Mobile: the new frontier for self-service

Artificial Intelligence on the service desk [Holly from RedDwarf]
Artificial Intelligence on the service desk [Holly from RedDwarf]
Google searches performed on a mobile device outstripped desktop searches (in certain territories), according to figures released last week.

That’s an important milestone in the meteoric use of mobile.

Of course, the searches refer to global use of Google, including consumers searching for the nearest pizza joint, and are not necessarily reflective of enterprise IT – but we all know, since the introduction of the blackberry, iPad and then current smart phones, of the increasing business demands for mobile.

Will your service work on mobile devices? Will it provide a frictionless consumer-like experience, Does it matter who owns the device? And so on.

It doesn’t matter that we’re not delivering consumer services and that we might be delivering services in heavily regulated industries with back-breaking governance hoops to jump through – the demand for mobility and flexibility continue unabated.

Mobility promises the ability to avoid speaking to pesky humans, get things done, keep track and unlock me from the constraints of a physical office.

Avoiding speaking to people is an important point: In terms of human interaction it’s a case of quality over quantity. When I do (occasionally) speak with a human – I want a great customer focussed experience. You’ve only got to look at the growth (or is it a return?) of IT concierge desks resourced with IT staff especially selected for their more extrovert nature to witness this.

The premise: automate as much as possible, help the customer help themselves, if they do need to speak to us, make it a great experience (which doesn’t necessarily mean fixing everything).

With this in mind it has been great to see traditional ITSM providers innovating with mobile.

The future is here, just unevenly distributed

The terms artificial intelligence and augmented reality go hand-in-hand with the Jetsons, self driving cars and the fridge that knows to order more beer and lettuce. But look carefully, and it’s slowly permeating everywhere, including the humble service desk.

Smart-phone owners might be familiar with Apple’s SIRI, Google’s Voice Search or Microsoft’s Cortana as a personal navigator (Voice recognition to intelligent search / actions).  Similarly consumers might be familiar with Word Lens (Image to language translation) or Evernote (handwriting to textual search).

SnapIT from LANDESK promises smartphone image capture to knowledge base lookup. Sharing screenshots or remote sharing with end user customers to identify issues is a staple of the service desk toolkit – but what about cutting out the middle-man and connecting customers directly with help by snapping a picture of the issue on a mobile device?

Direct link to Video

LANDESK have offered this new capability with no extra charge to existing customers. It’s available via iOS, Android or simply via a browser.

I look forward to seeing this and other innovation at the ITSM show next month, we’ll be on stand 723 collecting customer reviews for TOOLSADVISOR.net (think trip advisor meets itsm tools). Come and say hi!

Image Credit

Technology Review: DAMEWARE REMOTE SUPPORT V11.0.0

This is an independent review of Dameware Remote Support.

AT A GLANCE

DameWareLogo-FamilyA global leader in the market of service automation software and remote management, SolarWinds mission is to provide purpose-built products designed to make IT professional’s jobs easier.

This review takes a look at the core capabilities, the route to market, competitive strengths and weaknesses, product development roadmap and market reach of DameWare Remote Support, which was released in June 2014.

Available as an on-premise solution, DameWare Remote Support (DRS) is a set of systems administration tools that allow for advanced management and secure remote connections to computers outside of the firewall allowing IT professionals to access a number of operations via remote systems.

SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS

Strengths

Weaknesses

Yes Easy installation and deployment No  Remote Support Console looks dated
Yes Good value for money No  Limited support options
Yes Solid out-of-the box-functionality

PRIMARY MARKET FOCUS

Added to the company portfolio in late 2011 and encompassing a broad range of industries and sizes of organization, DameWare Remote Support has been sold to approximately 65,000 organisations since its inception.

50% of DameWare Remote Support customers are currently based in North America with 40% based in EMEA and a further 10% based in APAC and LATAM.

With several products that fit into the system management space, namely SolarWinds Web Helpdesk, Server and Application Manager, and Patch Manager, SolarWinds appears to be well on its way to providing a solution for every IT service.

ANALYSIS

Remote administration is an area that most of us are familiar with having at one time or another been on the receiving end of the “weird floating mouse” that makes your PC look like it has been inhabited by ghosts, when in actual fact a very clever person in some place far, far away (i.e. in a remote location) is investigating or fixing whatever issue your technology is experiencing.

With the increasing complexity of working environments, and with many users not only working from different locations but also on many different types of device (both inside and outside of the company firewall), IT organisations are challenged to find a remote support tool to help support the needs of an ever-evolving IT and business environment.

Enter DameWare Remote Support from SolarWinds.

As a self-hosted solution, DRS permits organisations to control data passed between computers during remote control sessions without the need for a third party gateway, giving organisations the security they need to support regardless of location.

