provide every need for an small business to thrive with optional tiers of support per product," he said.
As well as IT vendors such as Dell, Apple, Cisco, VMware, HP and Lenovo that support their own products, there are also many national MSPs from which to choose. Don’t skip your due diligence; you can research reputable providers on sites like MSP Alliance and MSP Mentor.
According to MSP Mentor, MSP's charge an average of $52 per desktop and $216 per server, or flat fees ranging from $100 to $150 per user for monthly support and maintenance. For on-call support (when something breaks and needs fixing), costs average about $120 per hour.
Geek Squad, one of the biggest support networks—and part of the Best Buy store empire—offers 24/7 support for up to three devices (no matter where you purchased them). This includes unlimited virus removals, tune-ups and troubleshooting as well as Internet security software installed and device setups starting at $9.99 per month, plus $99.99 initial setup.
Alternatively, annual plans cost $199.99 (1 year); $279 (2 years) and $349.99 (3 years). Geek Squad also has access to more than 60,000 online training videos on most IT subjects, which is often included as part of such packages.
Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.
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