Everdream Crosses Tech Support Lines

Everdream Control Center lets IT departments mix their in-house Windows desktop support with outsourced management.

Everdream Corp.s updated managed desktop service has power-sharing capabilities that will likely shake up desktop support by allowing IT managers greater flexibility in how they apportion their support budget.

Until now, desktop support was an all-or-nothing proposition: 100 percent outsourced or 100 percent in-house. Everdreams update to its ECC (Everdream Control Center), which became available last month, provides the best of both worlds by allowing administrators to apportion support budgets, support staff and support tasks in ways that are the most efficient for their organizations.

Everdream can still be the single point of contact for all IT calls, but in this updated version of the service, end users can also enter their own service requests, instead of having to call them in to an Everdream representative, for example. Basic calls can still be delegated to Everdream, but calls from senior engineers could also be routed directly to in-house staff for immediate action.

All this is done through the new Dashboard, which in eWeek Labs tests made it easy to see the status of service requests or even take control of a users machine if advanced technical support was needed.

eWeek Labs worked with Everdream Client Services—software that resides on clients accessing the Everdream service—to implement just these kinds of policies during our tests. The results, after several early adjustments, were on the mark. We think this ability to partially outsource support is a big advance in the desktop management field and an option IT managers should examine to control costs with minimal changes in service levels.

The chief concern that arose during testing—where we used ECC for all the typical desktop services, including inventory, remote control, help desk, software distribution, backup and anti-virus—was that the platform supports only Windows. In this way, the service falls short when compared with product families such as Novell Inc.s ZENworks and LANDesk Software Inc.s LANDesk, both of which accommodate handheld devices, along with a range of other desktop operating systems.

However, based on our testing in both our San Francisco lab and with sister publication PC Magazine at its lab, in New York, it is clear that Everdream is on the right track. For example, IT managers who used the Everdream service previously had to turn over the delivery and much of the oversight of desktop services to Everdream. With the updated system, administrators will have increased access to real-time information and myriad reports about the status of IT assets without having to go to Everdream staff.

In tests, we set up Dashboard to show unresolved service requests because we wanted ready access to the problems that our users were reporting.

It was difficult to load-test because Ziff Davis Media Inc. (the publisher of eWeek) wisely forbids testing on the corporate network. Thus, we werent able to gang-press our office mates into filing trouble tickets from their desks. But we were able to file quite a few bogus tickets under the guise of several different test users.

Every couple of minutes, the service requests would appear in Dashboard. With a click, we got complete details on the status of the request, including a list of all action taken so far. Thats not rocket science, of course, but being able to monitor the queue of eWeek problems while knowing that someone at Everdream was responsible for resolving the problems was very nice.

New in this version of the Everdream service, IT staffers can use the same remote control tool that Everdream uses to get access to users systems. The tool worked well in tests—a little slower than some weve used but nothing that would seriously interfere with a trouble-shooting call. Our ability to remotely control our own systems when need be was like putting a drivers-training steering wheel in a car: We liked knowing that we could do something immediately if a crisis required action.

Any outsourced service should be judged on its responsiveness both in terms of problem resolution and, well, things as simple as how long the screens take to refresh. On both these counts, our experience with the Everdream service was well within our expectations. Problems that we submitted were always handled according to the policies we had set up with Everdream. Working with the service was easy enough, and we experienced delays of only seconds, never more.

However, Everdream should consider diversifying the location of its data centers to increase confidence in its ability to serve large enterprises. The company is currently housed in offices in the San Francisco Bay area and Sacramento, Calif. Wed feel a lot better if Everdream could find a nice co-location site somewhere in the eastern part of the country.

The Everdream service—including asset inventory, software distribution, licensing tracking, remote control, reporting and access to ECC—is $22 per month per seat. Unlimited around-the-clock trouble ticketing and support is $28 per month per seat. The online backup and anti-virus package is $21 per month per seat. All services bundled together cost a hefty $69 per month per seat.

The services pricing is more attractive when you consider that you will have more flexibility in deploying in-house help desk staff and that you wont have to buy licenses, equipment and services for in-house deployments of the Everdream tools.

After taking all these factors into consideration, the cost per seat will likely come into the range of competing stand-alone products.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant is at cameron_sturdevant@ziffdavis.com.

Before You Outsource Desktop Management …

Start by figuring out how much your company spends on desktop support for the typical life span of all the equipment in the enterprise. Then ask:
  • How many calls are "first-tier"?If the answer is more than 40 percent, a desktop management service such as Everdreams will likely help by offloading basic questions so that in-house staff can deal with the tougher ones.
  • Is coverage across multiple time zones a challenge?If so, a service may be a good idea.
  • Are the organizations firewalls well managed?Everdream and other services require that some ports be opened. IT managers will need to carefully monitor these ports and the firewalls to guard against possible attacks.