Category Archives: Computer Repair

Managed Services Computer Repair

How to Get Recurring Revenue for Your Computer Repair Business – Part 2

Recurring revenue for your computer repair business is how you will stay in business.  It helps you plan, budget and have a successful business.  It’s also great for your clients.  Having their computers maintained and monitored is much better than waiting for a disaster to happen.  It also gives them a way to budget for their technology needs.

I had a client that recently had a bad virus infection.  The virus infected all of their documents and their accounting system.  Their business came to a halt as soon as the virus hit.  They called late on a Friday afternoon in a panic.  I immediately went to work restoring their data from various backups.  But the problem was, nobody was checking their backups to make sure they were working.  It turns out only one of the backups was working and it wasn’t a disaster recovery backup.  In the end I was able restore a good portion of their data, but there was still a lot lost.  Had they been on a contract with backup monitoring, the amount lost would have been much less!

In my last post I introduced two business models: Break/Fix and Managed Services.  Managed Services basically means that your client is outsourcing their technology department. You, the service provider, become their IT department.  My client would have benefited greatly if they were signed  up on a managed contract.

Here’s a breakdown of what Managed Services looks like:

Pricing

Managed Services needs to be at a price point that is both good for you and the client – but, don’t price it too low!  This is an investment for them, in their company, and you need to offer a great product.  How can you offer a great product and service at a discounted rate?  The answer is you can’t.

Think of what it will take to support their workstations, server, routers, etc.  If  you have worked for them before, take a look at past invoices.  How much are they spending each month?  Each quarter?  Each year?  You can get a good idea of what it will take to offer managed maintenance and support.

So, what should you charge?  This can be a hard question to answer.  It depends on your clientele, your market, what you want to offer and how you want to offer it (on-site? remote? both?).  Here’s a good start:

Workstations and Servers:

Typically you need to charge a set fee for each workstation and server they have.  Start around $10 per month per workstation (remote monitoring only) and go up from there ($25 to $50 per month or more for unlimited support).  Each client will be different.  $50 might not be enough for unlimited support.  If they have basic workstations setup, use MS Office, email, and a web browser, $25 – $50 should cover that.   If they have more complicated systems (engineers using AutoCAD or lawyers/accounts using vertical market software) you may need to raise the price.

The same thing for servers.  The more complicated, the more you need to charge.  Also pay mind to the age and condition of the server.  For a basic file server I usually charge around $150 to $300/month.  Obviously, if more complicated services are being hosted on the server (Exchange Server for example), you should charge more.  How much more is up to you, your skill level, and the complexity of the extra service(s) being run.   If the server is running a program you’re not comfortable supporting, carve that out of the contract and support it on a hourly basis only.  Usually you would cover everything on the server, though.

With these prices in mind, you might still need to charge for on-site visits and definitely for project work.  Anything being added or changed or replaced will fall under project work.  Your contract with the client should only include their existing hardware and software.

The cost of new hardware or software is, of course, separate.

You can customize your offerings to your clients too.  Maybe offer a  basic package package – $10/month workstation monitoring and patching, $50 server monitoring and patching – no support, just monitoring.  This can be the “Starter” package.  After that, move up to the “Better” package – unlimited remote support, patching and monitoring.  $25/month/workstation and $150/month/server.  You get the idea.  I highly encourage you to come with with your own pricing and packaging.  What works for me might not work for you and your clients.

Hardware and Vendor Management

You can also include support for other hardware your client might have.  Printers, fax machines, modems, routers, print servers, phones/phone system.  Each one will also have a monthly price.  Around $20 per month is a good starting point depending on the hardware and your ability to support it.  You can include monthly, on-site cleaning and maintenance.
Vendor management is another item you can offer to support.  If anything happens to their internet connection or phone service, you’ll take care of it – for an additional monthly fee of course.

Here’s an example of services with pricing (notice that the on-site hourly rate goes down with a contract):

ServiceHourly Rate -
No
Contract
Monitoring Only (Basic Package)Unlimited
Remote Only (Better)
Unlimited
Support (Best)
Monthly Service-$10/month/WS
$50/month/Server
$35/month/WS
$150/month/Server
$50/month/WS
$350/month/Server
Remote Maintenance and Support$150/hr, 1 hr minimum$100/hr, 1 hr minimumIncludedIncluded
Remote Project Work$150/hr, 1 hr minimum$100/hr, 1 hr minimum$100/hr/half hr minimum$100/hr
On-Site Support$180/hr, 1 hr minimum$130/hr, 1 hr minimum$100/hr/1 hr minimumIncluded
On-Site Project Work$180/hr, 1 hr minimum$130/hr, 1 hr minimum$100/hr/1 hr minimum$100/hr/1 hr minimum
Full Monitoring of Vital Services-IncludedIncludedIncluded
Preventative Maintenance Including Updates, Patches, and Fixes-IncludedIncludedIncluded

Use this table as a template and come up with your own pricing and offerings.

