For many people, thinking about their computer network is a bit like looking at “the Matrix”- it’s just a blur of numbers that seemingly no one can understand. Because of the complexity of computer networking, there are many misconceptions that business owners have regarding network maintenance and support. These misconceptions can be costly, so we want to provide you with the knowledge you need to make sure you don’t make some very preventable mistakes.
Misconception #1: My computer network doesn’t need regular monitoring and maintenance.
This is probably one of the biggest and most costly misconceptions that business owners have. Usually this is because they’ve been fortunate enough to have never encountered a major disaster; but that’s similar to someone thinking they don’t need to wear a seat belt when driving a car because they’ve never had an accident.
Computer networks are complex and dynamic systems that need regular updates and maintenance in order to stay up, running fast and problem free. In fact, it’s surprising how fast a brand-new PC will slow down after a few weeks of use without proper updates and maintenance. Here are just a FEW of the critical updates that need to be performed on a weekly – if not daily – basis:
- Security patches applied – with NEW viruses and hacker attacks cropping up DAILY, this is a CRITICAL part of maintaining your network.
- Antivirus updates and monitoring
- Firewall updates and monitoring
- Backup monitoring and test restores
- Spam filter installation and updates
- Spyware detection and removal
- Monitoring disk space on workstations and servers
- Monitoring hardware for signs of failure
- Optimizing systems for maximum speed
You KNOW that if you don’t change the oil, replace the filter, rotate the tires, flush the transmission, and perform other regular maintenance on your car, it will eventually break down and cost you FAR MORE to repair than the cost of the basic maintenance – and cars are much simpler than a computer network!
If your computer support tech does not insist on some type of regular, automated monitoring or maintenance of your network, then DO NOT HIRE THEM. Lack of system maintenance is the NUMBER ONE reason most people end up losing valuable files and incurring heavy computer repair bills. If your technician isn’t offering you these services, you need to find someone else to support your computer or network for two reasons:
- Either they don’t know enough to make this recommendation, which is a sure sign they are woefully inexperienced, OR
- They recognize that they are profiting from your computer problems and don’t want to recommend steps towards preventing you from needing their break-fix help on an ongoing basis. After all, they’ll get paid MORE to remove a virus than to make sure your system is patched, updated and secured (which can be done quickly and inexpensively with good monitoring).
Either reason is a good one to get as far away from that person as possible!
Misconception #2: My nephew/neighbor’s kid/brother-in-law/office manager knows this computer stuff and can take care of our computers.
Most people look for a part time “guru” for one reason: to save a few bucks; but this often comes back to haunt them. We frequently get calls from business owners who desperately need our help to get them back up and running or to clean up a mess that was caused by an inexperienced neighbor, friend, or relative who was just trying to help. Relying on multiple “gurus” only magnifies the potential problems, leading to situations in which one person has no idea what others have configured on the network.
If the person you have working on your machine does not do computer repair and support for a living, there is a good chance they won’t have the knowledge or experience to truly help you – they are a hobbyist at best. Typically this also means that you have to wait until they are free from other responsibilities before they can help you, costing your business precious time and money. Besides, do you really want to entrust a part-time, inexperienced person with the responsibility for handling something as important as your company’s data and computer network? As with everything in life, you get what you pay for. That’s not to say you need to go broke to find a great technician, but it is not wise to select one based on price alone.
Misconception #3: All computer technicians are created equal. Your best option will be the one who offers the lowest price.
As we stated a moment ago, you get what you pay for. A cheap price usually means a cheap job. Really good technicians do NOT work cheaply because they are in high demand just like every other professional service category. The only technicians who will work cheaply are those who are just starting out – which means they are most likely very inexperienced.
Some shops will hire college kids or newbie technicians because they will work for next to nothing in order to gain experience, OR they allow interns to support your network because they don’t have to pay them at all – but what you don’t realize is than an inexperienced technician like this can end up costing more because:
- They improperly diagnose a problem, which often means you pay them to fix the WRONG thing and it STILL doesn’t resolve your problem. Case in point: A few years ago a TV reporter went undercover to 8 computer repair shops in LA with a perfectly working PC, but simply disconnected a cable in the back (a fix that the AVERAGE computer tech would have caught in minutes with a visual inspection). Several shops improperly diagnosed the problem and wanted to charge them anywhere from $59 to over $275 to fix it!
- They could take 3 to 5 times as long to do the same repair an experienced technician could fix quickly. Again, you’re paying for those extra hours.
- They could do MORE damage, costing you more money and downtime.
With your client data, accounting records, e-mail and other critical data at stake, do you REALLY want the lowest-priced shop working on your machines?
We take the view that most people want value for money and simply want the job done right. You will find that we are not the cheapest, but we don’t apologize for that. As the COO, I decided a long time ago that I would rather explain our higher rates ONE TIME than to make excuses for POOR SERVICE forever. That said, we’re not the most expensive either. We simply feel that we should offer a good service at a fair price.
Misconception #4: An honest computer support company should be able to give you a quote over the phone.
I wish this were true, but it isn’t. Just like a good doctor, an honest and professional technician will need to diagnose your network before they can quote any price over the phone; consider the example above where all was needed was a simple cable being plugged in. If someone brought that to us, we would just plug it back in and not charge them; but without SEEING the machine, we could have never diagnosed that over the phone.
Also, some consultants will quote you a cheap rate over the phone to get in the door, but then jack up the prices once they get in your office by taking 3 times as long, selling you add-ons and up-sells, etc. And finally, reputable firms don’t charge by the hour anyway — they give you a flat-rate, fixed fee. Here’s why…
One of the easiest ways to take advantage of a customer is to get them to agree to a time and materials repair. Unless you know what’s wrong and how long it should take, they can soak you on the fees. And what are you going to do when they get 5-6 hours into a repair or project and then spring on you the news that it will take even longer than they anticipated to fix, costing you MORE money?
Always, always, always make sure you get a flat-rate, fixed fee quote in advance so you don’t end up getting burned – and NEVER take a phone quote!
This post is the fourth in our “Straight Talk on IT” series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). You can download our entire Business Advisory Guide by filling out the form below.