Indepth: Reducing your Maintenance Costs

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Reducing your maintenance costsNo-one likes paying too much for their IT support. On the other hand, it's a vital service that you wouldn't want to be without.

So how do you keep your maintenance costs down? The first thing we would suggest is looking after your IT equipment to keep the running costs down. To find out how to do this, read Reducing IT Equipment Costs.

But there are also things you can do to reduce your maintenance costs - here's our top tips;

Be prepared. If an engineer is coming to see you then it makes sense to have a think about what they may need so they spend less time with you. For example, the instruction manual, manufacturer's warranty, original software packaging for the license number etc.

A little knowledge helps ... It's not economical for an IT support company to replace a printer cartridge or change email settings like auto-responders. These are easy jobs you can do yourself. Learn some basic maintenance and settings for your equipment so you're not completely dependent.

... or can be a dangerous thing. Know your limitations. It can be a complicated and technical task to load new software or configure new hardware for your network – best leave it to the experts if it's not something you're comfortable with. Otherwise you'll incur call-out costs for repairing any damage and for re-doing the initial job correctly.

Have a single point of contact. Channelling requests for assistance through a nominated contact point in your company is an excellent way of building up some knowledge of your IT systems and makes things very efficient. The more time you spend using an IT support company the more likely it is your maintenance costs will rise.

Keep your schedule up to date. If you call out a computer support company for a piece of equipment which isn't covered under the maintenance schedule, you'll be charged a call-out fee. Lap-tops for both home and business use are the most common items where this happens. So each time you buy a new piece of equipment let your provider know so they can add it to the schedule - it's cheaper than a call-out.

Alternatively, can the computer support company get the equipment for you? Then you know it'll be fit for purpose, correctly configured for your systems and covered by maintenance.

Have a regular check-up. Do you service your car regularly or have a periodic medical check-up? Reputable computer and IT support companies should provide a regular free audit of your systems, to make sure they're still fit for purpose and functioning efficiently.

"Have you switched it on and off?" It might sound obvious, but many things can be easily fixed by checking they're plugged in, the fuse hasn't blown and there are no loose wires. Then reboot it again and if it still doesn't work ask your company IT support contact if they've come across the problem before. If they haven't, log a call.

IT maintenance is like looking after any object, be that a household appliance, a house or a car. If you have it regularly serviced and learn a few basic tasks you can expect years of trouble-free service but still have an expert to call on if you need it. But if you call an electrician every time a bulb goes out, you'll soon begin to resent the cost, rather than be grateful for the support.