Craig Beringer is an IT consultant based in Pennsauken, N.J. For most of his clients that little piece of information is immaterial because they rarely see him. His group of 12 employees at Beringer Associates provides remote IT support to literally thousands of end users for their total customer base.
How do they serve so many with so few people and typically without ever leaving their own building? If asked a year ago, Beringer would have given a completely different answer than today. “Before, we were using a bunch of different solutions. Different clients have different sets of issues. For some it’s their firewall, for others it’s working around their VPN," says Beringer, of virtual private networks. He now believes he’s found a one-size-fits-all solution that conveniently comes in a box.
The box, a hardware appliance that houses a set of unique application tools to handle all aspects of remote IT support, is made by Bomgar. The five year old start-up company based in Ridgeland, Miss. “There are two increasingly popular trends in recent years that have come about that are also naturally juxtaposed against each other. Everyone’s mobile and highly networked and at the same time companies are responsible to maintain compliance," says Nathan McNeill, Bomgar’s vice president of product strategy. "Our product not only allows you to work on any desktop from anywhere in the world, it is all auditable, you can replay sessions and it’s securely centralized and housed on the box.”
Products like the Bomgar Box give smaller companies a turnkey option of handling its own remote IT support for staffers working out of the main office. It also makes life easier for IT consultants, like Beringer, offering managed IT services like basic help desk calls.
However, Bomgar is only one of a wide variety of solutions available today for small to mid-sized businesses that need remote support for a remote staff that spends little time in the main office.
Hired help desk
“The options are numerous and now affordable for the smaller consultant or business,” says Sonal Ghandi, an analyst from Jupiter Research. For companies that want to outsource the help desk to an outside vendor, Ghandi categorizes providers into two categories:
Shopping for the right provider
Just like hiring any service provider, business owners should always check references, read the company website thoroughly to get a sense of what the vendor can and cannot do, and make sure they hold the appropriate certifications to work on your equipment.
“Have everything spelled out in that service contract. You need to understand up front where their responsibility begins and ends with the equipment. Also have a clause to get out of it if they are not performing. The more clearly this is all defined, the less likely there’ll be problems,” says Ghandi.
Keeping it in-house
It is increasingly easier for companies to provide their own remote IT support for far flung workers, with products such as the Bomgar Box that requires very little implementation to get it up and running. Other options include software solutions like Numara’s Windows-based “Track It! 8.5” and “Remote” applications and WebEx’s fairly new Web-based Remote Support software on a subscription basis.
Not only are more companies pricing products like these for smaller businesses, the technology has become easier to use and more automated, while offering more richly detailed reports.
Every company is different
Before picking a vendor, businesses would be wise to first evaluate their remote IT support needs. Ghandi offers the following check list to go over before making any major decisions: