Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Take Backups Seriously

We do many things to support our clients. The most important thing we do is to test backups. Here's why:

All service requests have to be prioritized. For us the priorities are critical, high, medium, and low. Luckily, there are almost no critical issues. "Critical" means the entire company is affected. You're losing money and some or all systems are down company-wide.

The most important "critical" event is a disaster recovery. That means we need to completely rebuild the server - or sometimes all the technology in the office. Disaster recovery happens when a hard drive crashes, the office is flooded, the office is burned down, etc. Disaster recovery means restoring everything because you lost everything!

There's only one way that's possible: You need a perfectly working backup system. That's no exaggeration: If it's less than perfect, then you can't restore everything.

Luckily, there are many ways to achieve a perfectly working backup system. You might use tape, hard drives, cloud backups, "backup and disaster recovery" devices, fail-over systems, and more. In many cases, your perfect backup will include a combination of these.

Your perfect backup has to be designed by a qualified technician. That's not you, unless you're a technician and you are qualified. If you're very good at what you do, then you understand what it means to hire someone who knows what they're doing.

If you're in business long enough you will experience a catastrophic data loss. That's not a variable. It's just a matter of time. The real question is, how long can your company survive when you have no server or none of you systems are working?

You need to take this very seriously.

Here's a quick way to determine how much data you need to backup:

1) What do you want to recover if your office burns down?

2) Back that up.

Another way to look at this is based on the amount of data you are willing to recreate. Here's how it works. Let's say you just completed a full backup and your server crashes fifteen minutes later. You will need to re-create fifteen minutes worth of data (fifteen minutes worth of the history of your company).

If you backup every hour, you will need to recreate an hour's worth of data. If you backup every day, you will need to recreate a day's worth of data. If you backup once a week, you will need to recreate a week's worth of data.

You get the picture.

Everyone says they don't want to lose anything. Ever. That used to be nearly impossible. It was very difficult and very expensive. Today it is very possible and not extremely expensive. But it has to be designed right, implemented properly, and tested regularly.

The testing part is the most important. If you don't restore from you backup then you cannot guarantee that you actually have a working backup. Your technology consultant should be documenting your backup AND performing test restores at least once a month. You should receive a notice that the backup has been properly tested.

Here's a scary statistic for you: Exactly half - 50% - of all companies we take on as new clients have NO working backup. A few of them know this. Most believe that their backup is working, but it isn't.

Unfortunately, some people only discover this when they call us and their hard drive has crashed. They call us and we have to tell them that they have no backup. They we have to start an extremely expensive process for recovering data from a failed hard drive. Don't be that company!

Here's your to-do list:

- Hire a professional

- Test your backup system

- Update your backup system if necessary

- Test your backup monthly


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Windows XP: Do Not Resuscitate

I am writing a book and working on a chapter about "Nuking and Paving" desktop computers. That's when you totally flatten a computer and rebuild from scratch. This may be done for a variety of reasons, including some super nasty virus attacks.

One of the important decisions you need to make is whether the computer is worth the effort. On more than one occasion we've had a client say: "I don't want to spend more than a couple hundred dollars to fix that machine."

Think about the machines in your office. Some are new and mission critical. They are obviously worth some time (and money) to rebuild. But others are old and crappy and barely do what they're supposed to do.

This is a financial decision, not a technical decision. If you have an old, slow PC running an old operating system, and it has a monster virus, you probably won't spend ten hours of labor trying to fix it. Your computer consultant can't work for free and you don't want to pay $1,500 to fix a ten year old computer.

There are exceptions. It might be the only machine in the office with a true RS-232 port that can control a welding machine or other equipment. Or it might be the payroll computer the day before payroll. Or the last machine in the office that runs a critical piece of software.

For the average "old piece of junk" computer, nuking and paving can take 3-4 hours. But if you have a really old operating system like Windows XP, the updates and security patches can take another 3-4 hours. Let's say you pay $150/hour for tech support. Six to eight hours is $900 - $1,200. A new business class computer computer will cost you about $900 - $1,000.

