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Coping with IT-support problems, especially Apple’s .Mac, as a freelancer

I was at a retirement party for a now-former employee of the Fish and Wildlife Service a few weeks ago. When he was given an iPod as a gift, someone joked that now that he’s retired, he won’t have access to an IT person to help him use it.

The same is true for freelancers. Unless you shell out for the Geek Squad (which has a bad reputation, according to Consumerist), you need to solve your own technology problems.

As a Mac user, I handle part of my IT needs by using .Mac. For $100 a year I get access to several services that benefit me as a freelancer:

  • address book, calendar, and bookmark syncing between computers so that information is always current on all of my computers
  • access to my address book and bookmarks on the web so I don’t always have to lug my iBook with me
  • an FTP site for easy file sharing with clients
  • scheduled backups of up to 1GB of files on a secure server so my most important data won’t be lost if my apartment done blows up

In addition, when I bought my iBook, I purchased Apple’s AppleCare protection for about $300, which “extends your computer’s 90 days of complimentary support and one-year repair coverage to up to three years of world-class support.”

Unfortunately, as great as .Mac’s features seem, they don’t work.

  • I’ve never been able to restore data with the backup (and an Apple Store Genius told me that feature doesn’t work that well).
  • My contacts and bookmarks stopped syncing even though .Mac is set up on my iBook to sync automatically.
  • My calendars won’t sync on my PowerBook.

And as comprehensive as AppleCare seems, it doesn’t cover .Mac. Hence .Mac users need to address their problems with .Mac’s customer support, which only offers support via e-mail with a hoped-for response time of 72 hours. A three-day wait is unacceptable.

When I submit feedback to .Mac about these problems, and others I’ve had, invariably I receive an e-mail telling me to read four articles, create two test accounts, and report back to them. And that response isn’t a solution, as a lot of these problems don’t happen immediately or are sporadic.

I’ve elaborated about the advantages of freelancing a lot on this site, but last month when I experienced these problems with .Mac–and some other ones with my iBook–I missed being able to wander down the hall and talk to an IT person.

If you are a freelancer, how do you handle your IT-support needs (especially backing up data to an off-site web server? And if you hare a Mac user, is there any software you’d recommend that does what .Mac promises?

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