Security

Tips for holiday tech support

If you're going to be supporting friends and family in between servings of turkey and pumpkin pie, here are a few things to bear in mind beforehand.

If you're going to be supporting friends and family in between servings of turkey and pumpkin pie, here are a few things to bear in mind beforehand.

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Ah, it's holiday season again. A lot of folks will be unplugging from work and spending some quality time with friends and family. For those of us who work in IT, though, these months often show a spike in service requests. They just won't be coming from the office. If you are anything like me, you will probably find yourself offering advice on which gadgets make nice gifts and lending a hand in getting some of those gifts working. You might even be attending to a sick PC or two.

Sometimes it can be hard providing tech support to friends and family. I find it can be easy to get distracted and aggravated, since I'm usually hoping to take a rest from all things resembling work during my off hours. What good are our skills though, if we don't use them to help those people who are most important to us? If you decide to lend your loved ones a hand, let me say good for you and offer a few suggestions for things you might want to keep in mind before making holiday house calls.

Bring your own computer. If you get to Granny's house and her "little problem" is that Windows won't boot, you might need your own machine. Burn a disk of software you might need. If there isn't broadband available, you'll be glad you brought your own software. Include all the greatest hits...major OS updates, installers for anti-virus and anti-spyware utilities with current definitions. CDs are best for this, since you might not be able to count on a DVD drive being available. CDs also won't be prone to any infections that might be present in the patient. Be patient. It is a universal truth that no one can get under your skin like your family, but if you get frustrated, you're not doing anyone any good. Don't rush the job, and take your time explaining things. If you find that your fuse is getting short... Know when to say when. You don't have to accept every request for help, and you don't have to use up an entire weekend being the hero. You're entitled to have some time to yourself.

What's your policy regarding tech questions when getting together with your friends and family? Do you like to help out or are you "off the clock"? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

30 comments
catfish182
catfish182

I give out 3 free sessions period to family. For a while i was giving out free support and i was buring about 50 bucks a week and using up 12 hours a week for them. I asked a few for just gas money so i would not lose any money and they said no. So everyone gets crossloop now no matter what i do.

mark.silvia
mark.silvia

I provide support for my family year-round, but within reasonable boundaries. During holidays when I am am with the family, I don't mind taking some time to fix a problem. If it's a larger problem, I'll schedule a more appropriate time for it. However, when I am on vacation, such as a trip away from family and work, I am NOT AVAILABLE -- this is my down time. Non-emergencies and urgent-non-show stoppers can wait until I get back. I have had past abuses from employers who knowingly call when I am on vacation and off the clock for non-emergencies or failing to follow contingency procedures or contacting appropriate backup people. One time I was riding on the beach on horseback. I learn to just simply shut off the phone at times and check messages only twice a day.

jdclyde
jdclyde

If it is a quick fix or it is going to be a while before food is ready, lets rock. If it is going to be a major operation, everyone knows I will only do long jobs at my house where I can work on it at my leisure. It also means a two to three day run-around if it is major enough that I have to take it with me. This gives me time to do more than just a quick fix. I can do all the updates, scans, and cleanups that will keep the system from going down again. The only time I had to draw a line was my buds dad. He had a friend that was "good with computers".... I told him the next time he let his little buddy touch the computer was the last time I would because I was tired of cleaning up behind him.

zack.wimberly
zack.wimberly

NEVER PROVIDE SUPPORT TO YOUR FAMILY!!! You can not walk away for the next guy to fix! LOL Plus when it breaks again, no matter what it was, it will be your fault it is broken.

bobsoffice
bobsoffice

I do expect the ???Hay Bob, my computer is/is not doing _____, Do you think this that it is a problem???? questions. When they do come, and since I can???t say ???NO???. I do a little triage(5 or 10 min) to get an idea of what the trouble is then I???ll setup a time with the family/friend member to come back. That usually keeps them happy , and I do get some down time.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

I have some Audio/Video/Electronics knowledge as well, so I always help family and friends. I normally help everyone around my work and family/friends with advices in regards to shopping, security and technology. Is always good to help. Sometimes I'm very busy and I request time for fixing issues but is good to share knowledge and expertise with others. Of course, there are limitations everybody knows.

lcoursey
lcoursey

As far as supporting friends goes, here's my rule: if we've never sat down and had a drink together, then you're getting my usual $30/hr rate unless you offer some amazing food or other favorite item as payment.

aschumm
aschumm

...is from the student! I read this blog for common sense, intelligent, and serious responses... not glib answers just for the sake of putting oneself online.

gelaciod
gelaciod

I've usually help out, I've got no problem with doing so. I married into a family of eleven brothers and sisters, none of them are technical at all. No payment required, only praise for the service provided. After all what are families for,if not to help each other out. Gelacio

s.butera
s.butera

So far the only requests for my help have been which SD card will be compatible with a new camera

reisen55
reisen55

They rarely say THANK YOU. If they do, you have a very good friend to treasure. They rarely pay you for time If they do, a good dinner on their dime is wonderful. They can ignore the work you have done If they day, the friendship is eroding. They can blame you for stuff that goes wrong And that can end a friendship. I do work for friends very rarely.

heatheratsupport
heatheratsupport

Another solution is to just get 'em a gift card for remote tech support service from support.com- they'll get everything set up remotely over the broadband connection, so you don't have a Geek hanging out around the tree, ogling your Holiday goodies. Plus, no long waits on the manufacturer help line and you can kick back and drink all the nog you want!!