Remember: A machine that's three years old is about half the speed of a new machine. Another three years older and it's half of that. So downloading and updating can become extremely expensive just because the machine is so slow. Most Windows XP machines are very old. Yes they work. But rebuilding them can take five times as long as a one year old computer.

It’s very important that you have this discussion with your computer tech before the machine dies (or is infected). It can be hard to make this decision at the last minute. It's much easier if you can just draft a policy and execute when the time comes.

Think about it like a "Do Not Resuscitate" order for terminally ill patients.

Go through your office and look at each computer. How much would you be willing to spend on each machine? If the answer is "nothing" or very little, then just put a DNR label on that machine. Then, if something happens, you don't have to make a decision. You just have to execute the decision you've already made.

Decisions made before the disaster are often more rational and can be a good starting point when there IS a problem.

Compare this to repairing an old car. Very often old computer repairs look simple. You commit to $500. Then something else goes wrong. You need to update this software program. And now the price goes up. That old network card doesn't have drivers. So the price goes up again. Your $500 job is now a $750 job. Did you mean to spend that much?

An easy way to avoid this is to simply post DNR notices on the oldest machines.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

An Easy Way to Hack Into Your Web Site

How vulnerable is is your web site?

You hear news stories all the time about sites being "hacked" - But what does that mean? And are you in danger?

First, let's look at hacking. "Hacking" can mean just about anything that involves breaking into your computer systems. Think of it like hacking down a door with an axe to gain entry. After someone has access to your systems, the Hacker can then do a variety things ranging from looking at sensitive information to stealing information, and even destroying information.

Illustration One
Each computer on the Internet can do many things. For example, one machine might store files, serve up email, and host your web site. The web portal (port 80) is the most attacked port on the Internet. That's why we HIGHLY recommend that your web site be hosted somewhere other than at your office.

On the left you can see that a hacker can come in from the internet, break into your web server, and then attack your other computers. This includes other servers and even desktop machines.

See Illustration One.

It takes some effort to break in like this, but the bad guys work at it full time. Sometimes they just want to be destructive, and breaking into your web server is just the first step to destroying your entire network.

Sometimes hackers are looking for sensitive information such as credit cards, password files, or financial data. They have programs that will scour your entire network and forward information back to the bad guys.

I hope you see why we don't want you to have your web server in your office!

Illustration Two
Now look at Illustration Two. When your web site is located at a hosted site, there's really nothing there to break into except a bunch of web servers. One is yours, and all the others belong to someone else.

With a hosted web server, hackers might be able to break into your web server, but there's no way they can get to your other company servers - because they're not connected in any way.

With a hosted web server, you need to have a great backup in case your server is hacked. For 99% of all small business web sites, restoring a web server is fast and easy - if you have a good, recent backup that's tested.

A Quick and Easy Method For Breaking Into Your Web Site

Many web sites are very secure, like your car. But you can't leave the keys in the ignition and think you're safe! If you or your programmer has ever forgotten the password to your web server, you may have had to "crack" that password with tool built just for that purpose.

It is extremely important that you delete any cracking tools from your server as soon as you gain access to it. If you leave them lying around, someone will eventually find them. One very common way that low-tech hackers break into web sites is to look for these tools.

For example, WordPress is a very common platform for web sites. And it has a well-known password reset routine. When the password reset code is in place, you can browse to

If you delete the program emergency.php as soon as the password is reset, then you're safe.

Bad guys pick web sites at random and try to access the /emergency.php program. If it's there, the bad guys are in! They don't have to hack and crack and work hard. They just have to browse to that address. If that code exists for any reason, they can use it.

In addition to testing your site, you should also just take a minute and ask your computer consultant to verify that the most basic holes in your security are plugged. If you're worried, it's probably a good idea to pay for a security analysis once a year.

Hire Professionals - Please

Many people who know "something" about computers go into consulting because they think it looks easy. But if they don't have training and experience, they don't know about little tricks like this.