The idea here is to setup an environment in which recovering from a disaster is made easier and faster.  Especially if your client is signed up for unlimited support.  You are in business to make money.  The more time spent recovering from a disaster, the less money you make and the less happy your client becomes.  Monitoring and setting up various levels of backup can greatly reduce downtime and lost money.

I’m in the process of signing up my aforementioned client on a managed contract.  They see the value in this service and it’s great for both of us.

My next post will be about how to automate some of the monitoring and management using various software tools.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

Computer Repair Tools Networking Toolbox - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

Computer Repair Tools: Networking Toolbox

As far as computer repair tools go, there are a few items I never leave home (or the office) without when visiting clients.  One of them is my networking tools toolbox – essential for computer repair professionals dealing with networks.  If you’re already dealing with networks, you probably already have something like this.  If not, this is a good starting point.

My box just what I need for the amount, and type, of networking jobs I do.  Basically this toolbox houses my network testers, wire strippers, spare patch cables, punch-down tool, etc.  Everything I need to terminate and test network ports and wiring.

Each tech will have a variation of what sort of networking tools they carry with them.  This is just what I have and is a good guideline to building your own network toolbox.  If you do more networking jobs more often, you might want something more.  For me, this works out nicely.

Aluminum Case

First, the box itself (pictured at the top of this post).  I picked this up at my local Harbor Freight – check it out here.  It’s sturdy, easy to store in my car, easy to carry and doesn’t look half-bad either.  The dividers make it easy to organize everything I carry in it.

Network Cable Tester

Network Cable Tester - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

This is a very basic tester I picked up at Home Depot.  My tester I normally use died after many years of service.  There are some pretty big differences between this $79 tester and my previous $450 tester.  For example, the more expensive tester told you the length of the cable being tested – and if there was a break in the cable, it tells you approximately how many feet down the line the break is, making troubleshooting much easier.  It also had a feature to test the network ports on a network switch and was even able to obtain an IP address for testing purposes.  All of these features come in very handy!

My next cable tester will probably be a Fluke tester, similar to this one.  My old one was made by Ideal, and while it worked great, I think a Fluke will last longer.  It’s a brand I see being used a lot by network technicians.

I don’t have a cable certifier, as my networking jobs don’t require it.  These are more expensive and have features I’ll probably never use.

Wire Stripper and Crimper

 Cable Stripper and Wire Crimper - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

The orange wire stripper is a cinch to use and inexpensive.  The crimper is something I hardly ever use.  I don’t really have the need for it except for the rare occasion.  You should be using keystones/jacks, patch panels and patch cables in your network setup.  If you’re crimping wires, something needs to be fixed or changed in your network…

 

Impact Punch down Tool

Punch Down Tool - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

A punch-down tool will terminate CAT 3/5/5e/6 cable to keystones and patch panels.  Whether doing a new network install or you just need it to re-terminate existing wire, this is the tool to use.  There are less expensive, more basic, tools you can use, but this is nice for the “impact” feature.  It will terminate and cut the end of the wire in one motion.  The blade is interchangeable – use the 110 blade for network patch panels and keystones and use the 66 blade for telephone 66 blocks.

Toner

Cable Toner - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

One of my favorites. I use my toner probably more than any other tool in my box.  There are two parts to a toner kit:  the “wand” and the box that generates a tone – an audible beep you can hear using the wand.  This makes troubleshooting and find network cable runs much easier.  The end of the box that creates the tone has a few different attachments.   One attachment has alligator clips for clipping onto bare (unterminated) wire.  The other click has an RJ-11 plug you can use to plug into phone jacks (RJ-11) or network jacks (RJ-45).

Once you have the tone generator plugged in somewhere, say, in a network jack in your client’s office, you can use the want to “sniff out” the cable run where the wires are terminated.  Usually there is a dedicated closet where all of the network and phone cables are housed.  Simply use stick on the wand in to the mess of wires until you are able to track down the run – the louder the tone gets, the closer you are to the cable you’re searching for.

