Technology is a double-edged sword that allows small companies to succeed against much larger competitors, though at a cost of often mind-numbing complexity and frustration. Dell hopes to put an end to the mind-numbing piece of the puzzle by providing Web-based managed IT services and letting small business owners retire their IT hat and do what they do best run their business.
The new program, which Dell pilot-tested in Dallas and New York and is now available in more than 5,500 U.S. towns and cities, proactively monitors and manages networks, hardware and software applications 24 hours a day to prevent problems before they happen.
The ProManage-Managed Services program takes a Web-based, service-model approach that, according to Tim Griffin, Dells vice president of global small and medium business services, takes the weight of maintaining and repairing IT off the shoulders of small business owners.
In todays tough economy, the conversations were having with customers typically start with how we can help them save time and money and free up resources for projects that drive real business results, said Griffin. Our new managed services do just that by remotely monitoring and fixing the vast majority of IT issues, so customers can focus on running their businesses not troubleshooting the server that just went down.
Dell offers three different levels of service. The first level, Alerts, provides 24/7 remote monitoring of networks, servers, PCs and applications, including non-Dell systems. If a problem arises, the Dell Network Operating Center alerts the customer or his or her solution provider. The customer or the service provider then affects the appropriate repairs to avoid downtime.
The second level, Resolution, provides the 24/7 remote monitoring and adds proactive remote repair. If a problem occurs, Dell notifies you and fixes the issue for all monitored hardware, applications, anti-virus software and Windows Services.
The third and most comprehensive level, Management, includes alerts and resolution plans and then layers on additional features including 24/7 help-desk support for IT professionals and employees, increased security functions, asset tracking and assessment services. Dell also assigns a local IT team to each business to handle any onsite repairs, assessments or IT planning.
While these three levels address a wide range of issues, Dell offers additional services on a pay-as-you-need basis for problems that may occur infrequently enough that they dont warrant paying a monthly fee.
This managed IT-as-a-service approach, Griffin said, gives small businesses the stable networks they need without an upfront investment and no binding, long-term contracts. He also noted that on average, a company spends 70 percent of its IT budget on maintaining the servers, applications, desktops, laptops and other devices that reside on the network.
With ProManage-Managed Services, you can quickly scale the services up or down as you need, and you can get up and running faster for less money, he said. It also frees you and your people to work on other more strategic projects.
Will Small Businesses Adopt Managed Services?
While software-as-a-service (SaaS) is a hot and growing trend, questions remain about whether small businesses are ready to adopt it in great numbers. In a 2008 small business survey conducted by analyst firm IDC, 53 percent of small businesses cited concern about data security as a discouraging factor to using SaaS. However, 57 percent listed being able to pay for capabilities as needed as an encouraging factor.
Ray Boggs, vice president of small and medium business and home office research at IDC, said that the challenge to vendors is educating small businesses about the real benefits of SaaS.
Web-based services or IT-as-a-service can change the way small and medium businesses think about and take care of their IT. Basically you use technology to take care of your technology, Boggs said. Dell has strengthened its own infrastructure to make this advanced IT support possible, setting the stage for a variety of enhanced capabilities.
Laurie McCabe, partner at Hurwitz and Associates, added that the current economy plays a role in small business adoption. Its no longer business as usual for anyone, particularly for SMBs, said McCabe. They realize that uncertainty is the new normal, and that they may have to change their approach and do things in a different way.
She added that small businesses are looking for more value from IT and a faster return, and that vendors are facing increased pressure from customers with a prove-to-me-this-solution-will-do-what-you-say-right-away mentality.
Pricing for ProManage-Managed Services
- Alerts: $9 per desktop/laptop per month; $29 per networked device per month; $59 per server per month
- Resolution: $39 per desktop/laptop per month; $89 per networked device per month; $199 per server per month
- Server: $59 per desktop/laptop per month; $199 per networked device per month; $299 per server per month
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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