And the really bad news is that there are a thousand tricks like this!

That's why it's important to hire a real consultant and not an amateur. What have you got to lose? Everything!


Monday, June 17, 2013

What is Managed Services, Exactly?

Somewhere out of the blue, "computer consultants" started calling themselves "managed service providers." Managed Services are now offered all over the place.

What is Managed Services?

Are all Managed Services the same?

How do big, national corporations like Best Buy and Staples differ from the small I.T. consultants I've always dealt with?

These are great questions. Here's a little advice to help you navigate the modern world of computer consulting.

What is Managed Services?

As a blogger and author in my field, I've been helping to define this topic for about seven years. (I am the author of ten books and thousands of blog posts on managed services.) Precise definitions vary, but here's my take:

- Managed Service covers the maintenance of your technology for a set monthly fee.
- The health of your computers is monitored and alerts are sent automatically when something goes wrong.
- It normally includes applying all critical patches, fixes, and updates to your computer systems automatically.
- It provides preventive maintenance for your computers and networks.
- In many cases, work is performed remotely, so you don't have to wait until someone can come out to your office.

- Most managed service providers also use a "Ticketing" system so that they can keep track of all work. With this, you can be sure that your issue is never lost or forgotten. The MSP (managed service provider) can track hundreds or even thousands of requests at once and none is ever forgotten.

You might wonder why preventive maintenance is so much better than the old way of delivering service. Here it is in a nutshell: Less Downtime.

When you or I call tech support, the first question you are likely to get is "What version are your running?" This is true of all computer systems. Next, you'll be asked to update everything to the latest version. In fact, some places will say to update to the latest version and call back if the problem persists.

The reason you apply all these updates is that they actually fix things! With very few exceptions, modern computers work best when everything is updated to the latest version. SO . . . Managed Services guarantees that your computers are UP more of the time because all the patches are applied in a timely manner.

Monitoring is the Key to Preventive Maintenance

In addition to just keeping your systems up to date, a Managed Service Provider will monitor your computers and receive alerts when something is wrong - or about to go wrong. In the old days, we checked systems once a month to make sure everything was good and computers were not failing. Now we have tools that can monitor critical functions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Automated monitoring can then create Service Requests. A technician receives an alert and goes to work. We often know you have a problem before you do.

It is no exaggeration: A good MSP will often find issues, create a service request, and fix the issue before you know there's a (potential) problem!

Managed Services Means Predictable Expenses

One of the key features of a Managed Service Agreement is that the maintenance of your systems is provided for a flat monthly fee. You still pay for Adds, Moves, and Changes. But maintenance is included.

For example, installing new software is billable. But as soon as the software is installed and working, then it is covered.

If anything was working and stops working, you MSP will fix it for no additional charge. This makes your I.T. budget very stable and predictable.

* Note: The specifics of managed services vary widely, so check with your MSP.

Picking a Computer Consultant in the 21st Century

So what do you look for in a Managed Service Provider? Here are a few things to start with.

1) They should monitor and patch all of your equipment.

2) They should provide reporting that makes sense to you. You probably don't need and wouldn't read a 200 page report every month. But you should at least get an email that tells you the health of you backup system, your servers, etc.

3) They should have a ticketing system. They might have another name for it, but it's a way to create a service request so that you can track how they're doing to address your problems. Great systems automatically create service requests and allow you to create them by sending an email to a specific address, or by using an online portal.

4) They should have a strong emphasis on backup and disaster recovery. With some of the natural disasters we've seen lately (e.g., Super Storm Sandy), millions of businesses were without power for weeks. Will your business survive that? BDR (backup and disaster recovery) is critical.

5) They should have a standard contract and you should be able to review it.

6) At least one person on their team should be able to talk business talk as well as computer geek-speak. Every specialty, including your business, has its own language. Someone needs to translate.

7) You should feel comfortable with the person you're dealing with. You should never feel like a stranger. In small business, business is about people. In any business, we work with people we know, like, and trust.

