BoxTone User Self-Service aims to let users troubleshoot some of their BlackBerry support problems without involving the support desk, although the system's occasionally unhelpful guidance may thwart that lofty goal.
The BoxTone USS module is an add-on to BoxTone's mobile ecosystem troubleshooting platform. BoxTone specializes in enterprise BlackBerry integrations, looking deep within BlackBerry Enterprise Server and Exchange (or Lotus Domino) implementations to provide troubleshooting guidance for users, devices and back-end services-similar to what Zenprise does. BoxTone also provides administrators with limited insight into ActiveSync connections to help monitor Exchange usage by unmanaged devices.
The USS module adds to this core functionality by allowing users to perform limited troubleshooting on their own BlackBerry devices (USS functionality does not yet extend to ActiveSync devices). In theory, this tool would greatly help reduce the number of support calls to the mobile help desk, as users can activate their own phones, deal with lost devices and troubleshoot certain circumstances. Unfortunately, I found some of the troubleshooting guidance less than helpful for uninitiated users and unnecessary circumstances arose during testing that could lead to more support calls instead.
I performed my tests on BoxTone's hosted test network, which integrates BoxTone's services with BES and Exchange 2007,using Research In Motion-provided BlackBerry Bold 9700s for T-Mobile (using the stock firmware available from T-Mobile, 5.0.0330) as my test clients. BoxTone officials said they suspected that many of the problems I encountered in my tests were related to ongoing data corruption issues in the testbed, but even after they initiated fixes, the system behavior I experienced did not match their advertised or expected behaviors.
Customers new to BoxTone can begin with BoxTone Essentials, a starter pack that includes the BoxTone Core software as well as features like the Operations Dashboard-a global view of the mobile messaging infrastructure that displays up-to-date health info for users, devices and servers-plus knowledge base information relevant for detected alerts.
BoxTone Essentials costs just under $18,000 for 1,000 users. User Self-Service can be added later as module for an additional $15,000.
User Self-Service presents itself to the end user as a Web-based tool. Users log in with their standard domain credentials (as they would for Outlook Web Access). There's a small Flash-dependent element to the Web page, but I found I could navigate the page and use the tools effectively from browsers that aren't Flash-enabled. I did find that USS was a little easier to use on Windows (using either Internet Explorer or Firefox), as I found the page formatting and behavior was slightly wonky if accessed from a Mac (via either Firefox or Safari).
Users with a new BlackBerry in hand can activate the device from USS, using the Switch My Device tab. This tool automatically generates an activation password and provides succinct guidance on how to perform the activation. If the user goofs up and inputs an incorrect activation code, the tool detects the error and prompts the user to try again with the right information. Once the BlackBerry is successfully activated, the tool lets the user know that the process was successful.