In The ITSM Review’s opinion, DRS is a comprehensive tool that includes not just remote assistance but also: DameWare Server Admin Console, Exporter Tool and Dameware Mobile Gateway.

Mini Remote Control (MRC) is the remote assistance part of the solution that provides the ability to view and control users desktops, assisting the troubleshooting process.
troubleshooting-process
Advantages to using MRC rather than Remote Assistance or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) are:

  • Provides the ability to hold multiple active sessions allows multiple users to connect to the same remote session
  • Provides additional troubleshooting tools such as Ping, traceroute etc.
  • Provides the ability to save frequently used connections together with login credentials
  • Offers the ability to drop files on remote machines with only a few clicks
  • Allows you to send “wake-up packets” making it easier to manage machines that are power management-enabled
  • Contains built-in Chat features
  • Provides the ability to capture screenshots making it easier to document troubleshooting or record settings

Additional features available within DRS include:

  • DameWare Central Server and Administration Console, which allows organisations to manage DameWare users and permissions including control and activation of DRS and Mini Remote Control licences. Also allowing users to create and share a global host list and view current internet and mobile sessions
  • DameWare Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones and tablets, which allows organisations to remotely control and troubleshoot Windows computers
  • Ability to perform Windows administration tasks remotely without having to initiate a full remote control session.  These tasks include: restarting services and processes; viewing and clearing event logs, discs, share and peripheral management; registry editing and system performance monitoring
  • Management of multiple Active Directory (AD) domains including: user account unlocking and password resets; adding users to distribution and security groups; OU management; Group Policy editing and updating AD extended attributes
  • Remote support of computers on any operating system via Intel vPro AMT, allowing organisations to control them remotely with the AMT KVM Viewer – wake sleeping or hibernating computers, restart crashed computers and change BIOS settings of remote computers
  • Exporting of AD objects and Windows Configurations in bulk to CSV or XML formats

With advanced and well integrated software suites within almost every aspect of IT Management, we believe that SolarWinds are clearly going for some kind of world domination in this area and will soon have a solution to cover every imaginable scenario in your IT environment.

With experience of using at least five different remote support tools we believe we have a good grasp on what works and what doesn’t work for customers in this area.  Asking a customer for their IP address is always a bit hit-and-miss due to technical abilities (as well as the ability to listen and follow instruction) and asking them to type a long address into a browser followed by a hexadecimal key code should probably be in a “What not to do on a Service Desk” 101 guide.

What we particularly like about DRS is that even though it has every tool imaginable for you to use as part of the product, such as chat and remote command, it still seems remarkably straightforward to use, especially for those with a limited knowledge of these types of technologies who want to be able to do the minimum amount possible to enable a connection to their PC.

Furthermore, when you’re the one providing the support you likely want to be able do it with as fewer amount of steps as possible in a single service transaction, which is why we think tools within the DRS solution like Ping are particularly handy.  Allowing you to Ping a potential host before attempting a full connection and discovering it is not connected to the network ensures that you’re not wasting your time

DameWare Remote Support is full of little tools such as Ping, creating what is in effect a remote support swiss army knife.

ping-tool

One of our key issues with DRS is its User Interface (UI). Whilst we understand the concept behind the saying “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”, in our opinion the solution looks like something out of the 1990’s and positively pre-historic in comparison to other remote support tools in the market. Whilst we strongly believe that the solution provides all the functionality you could possibly need from a remote support tool, we wouldn’t be surprised if prospective customers were turned off by the look of the solution.

In stark contrast, the DameWare Server Admin Console looks modern and is much more in keeping with the look and feel of other SolarWinds tools. Our suggestion for improvement would be to overhaul the UI, but to ensure that this doesn’t impact the functionality or intuitiveness of the solution.

A further potential area for improvement is in support, which is an area that we found to be slightly puzzling. There appears to be no telephone support for DameWare Remote Support, just email, which is only manned Monday to Friday 9-5 CST. Help is however available from within the tool with alternative access to Thwack for crowd-sourced knowledge. That said, we do believe that the solution works very effectively and feel it would be unlikely that a customer would ever require a high level of support.

