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LATEST NEWS  Building Envelope

March 18, 2005

Internet Resources

By Korky Koroluk

Support for systems

A continuing problem for many small firms that operate out of a small office or home office, is finding affordable technical support for computer systems.

I’m talking here of the really small firms — one or two people, perhaps, or maybe as many as a 10 or a dozen — tiny outfits, of which there are so many in the construction sector.

When it comes to computer support, this is an under-served bunch. Run into a tech problem and, typically, someone has to get on the phone and sit on hold while waiting for support.

Alternatively, they pay a lot for an on-site visit from a local PC shop, or they unhook their gear and take it to a shop for repair. Either of those choices can mean your system is down for a day, or two, or . . . .

I’ve written before about outfits like Grade A Student in Ottawa, and The Computer Department in Toronto, which provide on-site support at reasonable prices, but firms like those are rare. If you live and work in a smaller town, or have a problem while you’re working out of town, getting service can be a real problem.

That’s why I was glad to find out about PlumChoice, an American firm that provides support on-line using desktop-sharing technology to repair your computer or resolve your software problems over the Internet.

It works this way:

When you run into a problem you can either call PlumChoice to make an appointment, or go to their Web site and schedule a time. The typical waiting time for an appointment is just an hour, and it’s frequently more like 15 or 20 minutes.

A technician will call you at the appointed time and set up an on-line connection with your computer. Then you literally sit back and watch while s/he does his work, using remote technology to control your computer.

The firm’s technicians can provide a lot of services, including fixing e-mail and software problems, removing adware/spyware, locating and removing viruses and installing anti-virus software, and lots of other things.

While the technician works, you just watch the screen to see what s/he’s doing. But since s/he’s on the phone as well, s/he’ll explain what happened, and everything s/he’s doing to fix the problem. S/he’ll also explain how to protect your computer to keep the problem from arising again.

The service is secure. Before the final on-line connection is made, a message will pop up onto your screen advising you to close any open windows or applications you don’t want the technician to see. While s/he can see everything on your desktop, s/he can’t go rummaging through your hard drive to look at your data.

The whole process is protected by the same level of encryption you find at on-line banking sites. And the technician can’t reconnect with your computer once the repair session is complete.

They have a range of pricing plans, but the basic rate for an individual with a single computer is $23 (U.S.) for 15 minutes. You can also pre-pay time in one-hour blocks, and any unused time can be carried forward to future “visits.” There are also monthly plans which might appeal to you once you’ve tried the company’s service out once or twice.

But remember: This is a virtual service. It all happens via the Internet and a phone line. You won’t get an office visit from PlumChoice. That’s a service they offer only in the U.S. So they can’t install a new hard drive for you, or upgrade your RAM, or do anything else that involves getting a pair of hands into your computer’s innards.

Still, their service has a place.

It’s not nice to be sitting in your home office at midnight working on something that’s needed the next day, and being brought up short by a computer glitch. I’ve been there. But PlumChoice is open for business until 2 a.m. every night of the week, so help isn’t far away.

You’ll find a lot more information at:

www.plumchoice.com.

You’re always welcome to comment on anything you see in this column, or suggest topics for discussion. You can reach me at korkykmail-column@yahoo.ca.

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