Because of their sometimes limited in-house IT resources, SMBs are a logical target market for remote diagnostic services, such as Support.com, that can help solve niggling tech issues for not a whole lot of money.
The sweet spot for such services is problems not major enough to require a technician to get their hands on a PC. With the ever-expanding ability to perform all kinds of tasks via the Web, that's a growing list.
In addition to saving money, the service saves time, since you don't have to take your PC offline, remove cables and other connections, and take it somewhere for analysis. Some services, like Best Buy's Geek Squad, offer to make house (or office) calls, but those obviously cost more.
As the author of this SiliconValley.com piece points out, it also removes the onus of trying to describe your problem(s) to a tech, followed by a possibly anxiety-provoking experience of having him or her verbally walk you through a process you find confusing. I've been there myself a few times, with members of our crack IT staff trying to help me with connectivity issues while I was working from home on the VPN. (Shudder.)
The SiliconValley.com writer's experience with Support.com was easy and inexpensive. The tech performed a 20-minute "system update" for $59. After the tech deleted spyware and unnecessary programs, expanded virtual memory and dispensed some related advice, the writer's machine ran faster and better.
A Support.com executive estimates that his company can handle 85 percent of its calls during remote diagnostic sessions that last less than 30 minutes.
Several major hardware manufacturers, including Dell and HP, offer similar services for a similar price. (Dell also offers an online resource geared to SMBs where they can view online tutorials and Webcasts and discuss issues with other SBMs in chat forums.)
With all of the angst over Microsoft's Vista, Support.com is apparently doing a healthy business right now in helping folks figure out whether their systems can handle the new OS.