Some technology questions prove complex and confusing. Whether to add an AppleCare Protection Plan to a new Mac or iPad order isn't. It's a no brainer.
Most Mac customers know an AppleCare Protection Plan extends technical support coverage from 90 days to three years. It's hard to escape an Apple store, or complete an online order, without hearing or seeing Apple's plug for its extended support plan.
That's not insignificant. The ability to contact the manufacturer as often as you wish for three years for technical support and assistance is important. Educated, accurate staff can assist business users in answering common configuration issues, overcoming printing problems and troubleshooting frustrating failures. Better yet, AppleCare doesn't just provide technical support for the computer and operating system. The contract also provides telephone support for the iLife and iWork suites of applications. Users who encounter trouble customizing a presentation, editing a video, burning a DVD, modifying financial spreadsheets, and performing other tasks will find qualified assistance just a phone call away for three years.
Additional technical support is included for server users. For example, server administration and network management issues are included for Mac OS X Lion Server customers (note, advanced OS integration and migration questions are better addressed using AppleCare's OS professional support plan).
But an AppleCare Protection Plan provides significantly more value. The plan also extends the hardware warranty for Apple hardware from the typical one-year of coverage to three years. The protection plan includes global repair coverage for the Mac, both parts and labor. The warranty coverage protects not just the Mac computer with which it is purchased, but accessories and corresponding displays.
Businesses become absolutely dependent upon their computers. When a Mac goes down, business users often need them repaired quickly to enable meeting production deadlines, responding to important email messages and performing other operations. With systems under warranty, Mac users need not even be in the same state (or country) where the Mac was purchased. Because Apple maintains retail and authorized service presences in so many countries, users can take their systems to any of these authorized locations for service, support and repair.
Cost of doing business
When faced with operating expenses, I don't particularly enjoy having to pay (electric bills, fuel charges, accounting fees, etc.), I remind myself those are costs of doing business. AppleCare Protection Plans belong in this category.
Sure, when buying another 13-inch MacBook Pro for $1,199, it'd be nice to forego the $249 surcharge for adding AppleCare to the order. AppleCare costs are even more attractive for iMacs (just $169 for a $1699, 27" model) and Mac Pros ($249 for a $2499 Mac Pro).
But the investment is intelligent. This is especially true for smaller organizations that might need to offload help desk responsibilities and encourage users to contact Apple for support or protect against unanticipated repair costs throughout a computer's anticipated lifecycle.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.