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Posted: December 08, 2009

You—yes, you—can be your own IT support

Do-it-yourselfers have lots of great tools

Lori Brownell

Many of us have suffered from overzealous attempts to repair things we weren't qualified to fix. All too often, these efforts end up causing more damage than good, and we're forced to eat a piece of humble pie as we sheepishly seek out professional help.

I'm happy to say, though, that when it comes to resolving "technical difficulties," the average technology user is actually well equipped to successfully handle many common issues. Even if you're not a gadget geek, or don't have IT staff in-house at your small business, there are numerous new tools and resources that make it possible for anyone to be their own IT support.

For example, did you know that:

Keeping software up-to-date is easy, and can prevent many issues from occurring in the first place.

Just as people require vaccines for protection from certain illnesses, computers require software updates for improved security and reliability, often numerous times each week. Fortunately, software updates are much less painless than a shot!

Certain operating systems can automatically install both critical and recommended updates.

The latest version of Windows makes updating your computer convenient and easy - users aren't reminded of updates by frequent pop-ups, but can independently access updates by clicking on the Action Center icon, located in the lower righthand corner of the screen.

Online forums aren't just for IT pros.

Social media channels have made it even easier to get answers to all kinds of technical questions. Within online communities and forums, questions aren't just posed to one expert, but to thousands of users worldwide, maximizing your chances of getting quick and thorough assistance.

A great example is Microsoft Answers , an online Q&A forum designed for any kind of IT user. On it, approximately 40,000 validated solutions have been shared via 12 million page views, solving more than 80 percent of customer questions through peer-to-peer support.

Your computer knows how to fix itself.

We all know computers are smart, but you might be surprised to learn that in many instances, your computer can actually fix itself, with just a little help from you.

Microsoft's "Fix it" is the industry's first support solution that gives users the ability to apply automated "fixes" to common technical issues with just a few clicks. "Fix it" reduces much of the guesswork involved with resolving an issue while saving you valuable time and energy, as well as potential frustration.

Your feedback actually makes an impact.

Even if you're not an IT expert, your experiences as an everyday PC user are incredibly relevant because they likely represent what the vast majority of PC users experience, too. Because of this, technology companies often employ entire teams devoted to conducting real-time analysis of customer feedback in order to quickly identify and resolve common challenges.

Here's an example. When a "Windows Error Reporting" pop-up appears on your screen, your first inclination might be to ignore it. I encourage you, though, to click "Send Error Report" because this information goes directly to product improvement teams and ultimately impact software development, as well as the end user experience. In fact, solutions created by a team at Microsoft have been offered to customers 73 million times within Window Error Reporting, all because of information submitted by people like you.

Software support has come a long way, which is good news for technology experts and novices alike. It's becoming more automated, intuitive and preventative, making it possible on many occasions for even the most technically naïve among us to be our own IT support gurus.

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About the author: Lori Brownell is general manager of Product Quality and Support for Microsoft and serves customers throughout Colorado. For more information on Microsoft support and free resources to help you maximize the value of your technology, visit


Lori Brownell is general manager of Product Quality and Support for Microsoft and serves customers throughout Colorado. For more information on Microsoft support and free resources to help you maximize the value of your technology, visit



Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

I'm a small operation and even though I followed all of your advice to the letter during the past two years, had nightmarish results. It wasn't just Vista but XP. Thousands of dollars later, I succumbed to your competitor. I do very much like MS software, but had to opt for reliability; it just came to that line. Wish it were different. And yes, I had certified and very qualified help. It would have been great for me to be paid for becoming my own IT expert since at times it overtook the business I'm better qualified to practice. By pat smith on 2009 12 08
Your advice is certainly accurate, but it presupposes that there are not more important things to do that are on the employee's plate. As such, many of these things don't really get done and the problem(s) are left to brew. For a static, very small company of 1 - 5 people, this may be the best advise. As companies begin to grown or are implementing strategies with the plan to grow, dollars may be better spent maintaining productivity, mitigating business risk and ensuring business continuity. Whether the methodology is break/fix, managed services, outsourced IT or hire, the value proposition to growth oriented businesses is enormous. By Ben Budraitis on 2009 12 08

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