Categorized | tip sheet

Computer help marketplaces hit the marketplace!

We devote a section in our book, Shoestring Venture, to remote computer tech help (and another section to remote database administration). Put simply, remote computer tech help involves some dood on the phone who accesses your computer through the Internet and roots around in it in order to fix software, systems, or networking problems (but they can’t do nothing nohow for hardware problems). To research this section, we went out and vetted dozens of low-cost tech help.

Well, life has gotten a bit easier. Three new computer tech help marketplaces have hit the road in the last couple months and they allow you to send out bids for specific computer tech help you need. It was just a matter of time, but the remote computer tech world has joined the world of marketplaces.

Find out where and how after the break.

You can now access three new marketplaces to get remote technical help for your computer:

  • CrossLoop
  • OnForce
  • SupportSpace

    CrossLoop and SupportSpace are geared solely to remote computer tech help, so the only services you can find involve stuff like data recovery, virus clean-up, operating system tune-up, disk work, networking, programming, DBA, and so on. Both are primarily frequented by freelancers — so you could be remotely handing your computer over to some guy working out of his dorm room. If you have bought our book, all our guidelines for hiring freelancers off of IT marketplaces apply in spades when hiring freelancers to perform remote computer maintenance. In spades, I say, And if you don’t have our book, buy it and read the section on hiring IT freelancers very carefully before launching any boat on either CrossLoop or SupportSpace.

    OnForce allows you to connect up with remote computer tech help, but also includes on-site freelancers and businesses, so the range of “problems” is much wider and includes your stereo system and too-many-inch plasma TV.

    Now, CrossLoop is the business with a PR department and has been around the longest (about 8 months), so you may have unknowingly bumped into it in some writeup in the Wall Street Journal or Business Week. They boast about 15,000 technicians. However, you need to download the CrossLoop program that will make your computer and desktop fully available to technicians. You can view their “Getting Started” manual here.

    Sorting through all those freelancer technicians can be quite a chore. CrossLoop lists over 8,000 technicians for Windows. The list is long everywhere. Considering that they only have 15,000 technicians in their system, I’d say folks are doubling up something serious.

    Once installed, you can browse the technicians list from their home page. CrossLoop is not an RFP system. You have to browse through the technicians and chat with them online to get bids for your computer problem.

    Unlike CrossLoop, SupportSpace offers computer tech packages, such as virus removal, at fixed prices as well as providing a list of tech freelancers. Freelancers have profile pages where they list their services and prices as well as feedback from previous clients. So, like CrossLoop, SupportSpace is not a true RFP marketplace — more like a fixed cost (with variable costs for unique problems) computer tech support system staffed by a network of freelancers. But the cost is way, way below what these services would cost from low-cost remote computer tech support.

    OnForce, on the other hand, is a true RFP marketplace. You input a problem into the RFP engine and freelancers (and some companies) bid on fixing the problem for you. It works, in fact, much the same way eLance does. Once you accept a bid, you pay OnForce, which places the money in an escrow account. The freelancer technician you hired fixes the problem and OnForce releases the money — minus their take, of course. But the emphasis is more on on-site work, so the bids are coming in higher than CrossLoop or SupportSpace, which only work with remote problems.

    The second edition of Shoestring Venture, tentatively scheduled for July of this year, will have an entire section devoted to computer tech help marketplaces. We’ll see if all three of these trailblazers are still around.

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