What About the Big Corporations?

In the last five years or so, many large corporations have realized that there's a lot of money to be made helping small businesses. So many of them have jumped into the market.

Large corporations have an experience that most small businesses do not have: They believe that they can do anything if they throw enough money at it. So they believe they can jump into managed services by simply offering up their services and hiring a massive phone bank of sales people to bring in the customers.

But providing the service is another story.

As large corporations, these "big boys" don't really know how to provide the kind of individual attention that small businesses enjoy. They are good at selling products, but challenged when it comes to services. Here is a very common pattern:

- Jump into the business. Advertise a lot.

- Sign up clients

- Realize it's a lot tougher and less profitable than they thought to provide individual service

- Standardize their processes

- Cut staff and other expenses to increase profit

- Drop the service altogether because it did not reach the desired income targets

When I talk to managed service providers at conferences about big corporations getting into managed services, the reaction is pretty universal: "Bring it on." We like it because these companies introduce more businesses to the concept of managed services. Then they fail to deliver and we now have a larger pool of potential clients who know the (potential) value of managed services.

I appreciate your feedback.

If you want to know anything else about this topic, please post a comment or email me.

- - - - -

Disclaimer: There are many flavors of Managed Services. Interview your local MSP about the specifics of the programs they offer.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Dishwasher that "Technically" Works

Have you ever had an appliance that didn't quite work right? I had an experience once with a dishwasher that just didn't clean very well. It seemed to work. It went through all the cycles. Things got pretty clean. But sometimes dishes had to go through twice and glasses only got really clean when placed in certain locations.

So I called the repair shop and they sent someone out. He poked and prodded, opened up the insides, and generally gave it a once-over. He even checked the motherboard (they have motherboards, apparently). Everything was fine.

"Everything is working," he told me. "I can't fix it because nothing's wrong."

Hmmmm. Well, something's wrong.

Nothing is "technically" wrong. But something is wrong.

"True," he said, "But it's as fixed as it can get."

Okay. Now we're getting somewhere. The machine works. It works as well as it can. Nothing doesn't work - technically. It's just not performing as well as I'd like, or as well as I know a dishwasher CAN perform.

Maybe I can make this old machine work better, but it would involve replacing every part - even though it's not broken - with a brand new part. And if I spend enough money, I can probably get that old dishwasher to work 80% as well as it did when it was new.

But it will never be as good as a new machine, even if I spend more money than it costs to get a new machine.

Sometimes Your Computers "Technically" Work

Your computers are similar to this.

When a computer gets to be old, there's a limit to how well it can work. The hard drive is old. The fans are old. The chip sets are old. The operating system is old.

Even when a computer "works" technically, that doesn't mean it works well or that you should expect it to be as fast as when it was new. Yes: It boots up. The lights come on. The hard drive spins. The screen works. The keyboard works. It "works" - as well as it can.

You probably spent more on that computer than you would spend on a new computer. That's the way computers are. My first computer cost $3,500 and had a 10 megabyte hard drive. That's tiny. My second computer cost $2,500 and had a 20 megabyte hard drive. That's also tiny.

Today a good business computer can be had in the range of $800-$1,000 with gargantuan hard drives. If you need more, you can certainly spend twice that. But most businesses run Word, Excel, Outlook and a web browser. You probably don't need a monster machine.

Your crappy old computer might technically work for the next ten years. That doesn't stop it from being a crappy old computer.

I'm sorry you paid a bunch of money for your old computer, but it's no different than a car. A ten year old car is still ten years old, no matter how much you care for it. You can love it and care for it, but it will still be a little more rattly and a little more dusty than when it was new.

Bottom Line: You need to buy new computers from time to time. We recommend every three years. I can get by with four. But five years is too long. A five year old computer is three generations old. The rest of the world has moved on and you are far less productive if you're still using that old computer just because the light still comes on.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Do Not Install Every Windows Update

As a Managed Service Provider (MSP), we manage our client's computers. One of the most important things we do is to make sure that patches, fixes, and updates are installed. But that's a bit more complicated than it sounds.

