Smartphone Tool Improves IT Response Time

Medium-sized business IT support can be critical. When your website, network, or employee PCs are down, you're wasting money. If your IT staff is away at these tense moments--especially off-hours--it might take extra time for them to get in front of a PC to fix the issues. Instead, mobile administration software lets your IT staff manage infrastructure anywhere from a smartphone.

Your IT workers likely have VNC tools in-place to remotely control a PC, even from a smartphone. And different servers have their own management tools that work with smartphones. But Rove offers a remote-management tool that centralizes everything, letting your IT staff control more than 500 tasks across dozens of different server types.

Rove Mobile Admin works as a client/server combination. On the client side, IT workers access tools through BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian S60 smartphones, or a generic web interface for iPhones and other devices. They'll also install Mobile Admin on a Windows Server to communicate with those clients.

Mobile Admin lets IT workers respond to monitoring systems, including those from BMC, System Center, and Nagios. The tool also interfaces with many platforms, including Citrix, Lotus Domino, Novell, Windows, and UNIX/Linux. And many services are supported, connecting to SQL Server, VMware installations, BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and more.

From a smartphone, your IT staff could edit DHCP IP reservations, start a backup, remotely wipe systems, set IT policies for a user's BlackBerry, and handle other tasks. They'll be able to control urgent, time-sensitive issues or just have another, potentially more convenient way to work.

The connection is encrypted to the abilities of the client device; BlackBerry Server allows those handhelds to encrypt with TDES or AES, for example. Other devices encrypt with the VPN connection, while all can connect with HTTPS/TLS. And various authentication protocols--including RSA SecurID--help protect from intrusion.

Rove representatives say that Mobile Admin saves companies money because the IT department can fix downtime issues an average of 8 minutes faster than without remote access from a smartphone. Depending on the size and complexity of a business, these 8-minute increments could add up. For a business with less than 100 employees, Rove estimates that you'd save almost 2.5 hours each year. With more people and a more complicated network, the total could be higher.

Multiply that time savings by your downtime costs per hour, and your business could save significantly. Take a look at Rove's estimation page, including a PDF with sources for the company's estimates.

For companies with up to 5 IT workers who need Mobile Admin, Rove charges $835 per user for a perpetual license. (Or bigger companies can sample that plan first.) Prices vary if you need more than 5 licenses; Rove might give you a volume discount, but a company representative said that businesses need to contact Rove for direct quotes.

Mobile Admin, or other remote-access tools, could help you save money by letting IT staff respond more quickly to downtime disasters. But your IT employees will also benefit by being able to work in an unobtrusive way. In a tech emergency, it's a lot easier to tap into a smartphone than leave a movie, dinner, or just get out of bed.

Zack Stern is building a new business from San Francisco, where he frequently contributes to PC World.

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