Drywall Saw

Drywall Saw - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

Pretty basic tool here.  Used to easily cut out hole in drywall for boxes/face plates and getting into walls for pulling wire.

Butt Set

Butt Set - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

If you’re doing phone work, you need this.  It’s a phone with two leads with alligator clips at the end.  The clips can be connected to a 66 block or to an adapter for plugging straight into a phone jack.  They’re usually a few hundred dollars, but this one is inexpensive and looks like it’s getting good reviews.  I ordered one – we’ll see how it holds up to the “traditional” butt set.

This style of butt set is old-school but gets the job done.

Fiberglass Wire Running Kit

Fiber Glass Rods - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

Okay, this won’t fit in your toolbox, but it’s a must-have if you plan on pulling any amount of wire.  These kits usually come with 5 or 6, 6-foot pull/push rods.  They glow in the dark, are unbreakable (I’ve never broken one anyway!), very flexible and can be connected together to make one really long rod.   I’ve never had to use a fish tape because of these rods.  They’re far better!  In ceilings or walls, they make pulling wire a lot easier.  A popular system is called “Creep-Zit” from Labor Saving Devices, Inc.

Other items in the box

 Networking Toolbox - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

Small level
Tape measure
Electrical tape
Wire coathanger (another way to pull wire in tight spots)
Wood screws
Zip ties
Various cable ties
Markers
Label maker
Stud finder
Long drill bit

I’m sure I’m missing something – I’ll update as I remember.

Do you already have a toolbox like this?  If so, what tools to you carry?

How to Remove a Computer Virus - Start Your Computer Repair Business

How to Remove a Virus

Virus-PCViruses are a huge headache!  A computer infected with a virus (or malware, spyware, etc.) is something I see often and can cause major problems – everything from slowing your computer to a crawl to taking over your web browser or even your whole computer.  Removing a virus infection can seem like a monumental task.  This is a quick guide and one (of the many) ways I like to remove a virus from a computer.

 

The first thing you have to do is run a full virus scan (you do have virus protection right?!).  I recommend using avast! anti-virus, it’s a great product.  If you don’t have anti-virus software installed get some installed now!  You can get avast! here. This is an affiliate link and I do get a small commission on each sale.

 

If you already ran a virus scan and it didn’t fix your problem, you’ve probably come to a point where you need a little more help.  The best way, I’ve found, to tackle a virus in Windows, is to first:

 

1 –  Boot into Safe Mode with Networking.  To boot into Safe Mode with Networking, restart your computer.  As your computer restarts press and hold the F8 key on your keyboard.  This will bring you to a black screen called Advanced Boot Options.  Choose Safe Mode with Networking.

 

windows-boot-menu

 

2 –  After in you’re Safe Mode I head over to Bleeping Computer and download Combofix.  This is a great, free tool to use on badly infected computers.  Combofix is probably the number one tool I use when tackling bad virus infections.  If you have anti-virus software installed, Combofix will warn you that you have to disable it before continuing.  If after disabling the anti-virus software, it still warns me, I’ll go ahead and uninstall the anti-virus software (the PC is already infected, so it won’t make any difference taking it off!)

 

Combofix will go through about 50 steps before rebooting and finishing up.  Let Combofix run all the way through and don’t turn off the computer or use it until it’s done.  Bleeping Computer has a guide to using Combofix here.

 

3 – At this point your computer should have rebooted.  After Combofix is done running and cleaning the infections be sure to install and/or update your anti-virus software and run a full scan.

 

DenverComputerMechanics - avastPro

 

4 – Next, download and run Malwarbyte’s Anti-Malware PRO (affiliate link).  Choose “Perform full scan” and click the “Scan” button. This will usually find what’s left lurking on your system.  It might take 20 minutes to an hour or more to run, depending on how many drives you have and how much data you have on them.  Malwarbyte’s Anti-Malware tends to do more of a “deep” scan of your drives and files and is a great tool to use.

malware-bytes-pro-dcm

 

 

5Be sure your firewall is turned on.  Windows has a built-in firewall and it works great.  Firewalls help keep intruders out of your computer.  Here’s the link to Microsoft’s site for more detail.  To check it’s status, click Start (or in Windows 8,while at the start screen) and type “windows firewall”.  Click the Windows Firewall icon to check the status.

 

Denver Computer Mechanics - Windows Firewall Start Menu

 

 

That’s it – your computer should be virus-free!  Make sure you have antivirus software installed, Windows is up to date, your firewall is turned on and you practice safe web browsing to stay clear of viruses in the future.