.Martin.
.Martin.

I already have a crashed hard drive to look at. but other than that, i hope not to have much, lucky most of the people i know, kind of know what they are doing... that or pay for somebody else to do it... :D

williamjones
williamjones

What with all the gift-giving going on, and since many of us will be seeing friends and family, I bet a lot of techs will be playing help desk for their loves ones. How do you feel about providing tech help during the holidays? Is it an imposition that annoys you, or do like to have the chance to assist loved ones? My life has gotten a little easier since last winter. Remote Desktop and the screen-sharing feature built into many chat clients has let me stop making as many house calls, since I can help friends over the network. I've also had a few people in my life move to Apple computers, which has resulted in fewer calls to this help desk. Do you have a particularly memorable instance where you were called on for support during the holidays?

jdclyde
jdclyde

when friends/family of friends start asking, and expect something for nothing.

wolfen2k
wolfen2k

iv got family who live quite a distance so remote support is my god send, If anyone asks for help while im visiting them, then i help make sure their on line works and add them to my free logmein list. I can then help anything else at any more conveniant time, and we can both have a bevvi :)

jdclyde
jdclyde

It is time to learn the difference between acquaintances and friends. An acquaintance is someone you can go have a few drinks with and party up. A friend is someone you could call at 4am for bail money and know they would be there for you, or with you, looking for someone else with money, saying "damn, that was fun!".

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

"just get 'em a gift card for remote tech support service from support.com" You get what you pay for. I signed up as a tech service agent and have seen what jobs come through and what they are willing to pay for it. Don't bother, as you'll get some runny-nosed 18 y.o. who thinks he has talent... only you'll pay a low price for next to no service at all.

jerez
jerez

This christmas, I got my sister Norton Anti-Virus and I'll be backing up/reinstalling XP on her PC, since it's a decent machine, but it's so clogged up with spyware and useless clutter, an XP reinstall/added antivirus would make a huge difference. I dont really mind helping a friend out if they're having problems, especially if they aren't the most computer-literate people out there. I'm not very big on charging my friends, the favor can get returned in the long run. You also get lots of free drinks ;)

brian.olson
brian.olson

I work on my in-law's computers fairly regularly. Of course they run an in-the-home business so it's rather important that the computers are running reliably. Since my wife works for that business, her paycheck is directly affected by the computers not / working. The trade off is all the free babysitting we get. On the side my wife and I are musicians, and when there is a gig late in to the evening at a bar - well, we can't exactly take the 10yo along. We also get free daycare when school is out. So all in all, it works out quite well for us. My own father uses a local computer shop for his business (an accounting firm) as he knows I am not reliably available to fix his office computers. - that and it keeps our relationship a lot more sane!

jck
jck

I turn the phone off. lol most tech support phone lines are in India or other parts of Asia now. They don't celebrate Thanksgiving like we do here in the US of A. So let em work. Happy Turkey day.

verd
verd

I always have to help...not only on holidays but any other day of the year. I always help family with help but friends pay. Of course I charge friends a reduced rate. It makes them feel better if I do charge them something. I also barter for things I need help with. Example: I fixed my brother in laws computer and he fixed my car. It all will balance out...

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

anything at all in the way of family requests for tech support. The only family near has no need of my help in relation to technology.

SKDTech
SKDTech

For family I will often help out whenever I have the time. So far I have yet to be pestered too much with problems, but I have managed to teach them enough of the basics that the problems are usually quick fixes like changing the email account in outlook express or cleaning up the general detritus that slows down PCs over time as opposed to rooting out virii and other malware.

santeewelding
santeewelding

That leaves out "family" afar? Whatever, whatever shall I do? My man does not call, or write, or come (zoo/gorilla joke). For all I know, he still flees after first encounter, and solving just one problem. Not even a bill after a week.

pdr5407
pdr5407

Because I don't visit very often, I help fix family PC's and networks when in town, usually over the holidays.

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

My in-laws usually have a short list of there computer problems waiting for me when ever they hear of my wife and I are comming for a visit. My mother in-law says that she is so happy that her daughter married into Tech-support. This christmas I am going to be pulling a piece of addware off my my Mother in law's PC, and her aunt needs me to re-build an old laptop for her.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Limiting this to 'tech support', asking is important. Asking the right thing is equally important. As to pride, more like insufficient phraseology.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

for having left out a most significant word. Local. I am at your disposal. You've but to ask.

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