Monday, July 21, 2008

Remote Tech Support

CT is featured in this article about Remote Tech Support services from

Reimagining Computer Repair

Computer Troubleshooters has always been on the cutting edge of new improvements in our industry, and one recent example is our early support for a new tool called Reimage. When we first got introduced to the Reimage team back in early 2007 I thought they had a GREAT idea for a tool that could revolutionize the computer repair industry. I also thought they'd never be able to built it into an actual product.

But, lo and behold they did, and Reimage became an official part of our Preferred Vendor program this summer. A recent article in an Israeli newspaper highlights the benefits Reimage brings to Computer Troubleshooters and especially to our clients, by reducing repair times considerably in some common situations that used to be very difficult and time-consuming.

You can find the article here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Life after Managed Services

Many Computer Troubleshooters have heard me tell the story about how, when I first got into this business almost 20 years ago, everyone used to think my business was destined to be a huge success. And I would disagree, becuase (as I often told them) most of my work was in helping small businesses install and troubleshoot hardware and software, and since hardware and software were getting easier to install and more reliable I probably wouldn't have a business for long. I usually predicted 5 years, which since I got started in 1989 probably means I would have closed somewhere around 1994.

Fortunately, everyone else was right and I was wrong. What I didn't realize then was that no matter how much technology changes, businesses still need someone to be their liaison to the world of IT. Originally it was installing and troubleshooting, later it was networking, then setting up internet & email & websites, then defending from spam & spyware & viruses. Today the popular trend is so-called "managed services", which is sill the hottest buzzword in the IT press. Managed services is so hot that an entire industry has sprung up around it: companies like
Mobilize SMB and MSPU help independent companies learn how to structure managed services plans, Robin Robins will help you market them, Matt Makowicz will help you sell them, Ingram Micro will help you with the software. And when Dell got involved by buying Silverback last year, the industry got a little nervous wondering if big companies might start to push us little guys out of business. In fact there's so much news on managed services that I've set as my home page just to keep up with it all!

So the biggest managed services news lately has been the prediction by Akash Saraf, the CEO of Zenith Infotech (one of the largest providers of managed services tools & infrastructure and a very popular vendor partner of Computer Troubleshooters) that managed services has a limited lifespan. Akash is considered extremely prescient in the IT community, and has made some truly brilliant moves in the way he's developed Zenith's product offerings and especially it's revolutionary BDR device (which btw is EXTREMELY popular with CT's small business clients). So when so much of the SMB IT industry considers "managed services" as the way of the future, it's remarkable when someone of Akash's stature reminds us of the truest maxim in all of IT: things change.

It shouldn't be a surprise really. Looking back on our business it seems that if you pick any 5-year period our business in the 5th year is very different than our business in the 1st year. And things that are bleeding-edge today will be tomorrow's bread & butter. We've been hearing about cloud computing and virtual environments for years now, and we're finally at the stage where some companies like ExternalIT are offering legitimate hosted desktop/server environments using traditional Microsoft Windows & Office environments. We're also seeing some organizations, especially in the developing world, choose to build their entire IT infrastructures around hosted environments like Google Apps or SugarCRM.

If the whole premise of "managed services" is to help clients better manage their IT infrastructure, how does that happen when there isn't a local IT infrastructure anymore? That's the point that Akash and others are raising.

Not to worry. When CT launched our BEST program back in 2006 (our flavor of "managed services"), we future-proofed it by incorporating a concept we call "enhanced vendors". These are technologies that can help our small business clients take their businesses to the next level, and this year we've really been ramping up our training for those technologies. IP Telephony, Document Management, CRM solutions, and Search Engine Marketing are just some examples of the "enhanced vendor" programs we've been developing.

But I'm also reminded of the Gartner study in late 2005 which warned that service providers who didn't adopt a managed services model by 2007 would be out of business. Much of our industry is still using the older break/fix model but is still in business, although there are certainly many indications (inside and outside of CT) that those who are focusing on managed services are seeing higher revenues and lower workloads).

IT will always change - that's inevitable. But as long as small businesses depend on technology, Computer Troubleshooter's role is to be the ones helping our clients make the most effective and efficient use of their technology. Or as one CT put it this week, "to be the glue between the service and the serviced". For the next few years that means saving our clients money & frustration through managed services. After that it'll be supporting hosted environments and coordinating enhanced vendors. And after that? We'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chip on Dr Pat

Recently I was interviewed on the "Dr Pat" radio show, here's an MP3 version of the show (click on the picture):

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Small Business Advocate

This week I was honored to be a guest on Jim Blasingame's Small Business Advocate radio program (See for more info about Jim, and some good links to small business resources).

Here's a link to the recording itself:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Dates to Remember

If you're considering joining the world's best computer franchise, now is a GREAT time to do it, and we've got three events for potential CT's where we'll explain why:
  • Prospect Webinar, July 10, 7pm eastern
  • Prospect Webinar (draft), July 3, 5pm eastern*
  • Discovery Day, Atlanta Offices, August 2nd, 9am

We're especially interested in recruiting people with existing IT businesses, with strong technical skills, and/or with a sales background (with or without IT skills), so if any of these describe you, please do contact Chip ( or Glenn ( for information about current incentives and how to participate in these upcoming events.

My Vacation Pictures (St Louis 2008)

I don't often (or ever) share my vacation photos in public, but I did want to share these becuase while I was away last week I had the unusual opportunity to include another CT in my vacation.

Every year since 2001 I've chaperoned a group of youth from my church on their annual mission trip. This year we went to St Louis, Missouri and the work we were doing was helping an organization called Metro Homeless Center which provides an emergency shelter, transitional housing, and some limited social services and food supplies to homeless women in the St Louis area. The first day we worked on cleaning up a basement and organizing supplies, painting walls, and clearing out store rooms. But I heard one of the shelter staff say something about "the computers" so I told her I was a computer tech if they needed help with any of that.

It turns out they had been trying to build a tech center to teach computer skills to their clients and to give them better resources to use to look for work, apartments, etc. They had acquired some donated PCs but they were being stored at a staff person's home because the room they wanted to use was full of junk and they had no funds to wire the room or setup the computers. They showed me the room, and I told them we could make it work. But being without things like cable testers & crimpers and all the usual comforts of my home work bench, I was a little stuck. So I called the nearest CT, Rick Cohen (Computer Troubleshooters of Clayton, just a few miles away).

Not only did Rick agree to let me borrow his tools, he let me borrow himself as he donated a full day's work to help us get the center setup. Besides being just a generally great thing to do for the community, we're hoping that the shelter will become a regular customer for Rick as well, since a very similar shelter here close to me has been a customer of mine for years. And I found out that one of our youth (we had 15 kids with us from ages 12 to 18) told her mom that her favorite part of the mission trip was when Rick taught her how to crimp RJ45 connectors. (seriously)

It was a great week for me, and made all the more so by being able to share it with another CT. Thanks Rick!


P.S. one of the pics is Rick with some of the youth while the room was still a work in progress, the other is Rick's photo when he came back and finished the room. Note that I could only get 7 of 12 computers working, which is why I'm not a tech anymore.