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How do you bill / charge for malware removal and computer updates?


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#1 myitanalyst

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 12:50 PM

Hey Folks,

I have some questions for those of you that provide consulting services and bill clients for your work.

The questions are geared towards the time consuming process of malware cleaning and overall system protection and updating. So let's get to it...

Let's say I have a client with a personal computer. They have 80GB of actual data all on the same drive as the OS, they have very little protection in place, their OS is multiple service packs behind, and they have multiple unknown pieces of malware on the system.

Now that I think about this I could have questions dealing with billing as well as questions on how you would handle a situation in the fastest possible manner, but I'll put those second set of questions in a different forum category. Here is the second set of questions: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/t/311552/how-would-you-go-about-doing-malware-removal-and-protection/

So let's say you go through the normal process of running the 2 to x number of tools you normally would run to clear of malware. You also go through your own personal investigation to catch things not found by the anti-malware tools. You then proceed with installing your recommended tools (paid or free)... like anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, innoculation programs and so forth. You also go through the process of patching the OS with the latest service packs and patches that the user hasn't done. You also update all the applications that have been waiting to be updated that the client never did. You clean up all the crap toolbars, because they now only see 1" of browser screen due to the 6 toolbars installed, you start uninstalling all unneeded programs, removing items form startup, and so forth.

So basically at this point you could easily have 5 to 6 hours of time into the computer.

Now I personally charge between $65 and $95 per hour depending on the services. For this sort of thing it is normally $65 an hour.

Now if I have 6 hours into the system you are looking at $390 for the time. What I normally end up doing is cutting the time in half and charging $195. Partly because there are times I am simply waiting for scans to complete (although it at times is hard to walk away from some of these as it may need intervention)... and partly because if I was in there shoes I would think $390 was a tough pill to swallow. But now that I think about it the auto mechanics in our area charge between $65 and $75 an hour and the NEVER cut me a break. I can't get out of there without spending $300 bucks... but that's another story.

Anyway... what I am grappling with here is fairly billing the customer, but at the same time not screwing myself over in the process. I personally would not make the living I wanted if I was only collecting half my hourly rate.

I know there may be some responses where you want to describe how you avoid spending 6 hours on a computer and I DEFINITELY want to hear it, but I'll make another post for that and provide a link shortly. Here is that post: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/t/311552/how-would-you-go-about-doing-malware-removal-and-protection/

I know there are some folks who may do this sort of thing on the cheap... $15 or $20 an hour, but for that I might as well go work down at the local tire manufacturer and throw away my 20+ years in the IT Industry.

So those of you who do IT work as a business and to generate a meaningful living how do you deal with situations like this?

Do you simply do the bare minimum (just clean it) and then give the customer links to deal with protecting themselves and have them spend all that time getting protected?

Do you just make no money on malware removal and protection services?

What say ye?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts on the matter.

Greg

ps. I'll reply to this with a situation I had recently that ended up with 18 hours of time.

Edited by myitanalyst, 21 April 2010 - 01:25 PM.


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#2 myitanalyst

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 01:12 PM

I recently had a nightmare repair for a business client that had a somewhat slower notebook, massive amount of business applications installed and a huge amount of data on the drive.

He did not want to blow the unit away and start from scratch... even if we did it is a 6 to 8 hour process to get everything he has back on the system (if he doesn't have an image) and he didn't.

He started with several of the major fake anti-spyware packages installed and multiple other malware pieces. Here the process I sort of went through:

- Made full backup/image of system so data could be recovered if need be. So many applications the data isn't always in my documents. (80GB of actual data on drive). Actually connected SATA notebook drive into system to get fastest SATA to SATA transfer and not via USB. Still took 1.5 hours.

- Started removal process of all the malware. Had to manually do some repairs just to be able to run some tools as well as use CD bootable based tools. This took several hours.

- His system started locking up intermittently so obviously something was whacked. After a fair amount of examination my only option was to restore to an older image I made 3 months earlier. Restore took and hour and 15 minutes.

- I then started took the latest image and started restoring data files (that would be scanned for issues) and stored all the current data. This took almost an hour.

- I then started updating the system as it is now 3 months behind on updates.

- Somewhere along the way something become corrupt on the hard drive and a disk scan found the FAT totally messed up and was not easily recoverable.

- So I began the restore process again, but this time checked disk very frequently in case there was a certain step causing the problem. This time now problems occurred. So now we are multiple more hours into this thing.

- Now I am back to the point of configuring all of the anti-malware tools for the computer... avast, malwarebytes, spybot, spywarelbaster, OnlineArmor, and other defense techniques.

- I then had to meet customer on site and get computer back online to the network and get the computer account back in sync with the domain as the computer account password had expired.

So... in the end this was an all night affair and close to 18 hours of total time from start to finish.

Now granted I didn't sit at the thing for 18 complete hours as during the scans and restores I did step away, but I also didn't just stay away... I checked the unit every 5 minutes to make sure it wasn't hung or having issues as he needed this computer back the next day.

Again... I know some of you will probably want to give some explanation on how you may have done things differently so it wouldn't have taken so long... let's save that for the new post I'll start. But for now... when you have had these nightmare types of repairs or even just ones that take 6 hours like my first post... how would you bill them?

Thanks again for your thoughts.

