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Five Tips for Easy, Affordable Tech Support

A dark secret of investing in technology is the substantial cost of not doing the technical support well.

You may increase productivity and profits at your business simply by adopting a new strategy for network maintenance and troubleshooting.

Three small businesses share how they get technical support that brings them peace of mind at an affordable price:

1. Start locally, and have backup globally. Many companies contract two outside layers of support: a nearby technology partner (such as a reseller) with hands-on expertise, backed up by the global resources of their technology vendor.

  • “A quick calculation will show you what you can afford for a service contract that prevents or reduces the risk of business downtime; at our company just one or two hours of lost business is a huge sum,” says Justin Mak, the solo IT employee at 100-employee Fresh Direct Produce. A network administrator with CCNA training, Mak uses Cisco support services whenever an issue exceeds his ability or availability.
  • “I’m not an IT guy, and our two offices are in a rural area,” says Dr. Kris May, owner of 14-employee Coldwater Vision Center. “A reseller installed our advanced phone system and backed it up with a Cisco service contract. Our network and IP phones are the lifeblood of our business, but the technology is witchcraft to me. Cisco is exceptional—they’re very small business oriented, understand our issues, and pay attention to us. In tech support, the biggest issue is ‘being there.’ Even after our reseller went out of business, Cisco continues to back us up. It’s very comforting.”
  • “We have to have around-the-clock support because we’re in the medical industry, serving hospitals and labs,” says Adrian Biesecker, president of 135-employee BBC Biochemical, which has four IT employees. “By contracting with Cisco and Cynnex Networks (a Cisco Select Certified Partner), we have all-encompassing support. It works really well.”

2. Tap into a wealth of expertise. Vendors offer extensive knowledge on specific technologies, and can deliver it in a variety of ways.

  • Go online to immediately get input on or learn more about your issue. For example, visit the new Cisco Small Business Community to collaborate with other Cisco customers, technology partners, and Cisco technical experts, as well as to tap document, video, and software resources.
  • Call the contact center, such as the Cisco Small Business Support Center to report your issue and speak with technical experts. “Cisco call center support excels in the high level of expertise and the good follow-up,” says Mak.

3. Expect the unexpected. What will you do if any of your equipment suddenly stops working?

“Many vendors offer ‘next-day’ replacement,” says May. “It’s easy to promise, though often not done, especially if the failure occurs late in the day. But I called on a Thursday afternoon to report that the touch screen on one of our IP phones stopped working, and a replacement—with clear instructions—arrived from Cisco first thing the next morning.”

4. Keep software current. “It’s important—especially for compatibility and security—to have software that’s up to date,” says Mak. “Make sure that you know whenever there’s a software release, and that you download the correct version for your device.”

The Cisco Small Business Pro Service provides software upgrades, updates, and patches, helping ensure that your devices always have the latest and most bug-free software available.

5. Start a relationship on day one. Your technology partner can ensure that your new devices are correctly configured, so you can begin realizing the benefits of your network solution right away. Purchasing a vendor service contract protects against future troubles and downtime.

“I think of a tech support contract as an insurance policy,” says Biesecker. “It protects our investment, and our business, 100 percent of the time. It makes using advanced technologies no big deal. The support is there whenever we need it, and it saves our staff time because it’s so easy to use.”

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