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Regardless of whether you use The Computer Monkey or another firm to resolve your IT needs, I don’t want you to pay more than you should. There are several things over which you generally have control that can directly affect the final cost of your services. Because support services are typically billed by the hour, most of them involve things that increase the time required to resolve your issues.
1. Passwords – Many issues require me or the user to log in to a particular device or account. Issues involving internet service, email, program installations, and routers are all situations when we may need a password in order to proceed. When you do not have a needed password, it delays our work and takes extra time to do a password retrieval or call customer service for the provider. In my experience, lost passwords are by far the most common thing that needlessly increases a tech support bill. The best method I have found for keeping passwords is some sort of card file system that keeps a card (or page) for each account’s information. You want to be able to easily find the account in question and completely replace the old information when something changes.
2. Software License Codes – A related area to lost passwords, is lost software license codes. In order to prove that you own the rights to install and use a particular software application, the company you purchase it from provides a unique license or registration code to you at the time of purchase. If you bought it in a store, it will be in the packaging. If you download the software online, it will usually be in your order confirmation email. Some stores like Amazon will keep your license information for you in your order history, but it is always best to make sure that you keep copies of all of your license or registration codes yourself.
3. Software media – If you get a new computer but you still have software applications from the old one that you want to use or you have a software product that needs to be reinstalled due to an error, you will need the installation media. In the past many products have been on disks, but now many are downloaded as referenced above. Either way, you need to have the installation media available for the technician to use in these and other situations. Depending upon the product, some installation files can be easily and quickly downloaded – anti-virus products, for example. However, for more complex products like Microsoft Office, Quickbooks etc. locating and downloading large installation files for your particular version can be time consuming. Although, I am happy to report that Microsoft has recently made great improvements in this area and now provides a web page that makes it pretty easy to get most versions as long as you have your license codes, ahem! When you download software, keep the installation files and back them up like you do your other important data. You are backing up aren’t you? Please tell me you are!
4. Describing the Issue – It can be difficult to explain the computer problem that you are having but the more accurate and detailed you can be, the faster the technician will be able to determine what is happening. For example, a client says “my computer won’t do anything”. In reality, I have had that explanation mean that literally, the computer wouldn’t boot at all so, yeah, it’s not doing anything. On the other hand, I have also had that description mean that the internet browser wouldn’t go to any websites. There is a big difference between these two problems. If you have been receiving an error message, write it down so that you can tell your technician. Try to describe exactly what you are doing when the problem happens or if it just happens at random times think of anything that may help, such as anything that has changed about your setup. Have you recently added any new hardware or software or did Windows recently report doing an update?
5. Seek Qualified Advice – I find that people and businesses often spend more money in the long term because they make ill-advised or unadvised purchases. That laptop at Best Buy that was only $300 might seem like a good deal, but it isn’t if you hate it three years later and want to get a new one or have to keep taking it in for “tune-ups”. I have had the same computer for 8 years and have no intention of getting rid of it any time soon nor have I had to upgrade it in any way. It’s fast and I use a lot of applications all at one time. It wasn’t inexpensive, but I spent the money where it counted. And, new isn’t always better. I would rather have a refurbished high quality computer than a new piece of junk. Consider getting advice before purchasing software as well. In both cases, you may find that paying $30 – $60 to consult with an expert is some of the best tech support money you have spent.