Where is computer and network support going?
So you run a small business. Perhaps it is run out of your home or you have a small office space. You have worked very hard to build a client base. You have put together a business plan and a budget. Your client base and their information is everything to your business. Then one day you turn on your computer and you get the message “Operating System Not Found”. That’s okay, because with a computer you just reboot and everything is okay. Not this time. You open the yellow pages and call the closest computer support company who can come right now and fix your problem. No big deal, the tech will just go click click click, the computer will start, you will write a cheque for $100, thank the tech, and get on with your day. Unfortunately the tech tells you that your hard drive is dead. Pandora’s box has been opened. You have a deadline to meet and all the information is on that computer. Your blood sweat and tears building your business is on the computer and the tech tells you that the approximate prices is $1000 to recover your data, install a new hard drive and reinstall your system. It will take about 2 or 3 days. You have no backup if the recovery does not work.
This is a fear for all small business owners, and it is a very legitimate fear. Unfortunately most small business owners do not budget for computer support and a surprising number do not have backups or a contingency plan should their computer break down. Why?
I think it is largely to do with the past, present and future of computer support. I also believe that computer support has not kept up with the requirement of businesses who rely on their computers more and more every day. So where does that leave us.
It is important to look at the past to help predict the future. In the late 80s early 90s personal computers were still new to businesses. The computer was a glorified word processor. The computer support companies were truly enhancing businesses. The computer was not relied upon and was not a communications tool. Then email and internet came along. All of a sudden we could send email between computers and software was helping businesses run. Still, this was enhancement. Computers were helping companies run with new software packages and increased communications. At this point in time, the shift occurred where computers went from being a nice enhancement to a business to a necessary tool and businesses relied on computers. Companies saved on labour but did have to pay for computer infrastructure and support.
Then came the Y2K bug. Nobody asked for the Y2K bug. Businesses big and small were spending large sums of money to ensure they were ready for the Y2K bug. Now companies were not hiring IT professionals to enhance their business, but instead to defend their business. Companies had to pay for computer support they did not want. On Jan 1st, 2000, not a whole lot happened and companies grew weary of the computer support companies. Faith was lost. But then new problems kept creeping up such as viruses, hardware failures, internet security, and more recently, spyware. So for the past number of years we have been defending businesses both big and small. This was not preventative maintenance. We get oil changes for preventative maintenance, we do not purchase shields for our cars to protect the car from malicious attack. Yet for a computer this is common practice.
What is the future? Nobody wants to pay to have their network and computers defended. There is also a mentality that computer support companies get paid when a company is down. Why is that? Shouldn’t computer support companies get paid to keep a client up and hence it would be a breech of contract if a client is down? This is the future. If the support companies revenues are directly linked with the uptime of the computer systems, would there not be an incentive to keep them operational? If this was the case, and computers systems stayed operational, we could again focus on enhancement. There are some exceptional new technologies to improve business operations. Now is the time to again make the computer a tool and not a necessary evil.