Malware! Lost e-mails! If you can't afford a dedicated IT staff, a remote tech-support service may be the next best option for handling computer meltdowns. Here's how three services dealt with our crises: a blank screen and a missing Microsoft Word Ribbon.
Like all the services we sampled, iYogi's reps tap into your computer remotely to troubleshoot problems while you are on the phone. Reps picked up within seconds each time we called and were courteous and helpful, pinpointing our problem in about 15 minutes. But they followed a precise script, which dragged out the process.
COST: $140 a year for unlimited support on one computer
Support.com reps asked more questions related to our situation, which helped diagnose the problem more quickly -- in about 10 minutes. On the other hand, we waited more than 20 minutes to talk to reps.
COST: $199 for unlimited support on one computer
Unlike Support.com and iYogi, PlumChoice provides support for Macs as well as PCs. The reps we spoke with were courteous and pinpointed our problem in about 10 minutes, but we had to schedule calls an hour in advance.
COST: Starting at $10 a month for entry-level support such as data backup
Editor's Note: This article was updated to reflect a correction concerning the cost of one of the software applications.