For companies that only require the above capabilities listed, it is worth noting that MRC is also available as a separate, standalone product.

mrc

KEY CAPABILITIES

The table below shows the key capabilities of SolarWinds DRS

General
  • Initiate MRC, RDP or Virtual Network Computing (VNC) sessions
  • Share screens
  • Initiate secure remote troubleshooting sessions
  • Transfer files during remote sessions
  • Manage group policy objects
  • Access functions such as command prompt, system performance etc. without the need to remotely connect
  • Bulk export of Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)
  • Chat with user
  • Remotely control Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux computers
  • Remote access for outside-of-firewall Windows machines
  • Mobile remote desktop from iOS and Android devices
  • Flexible deployment options
  • Remote Windows administration tools
  • Export AD objects and Windows configs
  • Support for Intel vPro – remote troubleshooting for out-of-band computers
  • Mobile app for troubleshooting anywhere
Active Directory
  • Unlock user accounts
  • Reset passwords
  • Update names and addresses
  • Create, amend and disable accounts
  • Setup Exchange mailboxes
  • Ability to manage multiple domains
  • Export AD information
Windows Server
  • Reboot after update
  • Troubleshoot slow running servers using Performance Monitor
  • Manage data file storage
  • Review eventlogs for suspicious activity

GO-TO-MARKET STRATEGY

Founded in 1999 SolarWinds has grown year on year and provides over 50 IT management tools in its portfolio.

SolarWinds sells its products through an inside sales model and through channel partners all over the world.  Rather than involve consultants, potential DRS customers are encouraged to self evaluate for a period of 14 days and visit the user community, Thwack, to witness the sharing and support that takes place.

With a good solid grounding in the network, systems and application management arena, we believe that DRS is yet another very comprehensive offerring from SolarWinds. It is now estimated that that the average user deploys 2.5 of the main products from SolarWinds.

DameWare Remote Support is licensed per user/technician in a perpetual licensing model, which is scaled down as users are added.Prices start at $349 per licence and scale down to $270 per licence for larger deployments.

Business Partner Summary

Key Business Partners
  • RamgeSoft

Market Penetration

Number of customers on maintenance 21,000+
Typical Customer
  • Large businesses
  • Based in North America

IMPLEMENTATION

Typical Installation

Installation of DRS appears to be fast and straightforward, with stand-alone mode taking up to 10 minutes install, with time to set up for centralized mode dependant upon the number of users. DRS can be implemented/deployed using only internal staff. SolarWinds does not offer deployment services.

Full installation requirements (please note this is not the case for evaluation installations):

Software Requirements
Operating System
  • Microsoft Windows Vista, 7 or 8
  • Windows NT 4.0 w/Service Pack 1 or greater (including Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, Windows 7, or Windows 8) and Windows Server 2012
Exchange
  • Exchange 2000/2003 support is provided in version 4.x and above within DRS AD Object Views (AD Users & Computers, AD Users container, etc.), and does not require Microsoft’s Exchange Admin Tools.
Active Directory
  • DameWare Remote Support Active Directory functionality is only supported on machines running Windows 2000 and above. However, even though it is not directly supported, many of the DRS AD features will still work on machines running Windows NT4 SP-6a, provided you also install Microsoft’s AD Client Extensions (DSClient.exe) for Windows NT4.
  • For more information about Microsoft’s AD Client Extensions, please refer to Microsoft’s website.
  • AD Client Extensions for Windows 95/98 and Windows NT 4.0:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/server/evaluation/news/bulletins/adextension.asp

CDM Control
  • “This version of DRS requires a newer version of COMCTL32.DLL (Version 4.71 or later) than what is installed on this machine (Version x.xx). A newer version of this DLL can be obtained from Microsoft and is shipped with NT SP4 and IE 4.x or higher.”

When this message is encountered, DRS will still function however, it is recommended that the COMCTL32.DLL file be revised to a later version. This file is not re-distributable by third party software developers but you can download and install it directly from Microsoft.

An installation wizard takes the user through installation step by step in a very straightforward manner. Full instructions for installation can be found here.

Time to Value

In our opinion, the short time required to install DRS together with its ease of use, scalability and minimal manpower costs for deployment suggests a rapid Return On Investment (ROI).

Resources Required

DRS requires minimal resources due to install with upgrades requiring little to no action.

Scalability

DRS is infinitely scalable with licences sold per analyst with an unlimited number of supported PC’s.

 

scalability

PRODUCT ROADMAP

Based on the information provided, the next major functional enhancement from SolarWinds will be unattended remote access to outside-of-firewall computers.  No date has yet been provided for the release of this enhancement.

