Information Technology is an ever-increasing, ever-expanding market that requires more options for support, help and training. “In 2010, 8 out of 10 Canadian households (79%) had access to the Internet. Over one-half of connected households used more than one type of device to go online.” (Canadian Internet Use Survey – Statistics Canada – May 2011).
New technology, genres and trends are continually and ceaselessly emerging (social media, gaming systems, integration, smart phones, e-readers, tablets, netbooks, ultrabooks, etc to name just a few). There is a proliferation of networked devices as well. Almost every new electronic gadget includes networking capabilities, allowing for integration of devices within the home (home theater, music, video, gaming, and streaming video services – such as the immensely popular Netflix).
“Among connected households, most used a desktop computer (71%) or a laptop computer (64%). Over one-third (35%) used a wireless handheld device to access the Internet from home. A majority (54%) of connected households used more than one type of device to go online in 2010.” (Canadian Internet Use Survey – Statistics Canada – May 2011).
I need to be safe online.
Changing demographics (aging population, acceptance of technology, children, families, etc) is redefining the concept of ‘average’ tech user. Security concerns (hacking, viruses, and malware) are on the rise as usage increases. More and more often, people simply want and need their devices to work without worry or aggravation. Personal information is now trusted and stored in electronic devices; completing government forms, taxes, banking, etc is now commonplace. Online and network security is of an all time level of importance. Technology devices are no longer toys or products for the young, they are integral parts of the lives of people of all ages and demographics. We trust our most private and important information to be stored in computers, and knowing this, wrongdoers are daily creating new tools to steal or corrupt this data. “PC malware had its busiest quarter in recent history, and mobile malware also increased at a huge rate. We saw growth in established rootkits as well as the emergence of several new families. Many of the familiar malware we analyze and combat rebounded this quarter, but none more so than password stealing Trojans. Spam volume grew again early in the quarter but then resumed its downward trend. We saw an increase in malware targeting the Mac.” (McAfee Threats Report: First Quarter 2012)
The only constant is change.
The continual upgrade and release of new devices is not without impact to the user. Time, aptitude and interest is required to learn how to use these technologies or to be left behind. Support for the average user is becoming of greater importance. Of households without the internet, “about 12% of households reported they lacked confidence, knowledge or skills.” (Canadian Internet Use Survey – Statistics Canada – May 2011). Clearly, as comfort with new technology improves, acceptance and usage increases.
Lifespan of technology (usability before requiring equipment replacement) is increasing, while the cost of computing technology is dramatically lowering (see graph: Computer Price Index – US Bureau of Labor Statistics – Consumer Price Data: Personal Computer and Peripheral Equipment – 2009). Hardware and software is still usable, years after purchase, however they do require maintenance to work properly. There is an opportunity to provide service contracts for peace-of-mind maintenance; transition to an ‘oil change’ mentality to keep digital appliances working. In-home convenience and remote support options can be made available at a lower price than what can be had from big-box stores (such as Staples). All of this increases the number of users and potential clients for a small personalized IT support business.
Technology is now also completely linked to fashion and culture. “The iPhone really hoists the gadget to a pop-cultural pedestal.” (Vanity Fair 2007) It is not just children needing a Nintendo or iPhone to fit in, adults are literally lining up to buy and follow the latest fads, unable to resist the impulse to replace a working device with newest model. The Apple business plan is incredibly successful, yet there are almost no local Lunenburg county businesses offering Apple product support!
Quality of ‘open-source’ software continues to improve. Currently there are excellent free alternatives to popular (and expensive) traditional popular software suites and programs (LibreOffice or Open Office rather than Microsoft Office, Gimp rather than Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Security Essentials rather than Norton or McAfee Antivirus, etc). This yields an opportunity to provide training and education on these outstanding free alternatives, for less cost for the consumer, than purchasing the traditional software packages. “Coverity’s latest Coverity Scan Open Source Report has found that the quality of open source code is equal to, or even better than that of proprietary software. This is the third open source report from Coverity since it took over producing the report in 2009. The project was originally founded by the US Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with Coverity in 2006. Coverity’s conclusion is that the assumption that open source software is of lower quality should not be considered a valid reason for avoiding open source.” (Heise Media UK Ltd. – February 2012)
Providing personalized service for the individual is the future of IT support.
Trends will continue to dictate and create hot ticket items to provide training: parental controls, online security, social media, networking and interconnection of devices, sharing pictures, government forms, taxes, etc. With a training and education focus, teaching customers to use the hardware and software that they already own, Information Technique – IT Support can fill a needed niche in the local market. Sales of technology hardware is extremely competitive and offers little opportunity; maintaining and providing user support for this proliferation of technology is the key.