Not to be confused with technical support, computer support can be in the form of an on-site visit, or (more commonly today) as remote assistance via telephone, e-mail, SMS, instant messaging, on-line chat and even remote desktop control. Most larger enterprises have their own technical support departments in which all of the internal systems are diagnosed and repaired, whereas smaller businesses or individuals typically turn to a third party computer support firm or to referencing the Internet when diagnosing and addressing computer system-related issues.
What is Provided?
Computer support is the process of providing diagnostic, troubleshooting, maintenance and repair services to a computer or similar device. It allows end users to seek and receive specialized computer maintenance and management services, either locally from their home/office or remotely via the Internet. Computer support differs from technical support, which is a general term for IT-based support services and extends to support associated with anything of a technical nature and so could as well describe assistance with your television.
What Level of Service Should I be Expecting?
What you can expect very much depends on the type of agreement you are entering into. Most of the contracts for business computer support can often depend on a monthly retainer that covers certain equipment and software under certain circumstances. Typically an agreement will include the equipment on-site with the client or held by the IT support company on the client's behalf, and will agree a certain service level (SLA - see below) to which the support company can then be held accountable contractually, liable in some way.
Where to Begin?
A good place to start is with a list of the critical IT services that your company cannot survive without. Come up with a flow diagram of your business' main activities including where new business is harvested and nurtured, and existing business is processed, as this is where revenue is generated. Once you have a clear picture of these work-flows you can begin fitting in the computer systems to see which of the computing systems are responsible for maintaining the most critical business processes. This is a worthwhile exercise under any circumstances to assist with understanding where any vulnerabilities may be hiding anyway.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of what your business relies on when it comes to the automatic processing of information, you can issue classes of importance to different components of your computer system. In general there are three different states to assign to each computer system component. Critical - the business cannot continue to perform its core business functions without. Important staff are seriously inhibited in their roles, increasing costs and annoyances. Nice to have Performance of a few staff is encumbered or all staff have to perform a small workaround to continue.
Once you have assessed the importance of your computers systems' components you are ready to discuss terms with prospective computer support service companies. 24 hour support will carry a greater cost than 8-6 or 9-5 support and you will need to make sure you are not paying for unnecessary cover. You may be presented with a choice such as 'gold, silver or bronze' or 'tier-one' support and similar terms. You should explain that you need support where it counts and not just to fit in with a predefined template. Beware also of extra charges that get added on. Your contract should include a number of hours per month of ad-hoc work otherwise simple computer maintenance can become expensive.