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IT Support - Luxury Necessity?

Your computers need to be running at their best to help keep your business operating smoothly and efficiently. No matter what type of computer system or network you have in place, unless you have an in-house IT department to repair your hardware and softw

Some business owners mistakenly think that when they buy a few computers, or set up a networking system, they automatically get free technical support and service. But those technical support packages will range from “limited support” to “pay-as-you-go support.” The best advice is to read the fine print (and it will be fine print). Some computer systems come with a 30- or 90-day limited-warranty and tech support package. Again, when in doubt, find out what's included before you make your purchase.

Usually, the less expensive the computer system, the less likely you will get any type of extended warranty or service support. That’s when it makes sense to buy a service contract. Even if you're on a tight budget, you need to weigh the cost of the service contract against the cost of replacing the computer if something goes wrong. For example, a support agreement with Affinity IT Services costs as little as 50p day for a typical PC.

No doubt some of your employees have become well-versed in fixing a myriad of computer problems. And while it's good to have knowledgeable employees who can step forward and save the day, there will come a time when they will be sitting there, scratching their heads, wondering what to do next.

Technical support and service contracts will vary from vendor to vendor. Before you start shopping for a service contract, you'll need to determine what kind of support you need. Do you need 24/7 response and uptime? On-site repair? Or can you get by with bringing your computers to a local service centre when they go down? Your needs will determine which plan you select — and how much you'll have to pay.

If you decide not to purchase a service contract, you will always have the option of paying for your technical support only when you need it. But time is money, and many help lines charge by the minute. To save time (and money), write down your problem, and make sure you can explain it quickly and succinctly.

Also make sure you have the following things handy: serial numbers, names of the software programs, and the date they were purchased. Avoid calling during peak hours, because you may not get the same quality of service you'd get when calling during slower times of the day. Many companies offer free online tech support, so before you let your fingers do the walking, surf over to their site and see if you can report your problem that way. It may save you time and money — and every business owner knows the importance of those two commodities.

This article was first published : 12.6.2008