Overview of the Computer Services Industry
The computer services industry is made up of a range of professional service providers. As technology has evolved from the mainframe data center and become distributed and commoditised, so the range of desktop services sector has developed. A service provider exists for virtually all aspects of the computer industry. Most suppliers take on skilled and trained technicians whose job it is to help clients install, configure, secure, maintain, support, repair and learn. The multi billion pound industry is susceptible to cutbacks in operating budgets as competition for large contracts is fierce.
Most large computer manufacturers have dedicated divisions providing a range of computer services including outsourcing and total managed services. These aims to cater for the corporate market. Whereas the SME market tends to rely on the services of local computer repair shops, consultants, training companies and network providers.
The cost of some high-value computer services is out of reach of many small firms. Yet the impact of loss of data, a computer failure or unplanned downtime can be proportionately greater on a small company than a large one. For example, if a small business loses all their data due to a PC failure the results can be catastrophic. Outstanding invoices may be delayed, customer details lost, employees may not be able to be paid and tax data lost. Conversely, a large corporate is more likely to be able to afford to implement multiple backup processes across different networks.
The most popular type of computer service is a standard 'break fix' hardware maintenance agreement. This usually encompasses hardware installation, upgrades and repair services. When a PC fails the user can log a fault-call with the suppliers' call centre. The provider then dispatches a qualified engineer to the customer premises to repair the fault. If the warranty includes a return to base (RTB) clause, a courier may be dispatched instead to collect the broken computer and return it to the manufacturer for adjustment. Similarly, a preventative maintenance service involves the suppliers' engineer visiting the client to optimise software and diagnose potential computer hardware problems with a PC or server. This may also include networking equipment (such as a broadband connection or local area network). The aim is to tune up the performance of the equipment as well as keep software applications up-to-date and fully optimised.
Most computer services contracts are sold with an attached service level agreement (SLA). This defines the parameters and capabilities of computer service. Most SLA's include call centre opening hours, a defined call handling process, key contacts and escalation rules, call to fix repair times and descriptions of levels of severity. Some SLA's are also marketed with financial penalties aimed at reassuring the client. If a computer problem cannot be resolved according to the terms of the contract, a financial compensation penalty may be paid by the computer services supplier to the client.
Many larger companies need a dedicated data centre to servers that run bespoke applications, email and accounting. To help these companies, many computer room monitoring and management services exist. These offer customers the ability to outsource their data centre requirements rather than purchase equipment to manage in-house. Some very large companies prefer to own or lease computer equipment and manage it using their own employees within their own data centre. To spread the capital cost of hardware and maintenance combined there are many rental and leasing service providers specialising in financial solutions for large investments in IT infrastructure.
Business directories are a great way of comparing service providers accreditations, testimonials and costs. For example, the web is full of online business listings for programming services. Computer programming is a vital computer service for firms that require bespoke business applications. Computer programming is a highly technical field of expertise. Programmers of SQL, C, PHP, Visual Basic and many more computer languages can create in-house applications for invoicing, ordering, sales management etc. To supplement development work, software testing services exist to ensure data integrity. Many small firms don't really need bespoke applications and instead run their businesses using off-the-shelf business software to handle day-to-day word-processing, accounting, email and marketing. To get the best out of these software tools there is a host of business training services available.
As businesses have become more reliant upon cloud-based storage and information sharing, so the growth of security and encryption services has flourished. Many provide specialist consultancy advice to help businesses secure critical data. The growth of electronic data has also created specialist providers providing scanning services, document management services and digital imaging services. When a company loses mission-critical data a data recovery provider may be able to restore and uncover deleted or lost data from a hard disk that has a fault.
Before a business can get its own company website designed and hosted, they may need to buy a suitable domain name that closely matches their registered company name. Consequently, another popular online internet service is domain name registration. There are many national registrars and accredited resellers in most countries helping small firms secure their online presence. Demand is continually fuelled by the creation of new companies, the expiry of old domains (that enter the second user market), and the creation of new types of domain extensions.