Hidden Secrets of the Information Technology world

by Jason Davies on October 18, 2010

Selecting an Information Technology (“IT”) provider for your home computer may cost you more than you think.  What criteria do IT people have to meet to be called IT people? Is there a standardized rule that ensures consistent results, or is IT a “free for all” where the low price is the default option because “everybody young must be good at IT.?”

The difficult problem in the residential IT industry is the lack of consistency among a broad spectrum. When you call a computer company out of the phone book, how do you know what type of service you will receive? Does a guarantee hold weight when you are unsure of the reputation of a provider? Do low price IT companies provider as qualified of support as their higher priced competition? How do you know if a big IT company will meet your needs and the particular technician you get will be qualified for the problem you have? Will the guy attempting to recover your data do more damage than good?

Now, I am sure I generated more questions than answers, but the above questions are a brief overview of what you can run into. Computer IT companies are not regulated by law, and anyone can put a column in the local Yellow Pages. As a result, phone calls may come in and it could be quite awhile before a reputation catches up with someone. In the same light, it may be awhile before a good reputation catches up too.  Trusting a random individual with your data could result in devastating results and more cost than expected.

For example, look for qualified lead opportunities as the first warning sign of potential trouble. Maybe an ad says $29.99 for virus removal. How do you discern if $29.99 is a reasonable price, and how do you know the service you will get is going to resolve the issue? The key is in the fine print. Many contracts have fine print; computer support has fine print too.  Does the repair offer clarity in advertising, or is there room for interpretation? I want to outline a unique sales ad I came across.

IT company “A” offers $29.99 virus removal. Virus removal means, your hard drive will be removed from your computer and put into another computer that has virus removal software on it. The IT company will click “ok” and forget about the drive for a few hours while the scan finishes. The scan will in effect remove all viruses from your computer.  Does this mean your computer will work just fine when they are done? The answer is, maybe. Windows based systems utilize a registry to store links between file names, and data, and information. Very few virus programs will open the registry while scanning off line. I define off line as anytime the hard drive being scanned was not booted off of. (When a hard drive is put in another computer, it is offline.)  

So, if the scan mentioned above removes a file that is required to boot the computer, your computer can crash. (For example, many viruses now add to the system startup so they are more difficult to remove.)  Now for the fine print. May IT companies will say in the fine print that $29.99 removes the viruses. However, if the operating system will not boot, there will be a charge required to reinstall your operating system. Others may say that there will be a charge to reinstall Windows, and another charge to backup your data.

For example, say you pay $29.99 for virus removal and your computer does not work, you are obligated to pay a $199 fee to reinstall your operating system. Now, if you need your data that will be another $80. The original $29.99 budget deal just cost you $258.98. Is that a good deal? The other computer company said they charge $150/HR. They said the problem would be fixed without deleting your files and without formatting or reinstalling your computer. The total time involved would be 1 hour and your total bill would be $150.00. Initially, the $150/hr company was more expensive. However, the $100.00 savings proved to be a better deal.

What would data recovery? Did you know Windows writes to any new hard drive that is installed in a computer? It attempts to commence a process called initialization; a process that enables the computer to recognize the characteristics of a hard drive. This process requires writing to the drive and can damage a hard drive that is close to failure or failing.

Now we look at an IT company that does not focus on data recovery but offers a free diagnostic? Is that free diagnostic from an unqualified person worth it? What if your data was important, or more importantly critical? Based upon advertising and misinformation, you just put your important data at risk. Had the drive been brought to a data recovery company, there would have been no loss. The data recovery company offered a free diagnostic too. Where did the decision come in? The IT Company said, “IF.” Their price was quite a few dollars less than everyone else and their advertising took over in your mind.

Data recovery is a specific science that requires highly specialized equipment.  Recovery equipment includes clean room benches, hard drive programming tools, write blocking tools, etc. Many of these tools cost thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars.  For an IT provider to say they can fix your drive that has physical problems for less than a few hundred dollars is a lie. There may be some truth if the data was lost due to accidental deletion or formatting. However, does the IT Company use a tool called a write blocker? Write blockers prevent the hard drive data from being written too. We spoke about that earlier in the previous paragraph. This critical piece of equipment prevents a simple solution from going bad. This is why any good data recovery company offers free diagnostics. It is easier for them to provide a simple solution rather than clean up after someone else messed up.

Now, how do you make an informed decision about your IT support? You could certainly ask for references, but this is impractical for a simple one hour fix. Does the idea of trying your luck sound good? It depends on what you want to gamble with.  Perhaps, qualifications are a measure of success; what if your technician simply passed a test without any practical knowledge? College requires proof of showing how you used learning as a practical experience. Most technology exams simply require you to pass a test and you need to have little to no experience.

Great IT companies have reputations, qualifications, reviews, and experience. TechRx, Inc. for example offers data recovery and we have professional equipment to back up our claims. TechRx, Inc. has certifications from CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, and Citrix. Perhaps, more than the average home users needs, but this abundance of information allows us to provide a faster resolution to the problem.

A highly qualified technician will likely have years of experience, for example, I have worked in the IT industry for over 14 years. The balance here is that qualifications should match up to certifications. Technology changes rapidly and certifications from 10 years ago have little value today, or do they? Does past performance dictate future results, or does it provide a foundation of learning that will help develop a well rounded technician? Make sure they do not talk above you, or use many acronyms; a sign of insecurity.

Would you rather have a low cost impersonal technician handle your work? Or a more expensive technician, who has observed a variety of situations, can resolve your issue quickly and explain things in terms you understand?  I would guess most people want to be treated fair, friendly, and fast. This means, someone who can multitask well. Typically, people like to observe their IT person working and this may be a distraction for some people. This could lead to higher charges that are created due to lack of focus. Whereas, a technician with more people skills could easily explain what he is doing, set priorities, and be done faster than the competition.

When you select a technician for your computer problem, cost is relative.  You may think $300/HR for IT repair is more than you would ever pay. According to my example above, many people unknowingly walk into a situation for $29.99; and in the end, pay $300/HR for virus removal. After reading this article I imagine you may still have questions, and would love to hear from you. You can reach me for questions by using the contact link on our page.

Jason Davies is an Information Technology and data recovery specialist from Green Bay, WI. Acting as a consultant for many organizations, and local government agencies, Jason specialists in helping people  He is able to put technology into terms everyone can understand. In his consulting roles, Jason consults with corporations on business process and how to motivate employees to do their best in any environment.

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