All Those Wonderful Web Sites: Will They Last?
Computer Support Sites
Several weeks ago I installed a PCMCIA modem card in a laptop, but found that the floppy drive on that machine was dead. So I didn't finish installation of the modem. Recently when I did need the modem, the floppy disk with the driver wasn't handy.
So, I went to the web site of the manufacturer. Actually, the Web journey mirrored some industry consolidation, as Megahertz was bought by US Robotics, which was bought by 3Com. In any event, I found a nicely organized product support site, and a modicum of browsing revealed a link labeled "Download starter disk." I did so, and within a few short minutes, I had the floppy I needed with recent software drivers.
That web site also offered a series of technical support notes for various laptop brands and models, as well as lists of frequently asked customer questions Â and the answers to those questions. In the absence of this customer support site, I would've had three choices:
- Find the floppy that came with the modem originally
- Find someone who had a driver floppy, and who was willing to make a copy for me
- Contact the company and have them mail me a replacement floppy
None of those choices would be anywhere near as convenient as the Web solution.
Vendors of all sorts of computer products use the Net to deliver updates, patches, and technical answers for customers. In the early days of commercial web sites, companies tended to put up brochure-style sites, which essentially were repurposed glossy product brochures. You might find what you needed if you wanted to buy a new product, but you were very unlikely to find what you needed in support of an older product you owned. Today, everyone from Adobe to Dell to Gateway to HP to Sun to Xircom helps customers via the Net.
Several months ago I learned of a small manufacturing firm in rural Michigan
that had recently installed a T1 link to an Internet Service Provider. I asked
if this was so they could scan online parts catalogs and search for manufacturing
related information on the Net. No, no, nothing like that -- it seems their
CAD/CAM software vendor was in Europe, and the software needed frequent updates.
Their Net link was the direct path to getting patches, and, thanks to the T1
and the Internet, even large updates didn't have to wait for international
But the Net can even provide support for software for which there is no vendor!
The Linux operating system is largely a creature of the Internet. There's an
active worldwide developer community, and, at least according to Linux
aficionados, you get a faster answer when you post a technical question
to the Linux news group than any vendor ever offered for a fee.
Without question, the Internet is transforming the way users of software
get the support and updates they need.