Remote Infrastructure Management Emergence of the Cloud-based Helpdesk

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1 Remote Infrastructure Management Emergence of the Cloud-based Helpdesk A leadership perspectives white paper Recommended next steps for business and industry executives Issue 11 in a series

2 Executive Summary As a deployment method for IT service management solutions, software-as-a-service (SaaS) continues to gain traction. Four years ago only a handful of tools vendors offered SaaS-based solutions for IT infrastructure management. Today, all of the major systems management providers, speclialist software houses and now service providers like du offer some form of cloud-deployed ICT infrastructure management and helpdesk service. These SaaS-based applications provide the infrastructure, application monitoring and helpdesk capabilities needed to underpin an efficient and cost-effective IT management operation, from the cloud. The solutions are highly applicable to small, medium, and large organisations, alike. The appeal of SaaS-based infrastructure management The market in infrastructure management has been relatively stable during the past five years, but it could be about to face a major change. With the emergence of SaaS-based solutions, the notion of IT management-as-a-service is beginning to gain momentum. SaaS is both a delivery model and a business model. The delivery model plays a substantial role in reducing two major components of IT hardware costs and software infrastructure costs. The rest, such as custom development and requirements management costs, are independent of the delivery model and depend on the organisation s complexity and the nature of the software service. SaaS as a business model impacts a third parameter, licensing costs, through subscription services and the pay-as-you-go approach. SaaS first gained traction as a popular deployment option for customer relationship management software, thanks mainly to the proven success of offerings like Salesforce. com. Adoption of SaaS is gaining in pace in the infrastructure management space, however, primarily due to the fact that the services have matured, and there is an increased demand for IT to speed application deployments, lower the cost of ownership of assets and applications, and better secure an increasingly distributed and mobile workforce. Produced by du

3 Unlike a business application which usually provides standalone functionality with some degree of interaction with multiple databases, infrastructure management solutions typically need to operate in tandem with a large number of systems management tools and utilities - from database and network management systems; the moves, adds and change procedures needed for up-to-date desktop assets; to the power and cooling controls of data centre servers. When Ovum surveyed the UAE market, the installed systems management landscape was confirmed as being incredibly broad, with every sign that organisations were planning for continued investments in their systems. For many of these, it is getting less and less effective in terms of cost or performance to maintain all these systems on-site, and SaaS is seen as a viable alternative to some of the on-premise systems management tools. A recommended starting point for many organisations will be use of a SaaS-based cloud helpdesk/service management solution, like the one on offer from du, to help lower support costs. The UAE installed systems management landscape current and future Data and database management Network management Server management Availability and performance Change and configuration Storage management Desktop management Service management Percentage Planning and recovery Unified data center management Power and environmental managment Virtualization and cloud management Have now Have in 6 months Category Have in 6-24 months Invest within 6 months Invest within 6-24 months Assessing the value of cloud-based helpdesk options The choice of whether to deploy helpdesk infrastructure via premise-based technology or cloud-based services involves many variables, but as the quality of the tools converges, buyers need to look more closely at the relative costs. Most helpdesk or service desk centres still rely on premise-based equipment for most of their infrastructure. However, the buying decisions for a wide range of helpdesk operations and management tools must now include some consideration of cloud. Service interactions have become more complex, incorporating a wider variety of transaction types, and enterprise buyers must include factors such as scalability, speed of deployment and flexibility in their purchasing decisions. This is increasingly important, as research indicates that employees now use at least three channels when interacting with the service desk , telephone and chat.

4 On-premise helpdesk solutions that are specified, purchased, deployed and integrated by IT departments call for the investment of time, skills and capital, and require dedicated resources to trouble shoot and maintain the system. In contrast, cloud helpdesk solutions are quick and easy to deploy and do not require any purchase or installation of servers or software. The contrasting benefits of cloud and on-premise helpdesk alternatives Benefits of hosted technology Benefits of on-premise technology Quick provisioning of new agents and services Business continuity Flexible administration of routing, IVR, and workforce Scalability for unexpected peaks and valleys Low risk to testing new technology Paying via opex budget Reduced IT footprint Assurance of always being on the current version of software Leveraging existing vendor relationships, technology, and integrations Security and compliance of on-site data More features at the highest end of market Control over custom integrations and homegrown apps The ability to hybridize deployments and/or pick best-of-breed apps The two deployment models appeal to different operational mindsets. Enterprises interested in flexibility and scalability may gravitate towards cloud-based systems, rather than on-premise, as they can obtain access to leading-edge technology without maintenance contracts or time-consuming product upgrades. Cloud-based systems do offer some compelling strategic benefits. For example, cloud technology allows service centres to change their staffing model, as it is easier to provide technology to distributed service agents. This essentially virtualises a helpdesk into a group of assets that exist in different physical locations but function as a single, fully integrated, seamless operation. By using virtual resources as an adjunct to existing inhouse operations, enterprises can eliminate facilities costs, reduce overheads, access new service agent talent, and reduce agent churn. The continuity benefits of the cloud are also important. Many hosting providers are able to support uptime of between 99.99% and %, providing a level of performance guarantee which easily meets enterprise requirements. Clear disaster recovery plans are also vital, and hosting providers typically have the ability to back up customer data in secure data centres. Cloud helpdesks are hosted on the service provider s remote servers that bring with it the ability to handle fluctuating loads seamlessly, as well as the ability to scale support agents up or down when required. And because the helpdesk ticket management system is in the cloud, the data is constantly backed up and can be retrieved anytime. Produced by du