For example, Microsoft released an update three days ago that is now causing many machines to fail.Today we see this headline:

Microsoft Tells Windows 7 Users to Uninstall Update - PCs Can Fail to Restart

Please see "The Problem" at the end of this blog post. The bottom line is: An automatic update applied to all machines on Tuesday is making some machines fail and others to display false messages about licensing.

Now Microsoft is recommending that you un-install this patch and wait for a patched patch that doesn't have the problem.

Lesson: Do Not Install Every Update!

Okay. So you should not install every update. Or at least you need a system to determine which updates should and which should not be installed.

A good computer consultant (managed service provider) will have a process for patching machines. It looks something like this:

- Microsoft releases patch

- Patch is tested by a third party to verify that there are no problems

- If blacklisted, patch is not deployed to client machines

- If whitelisted, patch is deployed to client machines

A good computer consultant will use a Remote Monitoring and Management tool to deploy patches. That way, everyone gets them at once. But they only get the ones that are safe! That's one of the reasons we call it managed services. We manage your machines.

You might think this service costs extra money. But most MSPs simply include it as part of their regular support. After all, the computer consultant has to spend less time fixing machines if the "patches" are all safe and whitelisted. And you, the client, can keep working without interruption.

In a perfect world, you should never have to know that a patch was released and failed. You should just keep working. Your consultant should help you avoid these issues altogether. Your consultant should NOT be charging you to uninstall patches like this simply because he doesn't have a system to avoid them in the first place.

If you don't have a managed service agreement, of course you'll need to pay someone to uninstall this patch. But if you do have a managed service agreement for your computers, then this is just another beautiful Spring day where you can worry about what YOU do for a living and not about your technology.

Lesson: Hire The Right Consultant

Before you hire a technician or consultant, ask about the patch management system they use.

If they stare at you, then blink, and say that they rely on Microsoft's "Automatic Updates," you need to keep interviewing. Automatic Updates put your machine at risk. Yes, they're safe 99.9% of the time. But if you just spent three days trying to figure out why your machines won't start, then that .1% becomes very expensive.

In the 21st Century, every computer consultant should be using an automated patch management (remote monitoring and management) system. If your I.T. person doesn't even know what that is, you should step up to more professional support.

It's guaranteed to cost you less money because you'll have fewer problems and more UP-Time for your computers.

The Problem

Here's what's going on.

1) Microsoft tried to fix a potential security problem. See Microsoft Security Bulletin MS13-036. The "fix" was release in Microsoft Update 2823324. See the Knowledge Base article on Microsoft Update 2823324.

2) Some machines (Windows 7 as far as I can tell from the reports) do not restart after the patch is applied.

3) Some machines give false reports that software licenses are not valid.

4) Now Microsoft is recommending that you uninstall that patch while they work on patching the patch.

Microsoft maintains a blog for talking about these things. See the Microsoft Security Center Response blog. Here's what they say about the issue:

"We are aware that some of our customers may be experiencing difficulties after applying security update 2823324, which we provided in security bulletin MS13-036 on Tuesday, April 9. We’ve determined that the update, when paired with certain third-party software, can cause system errors. As a precaution, we stopped pushing 2823324 as an update when we began investigating the error reports, and have since removed it from the download center."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Don't Panic - and Don't Click!

Every once in awhile, the evil people who run phishing scams and spread viruses figure out a way to get an email past your spam filter and into your InBox. They can be very tricky and scary. For example, look at this email:

It's confusing. Did someone just take $760 from my PayPal account? It sure looks like it.

Note: I didn't click on anything here, so I don't know if this is a virus attack, a phishing scam, or something else.

Virus Emails

If it's a virus attack, clicking on anything in this email will execute code that says "You have my permission to install nasty stuff on my computer." You need to take those words very seriously. Assuming you have a decent virus scanner installed, viruses cannot attack your computer unless you give them permission to do so. When you Yes or No or an email link or anything, you give them permission.

