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Support Group

Get computer help without technically having the staff.

Remember when you were an employee? When-ever your computer hiccupped or the e-mail went down, it was someone else's problem to solve. Now it's your problem. Most startups can't afford to bring a full-time IT person onboard, so entrepreneurs have to get creative and be resourceful. A smart first step is to ask other local small businesses about who they use for IT. Word-of-mouth is a good way to find a local, independent technology consultant.

There are some nationwide companies you can turn to as well. One of the most well-known is the Geek Squad, located in Best Buy stores. It offers a variety of services, 24-hour support and an upfront standardized price list.

Another option is remote virtual computer support, where an IT technician accesses your computer or server through the internet and fixes it from afar. Computer Overhauls is one of several remote support providers. It saves you the cost of having an IT person come to your office, and service contracts can help you keep a remote IT technician "on staff."

Ask your potential IT help these questions: Do you have experience with small companies? Do you have a certain specialization? What are your rates, and how are they determined? Is phone or e-mail support available? Is support available at all hours? What are your response times when a problem arises? Can you provide IT training? Do you have references I can contact? These answers can help you find the right IT fit for your startup.

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This article was originally published in the February 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Support Group .

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