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Computer Support

   By: Bruce Hammerich

Lets assume you are already using computer systems running some version(s) of Windows. One thing is a given, if you own computers and you are running Windows; you will have problems. This is nothing against Microsoft Windows. It's just that writing a computer operating system that will work with thousands of programs running on a thousand different computers is an impossibility. So the best thing you can do is prepare for when a problem occurs, and it WILL happen at the worst possible time.

If you are running a business and your computer systems are critical to your operation and assuming you are not already a computer expert, your best support solution is to enter into a support agreement with a qualified service organization. This is also one of the reasons why you want to use PC's running Microsoft Windows inspite of the inherent problems. No matter where your business is located, you will usually find a service organization within a 25 mile radius of you that can support the Windows platform.

Look in the phone book, check them out. Talk to them. Many times you can tell what type of service they are going to provide just by talking to them. Have them visit your place of business, familiarize them with your business tools and practices. Make sure they are familiar with what your support requirements are. If it is a one person shop, find out who supports them when they go on vacation or get sick and make sure their replacement is familiar with your systems, as well.

Check out their service agreement. First of all make sure, everything is in writing. Some points to look for in any service agreement:

* Guaranteed response time. Be realistic here but at the same time be real clear on what your needs are. The quicker the response you require, the more it will cost.

* On-hand replacements. If your printer fails can they at least replace it with something similar until the repair part arrives in three weeks? Will they stick around long enough to make sure the replacement printer works with your existing systems?

* Contractual obligation to find a solution, even a temporary solution. The more specific you are here, the less chance there is for misunderstanding.

* Periodic maintenance. Many problems can be avoided if periodic maintenance is built into the program. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," goes double with computer systems. And make sure it is clear what they do and how often they do it. Keep in mind your Windows will run a LOT more reliably with a periodic maintenance program in place.

For the last twenty years I have been the IT service manager and lead engineer for the top computer dealer in my area. I also spent nine years as a manager, network administrator and helpdesk administrator for several Fortune 500 companies. For more information on how to more efficiently support, purchase and select business systems, check out

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