If you don’t know much about IT and computing then the thought of something going wrong and you having to resolve the problem can be quite scary. Unfortunately, IT can be complicated and you will always have problems. Hopefully they will only ever be minor but occasionally they can be major. By dealing with your emergency in a calm way you can hopefully get it resolved and get back to work promptly. By planning for such an emergency you should save both time and money. To resolve an IT crisis in an emergency you may need to call in outside expertise or deal with support desks on the phone. However, the cost of ad hoc on-site support can often be quite expensive – £50 per hour is normal. What can go wrong? Ultimately, just about anything can go wrong with your IT systems. Computing has developed significantly over the past 10 years so the reliability of hardware and software is greater than it has ever been, but things can still go wrong.Typical small business IT problems include : Hardware and hard disk failure Fire, flood and theft Viruses and malware Software bugs Network failures User error, such as accidental deletions. Prevention is better than cure The single most important IT task a small business can undertake is to create a backup of their systems and store it securely. If you have a backup you can always restore your data. If you should loose your IT systems and have no backup then there is little anyone can do to recover your systems – you will need to start over again. For many companies this could mean going out of business. What to do in an emergency As every IT problem is different we can’t give you specific advice, but here is a list of generic actions you should take: First, don’t panic. These events are testing your qualities as a small business leader and others may look at you to take charge calmly and effectively. Triage the problems. This is a process of sorting the issues you face into a logical sequence. For example, if your PC server has failed with all of your sales data on it, that should be your priority over a dusty laptop that hardly ever gets used. Assess what the problem may be. If hardware has been stolen the problem is obvious. But if a PC is acting strangely then the problem may be more complex and require deeper investigation. Get initial help. If you work with other people, think who may have more experience in dealing with such situations. Just because you are the boss it does not mean you know everything about everything. Go and ask the local “power user” or computer enthusiast to take a look and give you a hand if you trust their skills. If you work in a shared building, you may be able to get some “first aid” assistance from another person down the hall working for another small business. Decide on a plan of action. Getting the business back up and running is the number one objective. If it does not appear to be a simple fix then you need to start considering the restore of your backups. It’s maybe an idea to task someone with the restore of the backups in parallel to you working on the fix, so you are ready to go as soon as possible. At this point you may need to get in professional IT help. Calling in the professionals For software related problems you may well be able to resolve the problem over the telephone by talking to a manufacturer’s support desk. On phoning they will ask you a set of questions so try and be close to the hardware or software that is causing the problem. They may talk you through a fix on the phone, so having the PC next to the telephone makes a lot of sense. Nowadays it is possible for a PC support desk to take control or investigate your PC remotely, if appropriate. Although you may be in a very stressful situation, remember that support staff will be doing the best they can so be patient. All manufacturers will differ in the type of support they offer. Some may not offer any support, others may offer email based support only, or charge you on a premium rate line. Make sure you understand how much you will be paying up front. For hardware related problems you may need to have an engineer attend your premises to fix the equipment. This will depend on the support agreement you have in place and how much you are prepared to pay if you don’t have insurance. Other problems may be resolved by going online and using a support forum. Here you can explain your problem to other users and hopefully get some assistance to resolve your problem. Note that these are often unofficial forums and the quality of the support you receive may vary. About the author This article was taken from the Business IT Guide, a resource developed in collaboration with industry experts to help small businesses find the right IT solutions. Source: Getting emergency IT help.