A big challenge of running a computer repair business, whether you’re just a one-man operation or managing an entire shop full of technicians, is keeping your services profitable.
One of the most common, and potentially profitable, services we all provide to our clients is malware removal.
Whatever your preferred methodology of virus remediation, from time to time you’re bound to come across those problem machines. The ones that seem like no matter what you do, or how many hours you spend plugging away at a fix, Windows just doesn’t seem to be running right. As time goes by, reinstalling the operating system seems more and more like the right thing to do. Finally you bite the bullet and do the old “nuke and pave”.
Once everything is back up and running and you see the computer purring like a kitten you tell yourself that you should have just reinstalled hours ago.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but in the future how could you possibly know when is it time to go with the nuclear option?
In one of his more famous songs, Kenny Rogers says that “you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em” and “know when to fold ‘em”. As technicians and business owners we’ve got to know when it’s worth it to struggle with some obscure virus, and when it’s time to break out the big guns.
When faced with this all-too-common dilemma try asking yourself the following questions:
How soon does the customer need to be back up and running?
Is this machine “mission critical”? Do they need to have everything back up and running as soon as humanly possible? If so then quickest and most efficient thing to do is to re-image the drive and restore the data from a backup (you are making sure that your client’s data is backed up, aren’t you?).
A re-image can often take only a fraction of the time that a more complex malware removal will take. If time is of the essence, then a re-image might just be the way to go.
Is the Operating System corrupt?
It can be fairly easy to tell if a system is so infected that the operating system itself has ceased to function properly.
Make sure to check is whether or not Windows can update properly. An inability to update via Windows Update is a big red flag.
Another thing to look for are missing Windows components, for example it’s fairly common for a severe malware infection to completely remove Windows programs such as MSConfig or RegEdit. Whenever OS corruption occurs re-imaging is going to be your best bet.
How long should I struggle with removing a virus?
A standard malware removal should realistically only take a properly trained technician about 30-45 minutes to perform. Of course that figure doesn’t include sitting around browsing Reddit while waiting for one scan or another to complete.
However, it isn’t uncommon for a technician to spend very little “hands on” time while disinfecting a computer. 30-45 minutes seems to be the average.
This being the case, it might not be a bad idea to set an arbitrary time limit of 1 hour for every malware removal (that’s 1 hour of actual “hands-on” time), anything beyond that figure is not only potentially eating into your profits, but is also taking you away from completing other tasks on that never-ending “to do” list of yours.
If you’ve spent more than an hour scratching your head and coating the keyboard with dandruff, you’d be better off re-imaging.
An opportunity to up-sell
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, malware removal can be a very profitable service for your business. Once you get your remediation times down, even if you end up going the re-imaging route, you’ll want to then look for opportunities to provide further value to your client through up-selling your products or services.
A client that has an infected computer obviously has weak malware protection at best, which presents you with the perfect opportunity to offer to provide them with whatever antivirus product that you’re reselling, or to even get them signed up on your own managed antivirus plan.
It is also a good idea to discuss with the client whether or not they’re backing up their data, and what tool they’re using to do so. If the customer doesn’t currently have a backup solution, or if whatever backup utility they’re currently using is inadequate, now would be a perfect time to sell them on a backup service.
While you’re at it, you could also briefly touch on potential hardware upgrades that may be available for the customer’s computer.
Don’t become your own worst enemy
It’s a huge matter of pride for a lot of technicians to hunt down that pesky infection, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes we’d be willing to spend hours, even days trying to remove a particularly nasty piece of malware.
Don’t let pride get in the way of providing the best solution for your customers. Remember; the client quite often doesn’t care about how we solved their problem, they just want it solved, and solved quickly. That is what they’re paying us for after all.