CanadaOne Twitter CanadaOne Linkedin CanadaOne Facebook CanadaONe RSS


When to Fire Your Computer Consultant

By Julie King |

Recently a friend dropped by and sheepishly asked us if we could recommend a hosted solution for her husband's business.

After asking a few questions we were shocked to learn that her husband had been paying a "friend" $200/hr to help him keep his database and computer network up and running. The "friend" wasn't able to return calls until almost 12 hours after they were received because he also had a full time job. Then came the real zinger - for a long time this "friend" had been putting in at least an hour of support a week ... for a company with 3 computers that primarily used a common contact management program (Maximizer).

My friend's husband had literally spent upwards of $800 a month to maintain a small computer network of three computers. In fact, he had recently purchased a complete set of brand new computers for his office following the advice of his consultant, but less than 2 weeks later the database and network were down once again.

After these and many other frustrating experiences, even though he rarely traveled and only supported a handful of employees, my friend's husband was willing to put his critical business data on an external server to solve his firm's computer woes.

As someone who has worked in the computer industry for the last decade let me start by saying that these costs and problems are not normal.

Occasionally businesses will purchase a "lemon" computer. We had a bad experience with that many years ago in our business and learned the hard way that support may be promised, but is not always forthcoming when a computer fails to work properly. Added to that is the reality that hardware will sometimes fail for no apparent reason. One day a router or network card can be working perfectly and the next day it could be defunct, with little indication of why this has happened.

The challenge, then, to keep your systems up and running so that your employees can be productive is to locate a reliable, honest technical support technician.

To help us identify positives and pitfalls of working with network support technicians we spoke with Sam Marashi of Tektonic Inc. We have known Sam for over 8 years and consider him to be a gem of the industry. No one is perfect, but Sam is smart, honest and reliable. Here are some of the red flags he has seen when working with a variety of small business clients. If you recognize them as something you may be experiencing right now, then it is probably time for you to consider hiring a new IT technician.

"Lets make something clear before we start to hammer on the poor 'IT guy'"," says Marashi. "In this day and age, IT is a thankless job, period."

Despite all the improvements and stability that have come with Windows XP, Server 2003, Active Directory and other software, far more complex issues have been added to the already complex IT world. Expanded threats, spam and other vulnerabilities such as spyware affect the various platforms."

The problem in small and mid sized organizations, says Marashi, is that most rely on a single individual who is either on staff or outsourced to provide support. For the most part this individual is a 'one person show' who has some background in IT that could be a short term course as an MCSE (Microsoft Certified System Engineer). In many cases, the limited scope of training means that the person does not even understand how a small Microprocessor works.

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD)
What happens when someone with limited experience encounters an unusual problem not listed in traditional on-line help resources? To buy time the support technician falls back on the classic technique of using 'FUD' - fear, uncertainty and doubt.

"They are simply stuck," says Marashi, "and to buy themselves some extra time they come up with sometimes the most obscene explanations or fabricate stories."

This is accomplished by using complex technical language - 'technobabble' - that the end-user does not understand to explain problems. To the person listening, this language sets up a communication barrier. The result usually leaves the customer thinking "well I'd better just leave this person alone so that they can fix what is clearly a highly technical problem that I couldn't understand".

However, over time when the same problem continues to resurface time and time again, a company will lose confidence in their IT support person.

Here are a few stories from the trenches that illustrate 'FUD' in action.

Failure to update blamed on notebooks
In one company that Marashi visited, the company was plagued by a computer virus. Their IT support would clean all the workstations, only to find that the virus would almost immediately return to many workstations. In the end the IT staff ended up blaming senior management for the problem, accusing them of infecting the network when they connected their notebooks to the company network.

This was a rather large company with about 800 employees. As you can imagine, senior management became very frustrated with their support staff! After a bit of digging Marashi discovered that while the company had kept its licenses for the antivirus program up-to-date, it had never installed the latest versions of the software that it had received. The engine in the older version of the product was unable to detect the new string of viruses that had been plaguing the company. All problems were fixed when the new software that had literally been sitting in the company's storeroom was installed.

Faulty wiring gets the blame
In another company staff were frustrated by intermittent interruptions to their network connection. Sometimes they could connect to the company's servers, but at other times they could not. IT staff claimed that faulty wiring was the problem, which would have cost the company a significant amount of money to fix.

As it turned out wires had nothing to do with the real problem. A software program used to assign connecting addresses to workstations would occasionally fail, and this failure meant that some computers were unable to connect. By repairing this service all of the connection problems were fixed.

Losing client emails? Oh well!
Sometime IT take a rigid approach to the limitations of technology. "This is the way it is," they will say, usually to the chagrin of their customers.

At one company the spam filters that had been installed on the network were automatically filtering out a number of critical emails from clients. When the customer contacted the IT staff about the problem IT had responded to that customer with "this is the way that it is".

The executive director, who could not afford to lose the client, responded quickly and brought Marashi in to help. All that was needed was the addition of a 'white list'. White lists allow you to build a list of email addresses that will automatically get past the junk filters in your email program. These lists usually allow you to include either an individual email addresses ( or all of the emails coming from a specific domain (

Technobabble and FUD are the tactics most commonly used to confuse non-technical people. The bottom line is this: your technology should work. If you find that problems keep recurring or if you think an explanation sounds too technical or outlandish, be ready to challenge it or to ask for a plain language explanation. When in doubt, consider calling in a second technician - preferably someone who comes well recommended - to help.

Canadian, Eh!

For over 15 years CanadaOne has helped Canadian businesses start-up and grow. All of the content on our site is created to help busineses get Canadian answers!

Featured Member

MemberZone. Get in the zone! Join Today!

CanadaOne Recommends

Bullies in the Boardroom: Covering the Legal Bases

Should I Start My Own Company?

Conversations with Entrepreneurs: Billy Blanks

Avoiding Legal Perils: Critical Insights into Canadian Franchise Law

Starting a Business: Choosing a Year-End


Article Tags