Cost of Providing Tech Support Services for Personal Online Backup Customers

The average charge for a personal online backup account charged by our Service Providers is $9/month. Overhead expenses for providing tech support services can range from $50 per hour to well over $200 per hour depending on salaries and other costs of doing business. This article seeks to uncover some of the support costs inherent in Personal accounts which do not exist in Business accounts. 

Online Backup CEO Rob Cosgrove

Rob Cosgrove, CEO Remote Backup Systems

A quick tech support call for a Personal account lasts 15 minutes and requires either 1 phone call or 3 emails. An average Personal Account tech support call lasts 25 minutes. This is an insignificant expense for Business backup services who charge far more per month, but it can add up to an unreasonable expense for Personal accounts.

A single tech support call for a Service Provider whose overhead cost is $60/hour might be $25, or put another way, nearly 3 months of income.

Personal users ask very different questions than Business users, and they have more problems.

You can significantly reduce the cost of delivering technical support services to Personal Accounts by clearly specifying your support policy in your Service Agreement, and by using an inexpensive automated support system like the one from Kayako.

The following are real tech support questions submitted by end users of our Service Providers who use our Mercury software to deliver personal backup services.

I want to stress that the following questions are from end users of Personal backup services, not Business backup services. Business users are more savvy, and their questions are far more reasonable.


I would like a phone call immediately, not an email. My laptop has crashed and I need a backup file for a class in 1 hour.

This case took an hour. The SP had to drop what he was doing, phone the customer, do a server-side restore, zip up the file and email it to a friend of the customer’s on campus.

I have lost my encryption key. Can you recover my files?

One of the most common requests, this can take from 45 minutes to hours.

What is this $9/month charge on my credit card statement? I didn’t order anything from you!

This common complaint usually requires a phone call and 15 minutes re-explaining what Online Backup services are, and re-selling the end user on the service. Customers with this question are often already indignant and difficult to talk down. About half result in a demand for a refund and cancellation.

I can’t log into my account. It says my username or password are incorrect.

By far the most common complaint, users simply forget their login. This requires looking up and emailing a new password (or the old password) to the email address on record. It often also requires explaining to the user that for security reasons you can’t simply give the password out in a phone call. This can take from 5 minutes to 15 minutes, and can result in a dissatisfied customer no matter what you do.

I bought a new computer and now I want to move my backup software to the new computer. Can you help?

You could just point the end user to an article on your website, and that will work in about 50% of these cases. The other 50% might require you log into your end user’s computer by remote and actually do a reinstallation and recovery for him. This case can take from 2 minutes (to send an email pointing to an article) to literally hours if you have to log in by remote.

Which files are being backed up? How can I be sure you have the right ones?

You can point to an article on your website in 2 minutes, or if the user insists, you might have to spend 20 minutes explaining why you only back up certain files instead of everything on the hard drive. If you aren’t backing up the files the user wants you to, this can result in a dissatisfied customer.

I bought your software a year ago and haven’t touched it since then. I want a refund!

This common complaint is usually triggered at the end of a yearly renewal period after the software has been doing its job for a year and the end user simply doesn’t know it was working. It can require a 10 minute phone call or a couple of emails to settle. About half result in a cancelled account because the user simply doesn’t understand the value of backups, and after all, he hasn’t had a need to restore.

Your software is conflicting with my antivirus software. Fix it or refund my money.

This is in my least favorite category of complaints I call “Not my fault.” The online backup software is not conflicting with the antivirus software, but the user is convinced that it is, and he demands that YOU fix it. This can take from 10 minutes to hours, if you decide to fix it.

My backups stopped working after I installed Microsoft Firewall (or a Windows update.) Please fix it.

See above. You can decide to spend 20 minutes adjusting the Microsoft Firewall, or you can lose a customer. No, it isn’t fair. But this happens a lot with personal accounts.

I am not receiving a daily notice of successful backups.

This is most often caused by the end user changing his email address. Personal users do this often, and forget that they did it. They decide they like another mail service better and switch without considering consequences. This can take 10 minutes and 2 emails to solve.

I asked you to stop sending me all these emails. Now I will report you as SPAM!

If you send your personal users emails about their backups, some of them will accuse you of SPAM. Point them to an article on your website or send them an email or make a phone call. This customer is already unhappy, and there’s really nothing you can do about it except lose a customer or spend time explaining yourself to him.

I have tried to install your software on all my computers, and it fails to back up or restore.

The software is designed to run on only one computer at a time. Each computer needs its own account. This customer is already unhappy and misinformed. You can spend 15 minutes to an hour explaining or fixing the problem, or trying to sell the user multiple accounts.

Please send me a list of all the files I have backed up with your system.

If you remind your user that for security reasons you don’t have that information, he might question why he’s paying you. You have to explain how he can get the file list himself. You can do this by pointing him to an article on your website, or you can spend 15 minutes and a couple of emails.

My computer has been stolen. Please send me all my files back on CDs.

This one can take many hours to do a server-side restore, or to send the user a stack of CDs or a portable hard drive. I recommend charging your customer a fee for this kind of service. You should account for this in your Service Agreement.

I used to have an account with you a couple of years ago, but I cancelled it. Now I would like to restore all my old files.

Yes, this really happens. You are already making no money from this customer and now he wants you to spend money explaining to him how you deleted his files 30 days after he cancelled his account, just like his Service Agreement stated. This might result in a complaining former user and a phone call or emails from you, maybe 20 minutes.

I installed your software on my computer and then a few months later I got a virus. I used Malwarebytes and Spybot and they say I don’t have a virus, but every time I turn on my computer the virus returns. Please call me and tell me what to do.

This one is in the “Not my fault” category. Point him to an article or spend 5 minutes in an email explaining that they should contact the vendor of the other software.

Thank you for offering to help me. I am available tomorrow afternoon after 5PM as well as 12:30-1:30pm (first choice) or 2:15-3:45 next Wednesday. Please phone me during one of those times.

This VERY annoying request asks you to act on your customer’s very strict schedule, even if it means working after the close of business.

Does my computer have to be turned on to do a backup?

Yes, they really ask this question. 5 minutes ($5, more than half one months’ income)

Does my computer have to be connected to the Web to do a backup?

This one, too. 5 minutes.

My backups are not working properly. Please call me immediately.

This kind of support request comes with almost no information. You have no idea where to start looking for the answer, so you have to contact the customer for more info. If by phone, this call can take from 15 minutes to over an hour. If by email, it will require several emails back and forth as you try to pull information out of the customer like pulling teeth.


Rob Cosgrove is the President of Remote Backup Systems, founder of the Online Backup Industry, and a vocal advocate for maintaining the highest standards in Online Backup software. His latest book, the Online Backup Guide for Service Providers: How to Start and Operate an Online Backup Service, is available online now, on, and at bookstores.

Remote Backup Systems provides brandable, scalable software and solutions to MSPs and VARs enabling them to offer Online Backup Services.


About The Author

Steve Roberts /

Steve Roberts is VP of Engineering at Remote Backup Systems (, developers of the RBackup Online Backup software platform, providing software powering more than 9,500 Service Providers in 65 countries since 1987.