So when this kind of thing shows up, there's only one thing you should do: Delete it. Move it to the deleted items folder and then empty that folder from time to time. Never click on anything like this.

Phishing Emails

Phishing scams work this way: You get an email like this and your first response is, "I didn't authorize that." So you want to log into PayPal and check it out. You click on the link, enter your username and password. Now the bad guys have your PayPal account information!

At that point, one or two things happen most commonly. One is that you are redirected to your real PayPal account and logged on with the credentials you just gave. The other is that you get an error message. The kind you normally ignore. That might prompt you to go log into PayPal, which you do successfully. You don't realize that you've just given away your credentials.

Checking Fake Links

There's an easy way to check fake links. Just hold your mouse cursor over the link. The geeky computer code link will pop up. It will look something like this:

Notice that domain name: - I don't know what this is, but it's NOT PayPal.

Don't click it. Don't be curious. Don't even get angry. Just delete it.

Don't Infect Yourself - It Costs Money

One of the common questions we IT Consultants ask each other is "Do you charge managed service clients to fix viruses?" (Managed service means you pay a flat monthly fee for the maintenance of your computer systems. It can't include everything, but it normally includes almost everything.)

My answer is: We will fix one for free. But if the same person infects her machine three times, then she's not really trying very hard to avoid viruses.

Technically, by clicking on that link, you give the bad guys permission to attack your computer. Once you know that and continue to do it, then fixing your computer becomes a billable event. So in addition to costing you downtime, give access to your PayPal account, and potentially opening a security hole in your entire network, you might get a bill from your tech support people.

All in all, it is very easy to avoid these scams. Just make sure everyone in your office knows what to do.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Does I.T. Certification Matter?

You may have wondered whether certifications matter with computer consultants. From time to time you might hear a technician say something like . . .

- "Certifications don't mean anything."

- "I know technicians with no certifications that can outperform 90% of the people in this business."

- "I know a guy who has lots of certifications and he's the worst technician you'll ever find."

So what really matters? What role does a certification really play? Here's my two cents.


In 1995 I was hired as the Site Manager for PC Software Support at HP's Roseville plant. That means I led a team of 25 people who supported all the operating systems and software on 7,000 computers for 5,000 employees. Every person on my team was required to be certified in Windows 3.1.

I was not required to be certified even though I was the technical lead. But I decided that I would get the same certification required of my employees. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

I'd been using Windows 3.0/3.1 for a few years, so I thought I must know pretty much everything I needed to know. I could click, I could drag and drop, and I had a rock solid process for making it operate in a special way so it would work on the Internet. So without studying, I took the exam.

I failed.


I didn't know what I didn't know.

The exam covered amazing details about different ways to set up Windows, configure it on complex networks, and troubleshoot it. There were five areas of knowledge. I passed one!

Of course I studied and studied and studied. I bought a book and exam practice software. I studied until I could consistently pass the practice exam. Then I passed the real thing.

I'm not sure how many Microsoft (and other) exams I've passed since then. But it's a lot. Maybe close to 20. And I studied very, very hard for every one.

The point of all that is this: Exams cover lots and lots of information that no one can get simply using a product (hardware, software, or operating system). The process of studying for an exam is a huge educational undertaking.

If a technician studies for an exam to the point where he is absolutely sure he'll pass, then it doesn't matter whether he takes the exam. It's not the certification that matters. It's the training and preparation that matters. Big companies like HP require certifications because they guarantee that someone trained enough to know enough to pass the exam. If they had another way to guarantee that, they would use it.

Yes, morons do sometimes pass exams.

Here's the secret about nerds: We're 99% left brained. Success in our society is based on left brain abilities. For example, we know how to pass tests! So we can get certified and know a lot less than someone who's not quite so left-brained.

But even with that, the process of certification puts knowledge and experience into our heads. And someday we might just access that. If we never study for the exams, we might never be exposed to that knowledge.


Point #1: When a Fortune 10 company takes something seriously, it probably has value.