5 Cloud solutions are not only rich in features, but the software is constantly maintained by the vendor and continuously enhanced, so as to be always up-to-date with the latest capabilities. An organisation s private cloud instance will have a dedicated URL which can be accessed anywhere, allowing service desk agents and the organisation s staff and customers to connect at all times. This means service agents get the flexibility to resolve issues while on the move - all they need to access the helpdesk system is a web browser. It also means that end users can submit support requests via a multitude of sources: telephone, the internet, , and social network platforms. On submission, the system logs the support requests as incidents. Capabilities such as incident date/time stamp, prepopulation of incident details, and SLA details are all delivered to a systems administrator via a web browser interface. Frequently occurring incidents can be automatically logged as problems, and the system can prioritise problems based on associated incidents impact and urgency. Because critical details about desktops and mobile devices such as application versions and system configurations are automatically collated and displayed on a web console or dashboard, the time spent by service agents diagnosing problems is reduced considerably. The new challenge of mobile device management The pressure on the helpdesk has increased as the demand by employees to use their own devices in the workplace has grown. Traditionally, mobile support from functions such as the service desk has involved managing an estate of mobile devices that did not extend further than BlackBerry devices. However, led by the consumer success of devices such as the ipad, there is now an increased demand on IT to support a wider array of devices and operating systems. With this increased demand from employees to become more mobile, support needs to evolve. Cloud-based service management solutions increasingly offer functionality to remotely support mobile devices with the same ease as supporting client PCs. du s mobile device management (MDM) offer is powered by MobileIron, and is used to control and monitor corporate data while keeping everyone working smoothly and securely, by exchanging data with third party systems such as helpdesk, business intelligence and security information management systems. MDM is available as both a cloud and on-premise solution, and brings multi-os mobile operations under the control of the service desk.

6 The increased mobility of employees also provides opportunities to innovate in methods of service support. Mobile devices have hardware features, such as cameras and a global positioning system that have not been present in traditionally supported hardware estates. Such features can improve the support delivered to users and is starting to be exploited. For example, users can use cameras to be more descriptive when logging certain calls, providing images that may help in the troubleshooting process. Service agents are increasingly mobile too, and there are cloud helpdesk solutions available as native applications on both Android and the iphone. These are not simple web applications but are truly native applications that leverage the device at every level. Field technicians can manage support and change requests from their tablet or smartphone. Savings stem from eliminating travel costs and by allowing the support technician to work on more than one problem at a time. In other areas of remote support, new cloud-based solutions allow support technicians to support remote end-user systems through firewalls from their computer or mobile device. A technician is able to connect to remote systems by initiating the connection from the user s system to an on-premise appliance on standard TCP ports. Both the technician and the remote client are able to establish remote desktop control using outbound connections. This customer-initiated session counts as outbound traffic, similar to browsing the web. Since a firewall is designed to allow outbound traffic while blocking inbound traffic, these solutions can connect without requiring changes to existing firewall configurations. These on-premise devices collect data from hardware and software systems, compress it, and then securely transmit information on local operations to a service provider s managed data centre. At the data centre, the service provider deals with application monitoring, operational data processing, and data storage and helpdesk administrators can consult a web portal to conduct status checks, run reports, and configure operational dashboards. Produced by du

7 Helpdesks becoming more social up in the cloud Service support is one of the strands of IT management where social media is making its strongest impact. Social elements are increasingly becoming part of many of the new cloud-based helpdesk solutions, and service delivery departments continue to exploit social platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, to improve responsiveness and understanding of customer needs. Twitter is being used to broadcast information on incidents and alerts that can affect a user population at large. Facebook is used to connect with customers, solicit their feedback, establish collaboration, and generally encourage a relationship with the helpdesk organisation. People within many organisations use YouTube to deliver training or help information via video, as employees and customers often prefer this mode of information consumption. When people use YouTube on an informal basis this avoids the organisation having to invest in a formal content delivery application. This so-called social IT support can give helpdesk organisations the power to help IT and business users obtain service more efficiently and increase their knowledge quickly and accurately. Users are willing to help each other, and with a managed framework that can support and deliver both real-time and historic knowledge, this enables significantly enhanced productivity and efficiency in dealing with end users queries. It brings benefits in three distinct ways: As a value-added service to customers of organisations that seek to sell or provide service via social media. By providing better collaboration to support work on projects, collecting ideas to improve service, attempting to identify the cause of a problem, or discussing operational matters such as change requests. By enabling users to consult a knowledge base that directly pertains to their own situation and the experience of their peers.

8 Research into user behaviour shows that people are keen to contribute their knowledge and social helpdesk support provides a great vehicle for this. The next step from people using these on an ad hoc basis is for organisations own service management facilities to be integrated properly to appropriate public social media. Organisations can choose to integrate with Twitter feeds, via the Twitter for Business facility. This enables business users to turn a tweet into a customer support ticket known as a twicket. When responding to a twicket, the service desk agent can respond publicly to the Twitter account on the twicket or privately by using the Twitter Message facility. Cloud-based helpdesk solutions look set to increase in popularity because they present an opportunity for IT departments to lower their capital expenditure costs with a solution that is flexible, customisable and regularly updated with no disruption to service. Vendors say that moving the helpdesk to the cloud creates a much better experience for IT personnel and users alike one that reflects where the next generation of help desks is headed. A cloud-based solution offers a help desk that provides: Automatic backup Access to the very latest software version Highly available cloud ticketing with >99% uptime More proactive service More value, faster ROI More enterprise software features Instant setup Anywhere access: from laptop, smartphone, tablet Less investment compared to an on-premise infrastructure Greener IT no need to install another server, use the service provider s instead More collaboration More customisation More customer services This is the eleventh in a regular series of Leadership Perspectives White Papers, produced by du in association with Ovum, a preferred knowledge partner. For more information, please or visit Printed on environmentally-friendly paper produced from sustainable sources. Produced by du

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