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"Technical Support Over the Web"

If you're like most computer users, when faced with a technical problem you pull out the phone book and look up a local technician. Maybe you call a friend or family member who knows a little about computers. Your other option would probably be to call a technical support number from the PC vendor who built your particular system. In the near future, these options might not be your first or best choice. New "E-Support" technology companies are selling tools that take advantage of the global Internet to peer remotely into a machine and fix problems more quickly. In fact, they are often able to fix the problem instantly and with less cost than the traditional methods.

E-support software acts as a "virtual technician" inside a PC. The software regularly scans the system looking for technical problems that occur. It can often fix these problems without assistance of any sort from the user. For example, if you have installed a program that corrupts your system registry, the software will return the system to the state that was last used successfully. If the software is unable to completely resolve the issues, it can send detailed diagnostic information to a technical assistant located at a remote office who can communicate with the user. These findings may allow the technical support personnel to instruct the user on a series of steps to repair the system.

Recently, several of the larger PC manufacturers have jumped on board and are launching electronic support via the Internet. They include Compaq, Micron, Dell and Gateway among others. These PC makers are embracing online support as part of an effort to direct customers to Internet help portals instead of the costly 800-telephone lines. For instance, all of Dell's new PC's will contain buttons that automatically link customers to an Internet site, and Compaq has added a "Rocket" button on its Presario home PC's to give buyers push-button access to their support programs. In addition to the PC makers, there are other companies that are joining the newly developed programs. Business-software makers like PeopleSoft Inc., also embrace the technology. They expect to launch a new electronic-support operation in January of 2000. In addition, several new support sites are being developed independent of a specific product. These sites include www.pcsupport.com and Excite@Home www.home.net.

One of the reasons that e-support has not previously been the lack of high-speed Internet connections and customer faith in using E-commerce solutions over the Internet. As bandwidth continues to grow with high-speed connections like DSL and cable modems becoming more common, this approach to diagnosing and repairing PC's will undoubtedly continue to grow and may soon replace other forms of technical support.

  - by Clayton Crooks

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