Archive for the ‘Helpdesk’ Category

Supporting the customer – remote management developments

November 27, 2006

This post is a supplementary to the post on what ails customer support. The post discusses the various factors affecting the quality of customer support and how big companies mostly have lousy customer support.

Here I intend to discuss the special emphasis placed on customer support in Small and Medium business and how it affects the life of the IT administrator. I will also look at the technological help that is available to these harried lot including some of the latest developments in the field of remote support.

Customer support in a small business falls into two categories. One is your internal helpdesk. The other is the support that you provide to the customers. Traditionally a lot of emphasis on customer support is placed in Small and Medium business. Reason is quiet straight forward. Usually small and medium business need to make a mark in an existing market. They need a chunk of the market share and ususally it is customer support that differentiates the big from the small. A Small medium business is also more agile and fast, which means that it is not possible to exercise the kind of controls that are available to IT admins in bigger organizations.

So the IT admins in SMB’s are a busy lot. They need to be at the bleeding edge of technology to keep moving. Most problems that are solved in bigger organizations by controls and process do not work here. If you go with a policy for protecting your computers you will be asked to find out a technology that gives them the freedom to work and still takes care of security. BTW did I say that the solution should be dirt cheap.

Usually you dont have an expansive IT help desk hence remote assitance is widely used in SMB’s. In SMB’s you will find many people working from home and always on the move. Remote troubleshooting comes in handy here too. Hence Iam always interested in Remote troubleshooting tools.

Traditionally VNC and Remote Desktop are probably the widely used tools for remote troubleshooting. Though they are very good tools, they also suffer from some disadvantages.

1. Both of these require the machine to be powered on booted up and available. So the troubleshooting happens right in front of the customer wasting away his/her time and making them impatient.

2. Usually there are problems when firewalls are involved.

Recently there seems to be some momentum in making remote management of computers a breeze.

Intel launched its vPro platform in April aims to solve the first problem. Built around Intel’s proprietary Active Management Technology, vPro aims to help manage desktop computers even when they are switched off. There is an inbuilt mechanism of remotely starting a machine applying a patch and shut it down. A patch can be applied even when the machine is shutdown. It also greatly improves the ability to isolate systems that threaten network security. Thus this technology is a boon for internal IT management.

But before you jump and order your vPro, just be informed that this technology is just gaining momentum and still at early stages of adoption. Intel’s technology is a properitary one and Dell for example is not planning to use vPro and instead deploying management technologies defined by the Distributed Management Task Force standards body, such as the Alert Standards Format 2.0 and standards currently under development by the Desktop and Mobile Work Group. But I feel that this technology is definitely worth watching and keeping track of.

The other new development that I feel will be a great help to Remote assistance is CrossLoop. This solves the second problem usually associated with remote assistance, (ie) firewalls. CrossLoop is a FREE secure screen sharing utility designed for people of all technical skill levels. It allows secure screen sharing without changing any firewall or router settings. This downloadable stuff networks computers in a peer to peer mode. CrossLooop is based on UltraVnc. Cross loop can become an important tool for remote assistance particularly for remote support for customers, travelling employees and home offices.

I should say that I have not tried it but it looks promising. Someday Iam going to try and post the review here.

Wish in the days to come, technical support becomes a much more enjoyable experience both for the IT technicians and the customers.