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7/23/2009
11:37 AM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
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What Computer Service Companies Know About The Equipment We Buy

Not long ago, I had a fascinating conversation with David Yarborough, president of ComputerPlus Sales & Service. Unlike the rest of the world, he knows which technology products break, and which ones don't.

Not long ago, I had a fascinating conversation with David Yarborough, president of ComputerPlus Sales & Service. Unlike the rest of the world, he knows which technology products break, and which ones don't.Twenty-year-old ComputerPlus is based in Greer, South Carolina, but has 45 field engineers providing hardware support in all 50 states. With a contract-based service and support business that charges a fixed fee to maintain a client's equipment, ComputerPlus is sort of like a doctor at an HMO. The company makes money when the equipment it agrees to maintain doesn't break, and loses money when it has to actually go out on a service call.

Obviously, in deciding what contracts to take on and how much to charge, it's very helpful to know what products are reliable and what products aren't. According to Yarborough, "We know what's likely to break."

DavidYarborough David Yarborough

The company maintains a master equipment list that lays out the maintenance history of all the products the company has serviced. Before taking on a contract, ComputerPlus gets an inventory of what the prospetive client uses, and them matches it up against that master list. That helps it determine whether to take on the client, and to set a price that keeps the customer happy and still delivers a profit. Just as important, the list indicates what particular parts are most prone to failure, so ComputerPlus technicians can stock the replacement parts most likely to be needed, reducing inventory costs and speeding response times.

"Servers have gotten much more reliable," Yarborough says, and desktops also have a much longer life. While Intel and others say that PCs should be replaced every 3 years, Yarborough says many SMBs are extending PC lifespans from 3 years to 5 or 6 years. "It's both because they can," he says, "and because they don't want to spend the money on new ones."

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Interestingly, printer reliability "depends on the make. We know within a year what our pricing will be," Yarborough says.

I tried to get Yarborough to spill the beans on which machines are most and least reliable, but unfortunately, he's not saying. Still, there is a way to get at the information. Try contacting your local support provider and get a quote on maintaining a particlar line of hardware. Then ask for a quote on a different line. Most likely, the equipment with the cheaper support costs is more reliable.

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