Dell Brings Predictive Support Capabilities to Business PCs, Tablets

The vendor's ProSupport Plus service for PCs and tablets includes SupportAssist technology, which monitors the health of the enterprise systems.

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Dell is extending the ProSupport Plus service that it has in place for data center systems like servers and networking gear to its business PCs and tablets, and is including the ability for the technology to monitor the health of the systems and proactively report when problems occur.

Dell officials want to make it easier for customers and IT departments to address issues that arise with their systems by including the vendor's SupportAssist technology in the ProSupport Plus service. With the technology, end users many times will be able to avoid the time spent on technical support calls—from waiting for a technician to get on the line to having to describe the problem to having support staff diagnose the issue—by having proactive and predictive monitoring automatically supported on the device.

For example, the technology can predict if a hard drive is about to fail, alert the user and get a new hard drive ordered, according to Dell officials. The new service covers Dell's business desktop PCs, notebooks, Ultrabooks, Chromebooks and tablets.

"That might not seem like a lot, but if you think about the number of PCs [business IT departments are] handling, it can make a difference," Jim Roth, executive director of Dell's Support and Deployment Product Group, told eWEEK.

Pointing to numbers from market research firm IDC, Roth and Doug Schmitt, vice president and general manager of global support and deployment at Dell, noted that IT departments spend about 80 percent of their time on routine support and maintenance of their systems, with only 20 percent spent on innovative projects. Through the new service, Dell is hoping to reverse those numbers.

According to figures compiled by the vendor, the ProSupport Plus service with SupportAssist reduces the amount of time spent on a support call to deal with a hard drive by 84 percent when compared to what is seen with rivals Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard, while it took 80 percent less time to deliver a new hard drive.

There also is a 58 percent reduction in the steps needed to resolve an issue, Roth said.

"It really … takes time out of the process," he said, adding that "solving the problem before a failure happens is really incredible."

Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, said in a research note that Dell's new service—including the proactive monitoring technology—makes sense for businesses that must mange huge numbers of PCs and tablets. The health checks and expertise of its engineers that Dell offers are important, and similar to what other vendors offer. However, it's the SupportAssist system, which monitors the PCs and tablets, that separates what Dell offers and will be a boon to businesses.

Other vendors also offer proactive and predictive technologies, but not for PCs and tablets, King wrote.

"Given the increasingly critical role that employee endpoints play in business, as well as the increasing stress and strain such devices (particularly mobile laptops and tablets) are subjected to, it's hard to imagine ProSupport Plus being anything but happily welcomed among Dell's business clients," he wrote.

King also suggested other areas where such automated predictive technologies would be embraced.

"For example, it is arguable that an enterprise with thousands, tens of thousands ... of desktop, laptop and tablet clients qualifies as a scale model of future Internet of Things (IoT) environments with orders of magnitude more sensors and other intelligent endpoints," he wrote. "From that perspective, what Dell is achieving with ProSupport Plus now, especially its automated, proactive, predictive SupportAssist technologies, could well lay the groundwork for solutions supporting future IoT environments."

Along with the SupportAssist technology, ProSupport Plus for PCs and tablets includes 24x7 priority access to hardware and software engineers, self-service case management and parts dispatch through Dell's TechDirect port, mobile app or API, coverage for drops, spills and electrical surges, a dedicated technical account manager to give customers are single point of accountability, and the ability for businesses to keep hard drives—and the data on them—that are being replaced.

The service is available immediately with pricing based on a three-year contracts and varying by the systems and country being supported.