If you're constantly running into tech troubles at home or in the office, professional technical support can be a real lifesaver. You may run a small business and need help getting your office computers connected on the same network. Or you may work as an independent contractor or freelance consultant and need top-notch tech support on demand. Perhaps you only use your computer a few times a week, but wish you had help troubleshooting problems or downloading new software. Whatever your computer literacy level and needs, there is a technology support specialist or technical support company for you which acts as a virtual help desk. Technology support service providers help consumers and businesses set up, maintain, troubleshoot and repair technology systems, including computers, networks that connect computers to each other and to the internet, and related software applications and other hardware including tablets, smartphones, servers, printers and more.
If you feel comfortable navigating computer systems, you can usually troubleshoot technology problems and find answers to tricky technology questions online pretty quickly. However, some tasks — such as computer repairs and component upgrades or diagnosing issues with home networks — benefit from the expertise of someone with specialized technology knowledge or training. Technology support service providers can also help you with things that require the time and expertise to remove viruses, malware and spyware from your computer, advise you on protecting yourself from future attacks and, if necessary, help you recover electronic data. Experts can also help you streamline your computer system to make it more efficient. From personalized computer tutoring to upgrading your office software to getting your printer to talk to your laptop, there is no tech problem too large or too small for IT support. The cost of tech support will depend on how long the repair or support takes, because many pros charge per hour. New computer parts, cables or software will also affect your costs. Other factors can include the complexity of the challenge you're facing, whether the tech support happens remotely or requires an onsite visit, any specialized support needs such as a particular product expertise and where you live.
Here are the factors that affect professional tech support costs.
Service plans and support costs
For small businesses or wired households, many technology support providers offer monthly service plans or service packs. This can be a great investment to keep your computer network running smoothly and provide an ongoing relationship with a tech support team that knows your IT needs and can respond quickly to an emergency. Compustar Technology Services offers plans for home and business users with pricing based on the number of site visits and support hours per year. Compustar Technology Services charges a flat setup fee of $90 for each computer that will be covered under the service plan, as well as a monthly or annual fee for regular maintenance, which includes a specified number of as-needed service hours for troubleshooting, repairs and consulting. Compustar Technology Services offers a discount for customers who pay the annual fee up front instead of monthly. Here is an example of average service plan monthly costs per computer (after the one-time per computer setup fee) business owners can expect:
- Biannual service visit: $270 per year. The monthly rate is $27 (meaning you save $54 if you pay upfront)
- Includes 2 maintenance visits per year and 2 reactive service hours per year
- Quarterly service visits: $450 per year or $45 per month (you save $90 if you pay upfront)
- Includes 4 maintenance visits per year and 2 reactive service hours per year
- Bimonthly service visits: $630 per year or $63 per month (you save $126 if you pay upfront)
- Includes 6 maintenance visits per year and 4 reactive service hours per year
- Quarterly service visits: $999 per year or $99 per month (you save $189 if you pay upfront)
- Includes 12 maintenance visits per year and 4 reactive service hours per year
Whether it's for career, school or play, many people have a laptop these days. Laptops hold everything from our work presentations to our huge photo albums. Making sure your laptop is bug-free and running smoothly is critical to your day-to-day life. You may want to upgrade an outdated laptop that's not running the new browsers properly, or add more storage to expand your downloaded song collection. Unlike clunky desktop computers and servers, it's easy to drop off a laptop for repair, and some technicians can come provide repair at your home or office. Laptop repair is often priced by the hour; pricing can vary greatly, depending on the company you are working with, the parts needed for the repair, any upgrades you desire and the complexity of the project. Pixelated Tech charges a flat rate (quoted to you ahead of time) for repairs done in their shop, and hourly rate of $109.99 for laptop repair provided at your home or office. Here are some examples of laptop services that Pixelated Tech provides:
- Data recovery
- DC jack repair
- Fan replacement
- Hard drive replacement: solid state disk (SSD) upgrade, increased storage space
- Hinge replacement
- Keyboard replacement
- Laptop tuneup: standard OS tuneup, remove dust, replace thermal compound
- Memory upgrades
- Motherboard replacement
- Operating system installation
- Optical drive repair
- Laptop screen repair
There are few things more stressful than having your computer crash as you finish the last page of your last college essay, spilling coffee on the laptop that has the only copies of your wedding photos, or losing important business files to a hard drive failure. Fortunately, tech support pros excel at data recovery. The pros can often recover old text messages, unearth lost photos, retrieve trashed files, and restore data that you feared was lost forever. While most lost data can be saved, companies may charge a non-refundable fee for recovery efforts regardless of the outcome. Here are some examples of average data recovery costs tiered by difficulty from Pixelated Tech:
- Logical recovery: $100-$500. This tier is for data recovery from a recently formatted drive or recently deleted data. Cost is $100 per drive, up to 1TB (TB = 1,024 gigabytes). Each additional TB on that drive is an additional $100, although the cost for one drive will not exceed $500.
