HP Introduces Troubleshooting Tool

HP Services has launched a new tool to troubleshoot everything from notebook computers to printers and PDAs.

HP Services today launched a new tool in its arsenal of support services designed to simplify troubleshooting of everything from notebooks to printers and PDAs.

In the war on reducing the total cost of ownership for desktops, HP Services new Web-based Instant Support Corporate Edition tool can be used to reduce support costs by anywhere from 10 to 30 percent, according to Dan Socci, vice president of marketing for HPS customer support organization in Littleton, Mass.

The Windows-based tool can be used in several different ways. It can serve as an adjunct to traditional help desk software, providing Web-based access to the help desk to facilitate information gathering for troubleshooting. It can also be used in a self-service fashion, allowing users to solve their own problems, or it can be used as a collaborative tool between the user and a remote technician.

Instant Support Corporate Edition is targeted at large enterprise corporate help desks. It is unique in its zero footprint approach, which does not require any software to be installed on a managed PC. The software is installed on a server, and when remote desktops access the tools Web portal, any software that is downloaded to execute diagnostic or data gathering functions is not left behind when the user exits the Web site.

"We get on, do our thing and get off the PC," described Tom Tripp, R&D section manager for HP Services in Roseville, Calif. As the end user works in the self-help mode, they can click on help and the tool automatically creates a trouble ticket and pre-populates the PC with the software required to diagnose problems before a help desk agent is engaged. The tool, which integrates with major help desk software from BMC Softwares Remedy unit, Vantive, Clarify, HP OpenView Service Desk and others, uses HTTPS and XML to transfer the required software.

Episcopal High School in Bellaire, Texas, which equips all of its students, faculty and staff with laptops to use daily for school work, is using Instant Support Corporate Edition to keep 800 users working with only three IT support staffers, according to Steve Eisenberg, director of technology.

"The laptop is an integral part of the education at Episcopal High School. Our help desk is woefully understaffed and busy all the time. Instant Support has been a life saver. Unless a kids computer cannot boot up, we can diagnose and fix their machines while the kid is still sitting in the classroom," he said.

Tripp asserted that the majority of PC problems can be resolved in the tools self-solve mode. For those problems that cant be resolved by the user, they can go into assisted solve mode in which the tool "grabs all the information off the PC and seamlessly escalates that to a help desk," he described.

Giving the help desk agent the "ability to see the users hardware and software profile can quicken the time to resolution," said Robert McNeill, senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "If you dont have some kind of data harvest or nightly backup, the help desk agent has to play 20 guesses as to whats on the desktop."

Diagnostics are delivered to the remote PC using Microsoft ActiveX controls and results are delivered to the user. When a help desk agent is engaged, the tool delivers information such as software drivers and versions and other configuration data, and presents it to the agent. "Weve cut through the information gathering phase by doing it electronically and immediately go into problem resolution," said Tripp.

Collaborative Solve mode is used for interacting with specialists or higher tiers of the service desk. The tool works with Windows 98 and higher as well as Internet Explorer 5.5 and higher.

The tool, which HP will deliver for free as part of a large product or services contract, helps HP increase the value of the PC commodities it sells. "Theyll use this to really increase the ROI in an HP relationship by lowering the total cost of desktop management," McNeill said. With the hardware costs representing only 25 percent of the total lifecycle cost, "enterprises are asking for added value services tied to the box to take out cost from that lifecycle.

Along that vein, rival IBM Global Services is also working to bring down desktop support costs. But it is emphasizing process as well as leveraging new technologies to do it, according to Beth Cross, competency segment lead for end user services for IGS in Boulder, Colo.

"Were developing a capability we call universal queuing. We need to be able to queue work to the right kind of skills," she said. That capability, due in the third quarter, "will give us another leap forward in efficiency," she added.

IBMs own Web-based self help tool is called Virtual Help Desk, which automates trouble ticket submission. But IBM will extend that capability later this year with the ability to automate some diagnosis on a remote client, and either repair the problem once identified or automatically send in a trouble ticket to the help desk.

IBM also provides a series of tools for clients that can load or transfer software images and recover data lost in a failure. Those tools, part of IBMs ThinkVantage strategy, are used in conjunction with a help desk agent.

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