How to get Affordable Tech Support for Small Businesses/Freelancers

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A small business has little or no capital to spare, which translates into an ongoing struggle of meeting ends by cutting down as many costs as possible. Sometimes you end up handling accounts, sales, customer service, and operations all by yourself; and sometimes you even do the actual job if your employees are busy with another project and there's a deadline you can't skip. In the midst of this struggle, imagine that one of your computers breaks down.

A small business has little or no capital to spare, which translates into an ongoing struggle of meeting ends by cutting down as many costs as possible. Sometimes you end up handling accounts, sales, customer service, and operations all by yourself; and sometimes you even do the actual job if your employees are busy with another project and there’s a deadline you can’t skip. In the midst of this struggle, imagine that one of your computers breaks down.

Even if the breakdown is a minor one, it could be quite big in terms of the inconvenience it causes you. Imagine what it would be like if something went horribly wrong and you’re in a state where you’d rather not spend a few hundred dollars just trying to fix the damn computer!

In order to mitigate such situations, it’s very important for you to have some measures in place, which you can follow to try and fix things or at least keep the ship afloat until technical help arrives.

For the sake of convenience, let’s categorize these measures into two different sections: mitigation, and prevention.

Mitigation

Keep a list of support forums handy

You should also try and spend a few minutes browsing these forums every day and perhaps even participating in relevant discussions. Even if you don’t have enough knowledge to participate, you’d be wise to have an account and keep abreast of the topics that are in discussion. I know the importance of this first hand. There have been so many times where the good people at Launchpad.net have provided me with answers, that I almost feel guilty about not having to pay for it. It is, in fact, my first place of contact in case there’s anything with my Ubuntu box that’s troubling me.

In this list, you could also include websites such as www.Gur.in, which is actually owned and maintained by the person I worked with a few years ago. This website is an excellent and comprehensive resource for all Windows users, and although I can’t be sure, I think a lot of Dell customer care executives use the tips on this website in order to help their customers.

Connect with people who are into computer troubleshooting

Now before you get any crazy idea, allow me to clarify: I’m not suggesting that you pretend to be friends with someone for personal gain. What I mean is that through Twitter, Facebook, and a number of other means, you can easily connect with people who have a passion for all things technical — these are people who love to help others out. Follow their websites or networks and see what topics they usually cover. Participate in their comment threads or just leave a compliment when you feel that their post helped you gain some insight into a new topic. When you are connected with someone this way, they are more likely to take some time out of their schedule and help you out.

Keep a list of relevant IRC channels handy

Many developers of open source products hang out on IRC channels regularly. This is probably the easiest and the quickest method of obtaining help straight from the guys who made your software — assuming that you have open source software installed on your computer.

Keep an extra set of critical hardware components of a computer

A number of times it happens that a computer, a hard disk, or even components such as LAN cards go bust. Even if you have a team of 5-6 people working in a small office, having one set of essential hardware components ready could save enormous time. Another good part about buying these components beforehand is that you have enough time to scour the market and look for best deals on them. On the other hand, if you go out to buy them after a workstation has become non-functional, you may have to make a quick decision and probably pay full price for the component.

Prevention

Purchase a good and inexpensive service plan

A number of times, machines go bust due to negligence. A cheap yearly or half-yearly service plan will ensure that your computer hardware is cleaned up and taken care of at regular intervals, thereby increasing its life.

Document all the problems and their solutions as and when you come across them

Over time, this document could end up becoming a complete manual on general troubleshooting and technical support within the organization. You could create this manual on an intranet and, in addition to documenting your internal experiences, allow every member of your team to modify it as and when they come across some information they find useful.

If you’re looking to save some serious money on support, these are the type of steps that are very important. After all, you have to admit that tech support is a mandatory requirement that just cannot be ignored. Unless you’re a networking specialist, a desktop engineer, and a server administrator all bundled up in one, you’re going to need either people who can help you maintain your technology infrastructure – however small it may be – or resources that can provide you with direction when you’re in trouble.

To sum it up, you really have only two choices: spend loads of money on tech support; or spend a good amount of time preparing yourself, taking preventive measures, and avoid paying money for everything else other than the absolutely critical stuff on which your business depends. Neither of the choices is better than the other. It’s all about what works best for you.

 

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