911 for your IT

Acting like a paramedic squad for your PC or network, companies such as Middleburg Heights-based Response Time are cornering the growing market of servicing companies’ emergency computer system problems.

With one phone call, Response Time’s technicians can swoop in with a new hard drive and get it up and running or fix a network glitch or hook systems back up to the Internet. Thanks to the demand, the company reported double-digit growth in the last few years.

Launched in 1987, Response Time’s revenue is on the upswing again due in part to a reworked business plan. Previously, it serviced only broken PCs and printers, but in the 1990s, when PCs became as cheap and disposable as safety razors, company president Bill Russell knew a strategic change was in order.

In response to the changing technology landscape, the company began focusing on overall system maintenance, and it paid off.

“The profitability has been on a steady increase, and right now, we’re starting to pick up again,” Russell says. “The networking and software support is growing quite rapidly because there are a lot more computer problems that aren’t related to an actual malfunction of a piece of hardware breaking.”

Due to the company’s success, Russell went from working alone to employing 15 technicians and office support staff. Following are a few simple tips to help prevent a computer system meltdown and a subsequent employee meltdown.

Don’t fix it yourself

What starts out as a small glitch can turn into a complete meltdown when frustrated employees try to fix problems themselves. It’s usually better to let a professional solve a major computer problem, not only to prevent damage to the system but to save hours of wasted productivity.

“The company doesn’t see that cost,” Russell says. “It’s not like writing a check to an outside company, but all of a sudden their office manager or their bookkeeper, or it might be one of their engineers, is spending half of their time tinkering with computers and not doing their full-time job.”

Protect against viruses

Thanks to DSL and always-on Internet, the computer virus has re-emerged as a newly fortified threat to computers and computer systems. Vigilance is the key. Update your computer system’s virus protection software at least every three months, says Russell.

“It’s something you have to go and do. Some software updates automatically, but it’s not terribly common.”

Keep up with printer maintenance

Even with the trend toward paperless offices, many offices still live and die by the laser printer, one of the items for which Response Time gets the most frequent emergency repair calls. Russell recommends preventive maintenance for your printers, especially before busy times of the year.

Printers usually give warning signs a technician can spot before they malfunction.

“We have several of our larger customers who do it on a regular basis and they just don’t have the emergencies anymore.” How to reach: Response Time, (440) 243-8080

Morgan Lewis Jr. ([email protected]) is a reporter at SBN Magazine.