Point #2: When people say that someone knows as much without certification as someone else with certification, they probably don't know what they don't know.

Point #3: Studying for certification is where all the value lives. But how will you know if someone studied enough if she never passed the exam?

What Does All This Mean To You?

I think certifications matter. And I think current certifications matter. They don't guarantee that someone is competent. (Trust me. I have stories.) But they do mean that the person has been exposed to a great deal of information that others probably haven't - no matter how good they are.

Knowledge accumulates. The deeper and wider your level of knowledge is, the more problems you'll be able to solve.

If you have a choice between someone who is certified and someone who is not, I think it is wise to choose the certified technician. Even in the small business space, knowledge brings value to the job.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

What is a Trunk Slammer?

There's a term we nerds sometimes use with each other: Trunk Slammer.

A trunk slammer is an unprofessional IT "consultant" who is really just an amateur working out of the trunk of his car. This personal is generally untrained and got into computer support because it looked like fast, easy money.

A trunk slammer is probably very good at installing most software. But he won't know about most of the tools or techniques for fixing any real problems.

Trunk Slammer
A trunk slammer will do a lot of on-your-job training, very often breaking things in an attempt to fix them. He might then actually fix everything. With luck, he won't charge you for breaking things and then fixing them. But many do.

Note: A trunk slammer is NOT the same as a newbie. Many people who are new to technical consulting as a business have been working on computers professionally for a long time. In fact, some of the best IT consultants are those who spent years supporting users in a large company.

Trunk slammers often charge ridiculously low prices. Like $40/hr or $50/hr. At that rate, you can expect to buy at least twice as many hours than if you had hired a good, experienced consultant. The worst case I have experience with is a guy who charged a client for 16 hours labor and did NOT fix the problem. We fixed it in less than one hour.

There are some technical chores that can be done by anyone with a little knowledge. But in the big picture, your business will be better off if you work with a true professional.

Cheap tech support never is.


Why This Blog?


My name is Karl Palachuk. I am an author, speaker, and technology consultant. I have been working with computers since 1983. I have purchased millions of dollars worth of tech support. And, as a consultant for the last eighteen years I have sold millions of dollars worth of tech support.

My primary job these days is to help technology consultants be better at the "business" side of running a technology company. That includes good processes as well as good business sense.

As you can imagine, I attend a lot of technology events and speak to thousands of consultants every year. I've come to realize that there's something missing in the big picture of technical support: Truly honest advice about finding, hiring, and using good tech support.

There are plenty of self-serving white papers and "books" on how to choose a good technical consultant. (I've written my share.) But there hasn't been a place where business owners can get good advice on technology consultants from someone who doesn't have a stake in the game.

I don't want your business.

Really. If you email me because of this blog, I won't let you hire me.

This blog is intended to give you good advice - and that means I'm not trying to take your money. So why AM I doing this?

I am doing this so that technology consultants can be held to a higher standard. I want our entire profession to be more professional. I've sat on boards and teams designed to make this happen. I've written about it, spoken about it, and advocated it for years.

I hate the fact that there are so many incompetent amateurs in this business. It takes time, experience, and education to keep up with technology. It takes good business practices to give clients good support. And it takes a commitment to the profession as a profession.

If you want a taste of the advice I give to I.T. consultants, see my other blog - You'll see that I am a stickler for doing things the right way. And I believe there IS a right way.

There's also a right way for you, the business owner, to choose and use your tech support. If you want good support, there are certain things you need to do. There are times when you need to spend money. There are times when you need to turn over trust to the people you've hired. There are times when you will rely on consultants to save you money.

And some day you may rely on a consultant to save your business. But you better have the right consultant in place before disaster strikes, or you will probably be out of business when disaster strikes.

I want to help you hold my profession to a higher standard. I want to encourage good, competent tech support and I want to drive morons and amateurs out of business.

You'll find me very opinionated. And I will be as tough on you as I am on the consultants you hire. I hope you'll stick with me for this journey.