#3 DeathStalker

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 05:51 PM

First off, I'm not an IT professional, but I've owned my own business for nearly 20 years and billing is billing. Let's use your mechanics analogy as I think it would be the most beneficial to you on one level (but not on another lol):

Auto repair shops bill X amount per hour. It is up to the shop owner to decide what that amount is. SO what do they call an "hour?" If you need an alternator, the mechanic doesn't have one and has to order it, does he bill you for the time it takes to call NAPA and have someone in that little hat car drive one over to him while he stands around with his thumb up his.......... nose drinking coffee waiting? Heck no. They use a standardized book that has every job averaged out by time. Changing your alternator takes 1 shop hour (I'm just pulling these figures out of my rear) according to the book. And the book is what they bill by. If it takes him 15 minutes hurray for him, he got paid an hour for 15 minutes work. If he breaks off a bolt in your engine block and it takes him 4 hours to tap that puppy out and get a good hole back in there, he worked for free for 3 hours. If he's incompetent and doesn't know how to change an alternator it takes him longer than if he's a whiz.

The shop owner sets his hourly rate based on overhead several factors, and lets face it, an auto shop has a hell of a lot more overhead than a computer shop. Mainly he pays his mechanics one of two ways, traditional hourly or "shop rate" hourly. No good mechanic will EVER work for a traditional hourly rate BTW so lets use that as an example. Joe shop owner pays Charlie mechanic 20 dollars per shop rate hour, yet his shop charges 125 per shop hour. He provides the building, the benefits, the work flow, and the site tools. Site tools are things like the diagnostic computers, the lifts and things such as that, depending on the size of the shop and the location, anywhere from 100,000 to millions of dollars. Charlie the mechanic provides his own hand tools. If he can get the job done with a pair of pliers, a screw driver, and one cresent wrench, then that is what he has. But usually the amount of tools a competent mechanic owns runs into the 10's of 1,000s of dollars. Do YOU have that much invested in YOUR computer tools? There may be a socket that does nothing but allow him to take one particular bolt off one particular model of car. It cost him 100-150 bucks. He doesn't buy his tools off the dollar a tool rack at the quikstop convenience store, (besides, THOSE tools aren't on those types of bargain bins). He has many such one use sockets or wrenches because there are many models of cars.

Now as to how the day goes....... Charlie the mechanic takes his handy dandy diagnostic scanner (at least $500 new with constant charges for updates) out of his tool box and hooks it to your cars computer. It tells him you need an alternator. He orders one. While he's waiting for the part to be delivered, he takes off your old alternator and gets everything prepped for installing the new one. Then he goes over to a different rack with a different car and does what he can on that one. Maybe he ordered a left handed dynomameter for it and it has arrived. He puts it on and test drives it. then he goes out to look at ANOTHER car......... you get the picture.

The bottom line is that they KNOW how much time each operation is going to require on average. Changing the alternator on a 2007 Dodge Neon takes this many hours and costs this much. You need to do the same. While some scans need user participation, most don't. You are an IT pro, with 20+ years in the industry, you should know what needs what and how long it takes. You need to set your rates not based upon a CLOCK hour, but upon an actual WORKING hour. Without a ton of overhead, you can charge less than the big boys.

As to it being a tough pill for the customer to swallow? They could come to a free site like this one and get the job done with only spending THEIR time, but they don't. They won't even update a computer. How hard is that? You just enable auto updating. It may sound harsh, but like you said, your mechanic doesn't give you a break does he/ He has to eat and feed HIS kids. Don't you? If your rates are fair, then stick to them. Don't under cut yourself. You give one guy a "break" and he tells all his buddies how "good' you are, but he also tells them what you charged HIM so now the "one time break" you gave someone has become your standard rate.

Figure out common tasks and set rates for them.

EDIT: Hope this helps

Edited by DeathStalker, 22 April 2010 - 05:56 PM.


#4 myitanalyst

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 08:28 PM

First off, I'm not an IT professional, but I've owned my own business for nearly 20 years and billing is billing. Let's use your mechanics analogy as I think it would be the most beneficial to you on one level (but not on another lol):

The bottom line is that they KNOW how much time each operation is going to require on average. Changing the alternator on a 2007 Dodge Neon takes this many hours and costs this much. You need to do the same. While some scans need user participation, most don't. You are an IT pro, with 20+ years in the industry, you should know what needs what and how long it takes. You need to set your rates not based upon a CLOCK hour, but upon an actual WORKING hour. Without a ton of overhead, you can charge less than the big boys.

As to it being a tough pill for the customer to swallow? They could come to a free site like this one and get the job done with only spending THEIR time, but they don't. They won't even update a computer. How hard is that? You just enable auto updating. It may sound harsh, but like you said, your mechanic doesn't give you a break does he/ He has to eat and feed HIS kids. Don't you? If your rates are fair, then stick to them. Don't under cut yourself. You give one guy a "break" and he tells all his buddies how "good' you are, but he also tells them what you charged HIM so now the "one time break" you gave someone has become your standard rate.

Figure out common tasks and set rates for them.

EDIT: Hope this helps


Thanks for the feedback... good use of the mechanic analogy.

#5 BucketHead131

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 04:24 PM

Many people charge a lot. And its been discussed few places. And one thing is you can charge by hour or whatever. But doing scans with programs can take up many hours and charge that person extra money. Another thing to think about is charging for kind of infections. Like if you do basic reinstall, install program and update it.. basic fee. But each infection type could be more charges. Just remember people can go buy new computer basically for the prices of people charging to fix the old one.




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