- Pixelated Tech charges a $75 diagnostic/attempt fee for logical and hardware recovery. This fee covers drive cloning and diagnostics.
- Hardware recovery: $200-$500. This tier is for data recovery from a drive with severe file corruption, certain types of mechanical failure or damaged sectors. Cost is $200 per drive, up to 1TB. Each additional TB on that drive is an extra $200, with price capped at $500 per drive.
- Advanced recovery: Price as quoted for cases of damaged heads/motor, complete RAID failure, severe firmware damage, damaged controller, or chip-off recovery.
- Flash media flat rate recovery: $150 up to 2TB. Additional $100 over 2TB. Includes SD, XD, USB flash drives, CF, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, deleted files, formatted drive, corrupt file system, and bad sectors.
Independent tech service providers often charge an additional fee if they have to drive beyond a certain distance to your home or office to provide on-site services. For example, Hamlett Computer Services charges $15-$35 for travel, depending on the distance. Tech service providers may also charge you for tolls, bridge fees and traffic.
If you are hiring a pro to set up your office network system, do research to confirm they have the experience and know-how to do the job. Technology support requires a certain level of experience, of course, but the number of years a service provider has been in the tech support business may not always reflect their depth of expertise. Tech support often attracts experts who leave corporate jobs to start their own independent companies. iEple LLC, for example, employs tech professionals who have previously worked for big companies and now prefer to offer one-on-one technology services to small businesses. Talk with your prospective tech support pro to learn about their background and training before hiring them on for a larger project. It's also important to read customer reviews and ask the pro for references.
Some providers (or the technicians they assign to certain clients) have certifications that are relevant to the services they provide, such as Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE), HP Network Essentials, Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), Cisco (for networking professionals) or Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP) certifications. Information technology (IT) is an ever-changing field, so check a service provider's certifications, especially if you are looking for technology support for your small business. You may also want to look for companies that invest in continuing education to ensure their technicians' skills are up to date.
Some tech support providers specialize in a certain area, such as wireless networking, or have expertise in (or a preference for) a particular computer operating system such as Windows or Mac. Harry Stein of Stein Solutions focuses on the Windows operating system and specializes in helping customers with security issues, as well as those who want to make their computers run faster.
Compustar Technology Services and Tankoh LLC provide technology support, setup, maintenance and repair for home and business computer systems. With the proliferation of wireless networks and devices, many technology support providers can help with a range of related services, such as setting up, troubleshooting and reconfiguring wireless home networks. Pixelated Tech offer wireless networking services, for example.
Most technology support providers will come to your home or business to troubleshoot, repair or install a system. If you are going to purchase ongoing support services from a tech support professional for your small business, it's wise to select someone who can easily and quickly travel to your location if you need onsite service. If a network meltdown puts your business operations on hold, you need tech support that can help in a hurry. Many tech problems can be resolved with remote support as well.
Many tech support pros have storefronts or workspaces where you can drop off your devices for repair or maintenance. Hamlett Computer Services offers both on-site and drop-off repair and support services. Pixelated Tech offers remote technology support for $109.99, which is the same as their rate for on-location services. Pixelated Tech charges a one-hour minimum for remote support, with half-hour minimums after the first hour. Other providers charge a flat fee based on the specifics of a project or service. Location can also affect cost; tech support providers in areas with a lower cost of living and lower cost to do business usually charge lower rates than those in areas with a high cost of living.
Ask if a service provider offers student, senior or military discounts. Some providers also offer reduced hourly rates or package deals when you purchase a certain number of support hours in advance. Tony Welds of WeldsTech Solutions advises customers to make sure they won't be overcharged if a provider can't address the problem in a timely manner.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right tech support specialist for your project. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.