PRODUCT PORTFOLIO

Network Management

  • Network Performance Monitor
  • Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack
  • NetFlow Traffic Analyzer
  • Network Configuration Manager
  • IP Address Manager
  • User Device Tracker
  • VoIP & Network Quality Manager
  • Engineer’s Toolset
  • Network Topology Manager
  • Kiwi CatTools

System Management

  • Server & Application Monitor
  • Virtualization Manager
  • Storage Manager
  • Web Performance Monitor
  • Web Help Desk
  • Patch Manager
  • DameWare Remote Support
  • DameWare Mini Remote Control
  • Kiwi Syslog Server
  • Kiwi Log Viewer
  • Mobile Admin

Security, Information and Event Management

  • Log & Event Manager
  • Firewall Security Manager
  • Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server

Database Management

  • Database Performance Analyzer for SQL Server
  • Database Performance Analyzer for Oracle
  • Database Performance Analyzer for DB2
  • Database Performance Analyzer for Sybase

COVERAGE

Head Office Austin, Texas
Regional Offices Czech Republic, Ireland, Singapore, Utah, Australia, Philippines, Colorado,Canada
Partner Representation RamgeSoft – Germany

FURTHER RESOURCES

Company Information

Named as Forbes Best Small Company in America in 2012, SolarWinds provides a wealth of network and system management tools including over 30 free offerings.

SolarWinds products are grouped into the following categories:

  • Network Management
  • System Management
  • Security, Information and Event Management
  • Database Management

The company has headquarters in Austin, Texas and operates out of a growing number of worldwide regional offices (eight at the time of writing).

SolarWinds community, Thwack, has over 125,000 users worldwide who collaborate and share knowledge specific to SolarWinds products.  As a result with little searching you can find a Knowledge Base article or forum post with the answer to almost any question you may have.

CONTACT DETAILS

SolarWinds Contact Details

Head Office Austin, Texas
Regional Offices
  • Brno, Czech Republic
  • Cork, Ireland
  • Singapore
  • Lehi, Utah
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Manilla, Philippines
  • Boulder, Colorado,
  • Ottawa, Canada

SUMMARY

In our opinion, DRS is a good fit for all size IT organisations across any industry.

Strengths

Weaknesses

Yes Easy installation and deployment No  Remote Support Console looks dated
Yes Good value for money No  Limited support options
Yes Solid out-of-the box functionality

Disclaimer, Scope and Limitations

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created.  Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed.  Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline, and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study.  The ITSM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review, that is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge, without registration.

For further information, please read our Disclosure page.

Majority Of Service Desks Not Supporting BYOD

Dell KACE claim the majority of service desks can't or don't want to support BYOD

Dell KACE has released a survey this month which claims that “a majority” of IT support team help service desks are unwilling to support employees who want to bring their own device (BYOD) to work.

This UK-based survey suggests that as many as 56 per cent of IT professionals believe their IT service desk is ill-equipped to deal with user-owned tablets entering the network.

Why the #FAIL here?

Dell KACE says that this is either because they:

  • can’t or
  • don’t want to support them

But is there much value in analysis of this kind with “loaded” questions to a mere 149 survey respondents?

Some 27  per cent of the survey respondents said that while their service desk can support traditional devices, they cannot support tablets. Furthermore, 18 per cent said their helpdesk can’t easily support any user-owned devices and 11 per cent said they don’t want to support any new devices.

“I find it worrying that organisations have a ‘can’t or won’t’ approach to BYOD, this growing trend across organisations places additional pressure on IT to provide support,” said Seann Gardiner, sales director, at EMEA Dell KACE.

“It is critical that IT is able to easily manage the practice of more devices coming inside the enterprise from outside the organisation. An effective BYOD strategy supports employees. It can increase individual employee’s productivity, which can have a positive effect on an organisation’s performance. Companies should be looking closely at how they manage employees’ BYOD attempts, in order to boost their organisation’s overall productivity.”

On the subject of whether their service desk is integrated with the rest of their systems management tools, 20 per cent of IT professionals said their companies have still not integrated their systems and a lot of other tasks are carried out manually. The research also reveals that more than a third (36 per cent) of IT professionals say IT problems are tracked using spreadsheets and emails, or a ‘home-grown’ system.

  • Some 52 per cent believe the service desk is seen as ‘the face of IT to the business – so our service levels matter’.
  • A further 20 per cent said it was not seen as a strategic part of IT and 17 per cent said ‘users only see us when they have an IT problem’.

Gardiner said, “Service desks need to be more integrated with other system management tools in order to have a strong overview of all their IT. Manual tracking of IT issues using spreadsheets and emails introduces a big cost overhead as well as taking a lot of time. If you can’t see all IT problems, you can’t fix them. To help organisations perform well, IT must automate systems management tasks which will save time and money. Integration is absolutely key in an environment where the application and device landscape is diversifying”.

Our survey said…

The firm confirms that participants here included front-line IT professionals, IT managers, IT executives and others – all taken from what is claimed to be a “wide range” of company sizes and industry verticals in the UK.

Does Dell KACE have an agenda to push here? Perhaps so, but not to the degree that the firm is trying to also plug a product as its system-management solutions and family of appliances are designed to work at a higher level in most senses. That being the case, we may well have more BYOD dangers on the road ahead than we even realise as of now.