Closing the Remote Support Gap -

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1 White Paper Closing the Remote Support Gap - How KVM IP Can Enhance Remote Support For Intelligent Devices (or Mission-Critical Computers) Copyright Minicom Advanced Systems

2 Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY...2 THE PROLIFERATION OF INTELLIGENT DEVICES...3 Mission-critical computers...3 Market Applications for Intelligent Devices...3 THE DEMAND FOR REMOTE SUPPORT...4 Development...4 Who needs it?...4 REMOTE SUPPORT PROBLEMS...5 Telephone Call Center Support...5 Remote Support Software...5 Field Technician Service...5 HOW DOES KVM IP ENHANCE REMOTE SUPPORT?...6 Closing the Gap...6 The Software-Free Advantage...7 ROI OF KVM IP SOLUTIONS...7 THE MINICOM ADVANTAGE...11 CONCLUSION - KVM IP FOR COMPLETE REMOTE SUPPORT...12 ABOUT MINICOM ADVANCED SYSTEMS...13 Executive Summary The proliferation of intelligent devices containing embedded mission-critical computers has created a demand for remote support that is responsive to the unique operational factors of this new market. Innovations in internet-based KVM (keyboard, video, and mouse) technology mean that organizations can now significantly enhance their remote support provision thanks to the inherent advantages of KVM IP over traditional remote software support and call-out field technicians. Remote access via KVM IP improves the accuracy of problem diagnosis, enables a speedy system remedy, and maintains mission-critical device uptime at significantly lower cost. Its remote BIOS level access represents a paradigm shift in the process of remote support and makes the KVM IP device a vital tool for the manufacturers and support providers of intelligent devices in industries ranging from medical, security, telecom, semiconductor, building, finance and manufacturing. 2

3 The Proliferation of Intelligent Devices Mission-critical computers As computers become more compact, sophisticated and inexpensive, they can be included in tools that, until the early 1990 s, could only function as stand-alone devices with minimal intelligent ability. Today, such intelligent devices are any type of equipment, instrument, or machine that has its own computing capability. The almost infinite list of intelligent devices includes manufacturing machinery, medical instruments, telecommunication systems, environmental monitoring equipment, and digital signage players. Intelligent devices such as bank ATM s, kiosks, vending machines, medical scanners and traffic light controllers can all be easily networked, and include built-in computers designed to monitor, record and track their own performance. The proliferation of intelligent devices makes the computer part critical to the industries that require the device s service. Thus from an IT context, computers that are embedded in devices are mission-critical - meaning that any degradation in their computing ability negatively affects the revenue-generating capability of the company operating the device, or can cause serious harm to livelihood, property or life. Gartner defines mission-critical applications as: Business applications that would bring your company to a stop if they were not running. Missioncritical applications are typically supported and managed by a central IT staff. (Gartner, Mission- Critical Application Survey, 2004) Reliable and effective computer support thus becomes an imperative issue now that computers are more mission-critical than ever before. According to a Harbor Research study in 2002, the number of intelligent devices networked for the purposes of remote administration is expected to reach over 500 million by Market Applications for Intelligent Devices Digital signage media players Medical instruments CAT5 scanners, ventilators, etc. 3

4 Security surveillance systems camera DVRs Telecom systems - VoIP Environmental monitoring - HVAC Banking ATM machines Traffic control systems Monitoring./inspection systems Process control systems The Demand for Remote Support Development An important feature of these intelligent devices is that, while they contain mission-critical computer processors, unlike servers, they do not generally sit inside the data center. In the IT computer environment, there is a growing shift to a more flexible virtual community of decentralized computers connected via the internet. And thus the urgency for accessible, efficient technical support and maintenance has now risen to the top of the list of IT requirements. As organizations place greater emphasis on the role of intelligent devices in undertaking business transactions and customer service, there is also a requirement for a means of remote support that can identify and resolve technical problems at all levels, where the end users may be minimally computer proficient, and where downtime can lead to detrimental results for an organization s operations. Today s remote support provision must therefore fulfill the following 3 requirements: 1. The need to identify the problem in real-time; 2. The need to fix the problem as quickly as possible; 3. The need for the solution to be location independent. Who needs it? 1. Intelligent Device Manufacturers referring specifically to the IT support departments of companies that produce the intelligent devices. 2. Service support organizations usually system integrators responsible for IT support of intelligent 4

5 devices (such as maintenance of the medical equipment in a remote hospital etc). Remote Support Problems Remote management of servers and computers addresses the day-to-day operation of 1) the application software, 2) the operating system, and 3) the hardware. However, the options for effectively troubleshooting these three levels of computer operation are still lacking: Telephone Call Center Support Hit and miss The user calls a support number and speaks directly to the support staff. The call center technician relies on the user describing the nature of the problem accurately without visual aid. The user in many cases may not be technically knowledgeable, and the entire process can be hit and miss. No direct system access The technician does not have physical access to the user s system, and this makes a correct diagnosis of the problem less sure and time-to-resolution far longer. Remote Support Software No BIOS level access While problems at the server software application level can be remedied by software solutions, approximately 40% of all computer/server problems are related to the operating system (OS), and about 10% are due to hardware failure. It is often wrongly assumed that BIOS level access is available using remote support software. However, remote software support runs on the operating system, so if a problem occurs at the OS level when you need remote support the most the software solution is useless. The only alternative for both operating system and hardware problems is to call-out field technicians that must travel on-site to fix the problem. Field Technician Service Slow repair time - Organizations still have to deal with the reality that neither their in-house administration staff nor service technicians will be close at hand to every site. Should a problem develop, a support person must first roll-out a truck to get on-site before even the first attempt to achieving a resolution takes place. Repair time is a critical factor for mission-critical system operators and a major limitation of conventional field technician services. Expensive - As well as being slow, calling out field technicians and rolling out a truck is the most expensive of the available remote support options costing up to many hundreds of dollars per 5

6 session, and thousands of dollars of expenditure over the total life-cycle of a typical mission-critical computer and intelligent device. The problem becomes even more acute if a third party for example, the application software provider becomes involved. 600 Technical Support Cost * and Repair Time - Typical Escalation Field Service Technician $ /call Cost $ Call Center $20-50/call minutes Call Center Technician $50-200/call Time to Resolution hours * Approx figures How Does KVM IP Enhance Remote Support? Closing the Gap KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) technology, found both in KVM IP Gateways and digital KVM switches give you the same web-based access as the remote software solutions, but with the addition of BIOS level entry to your operating system. In recent years KVM IP Gateways have shrunk in size, fallen in cost, and improved greatly in technological performance making them particularly suitable for remote support applications. A software remote support solution cannot access a computer s BIOS level or other build-in configurations. It also cannot be used when the host operating system is not installed or has not yet started. KVM IP access allows you to perform these operations that would otherwise require an onsite field technician. 6

7 BIOS level access also enables a number of unique missions to be performed that the remote software solutions are unable to accomplish such as: booting from another hard disk if the main hard disk is broken; bypassing faulty hardware components; entering the Windows recovery console; entering safe mode without networking; reconfiguring low level drivers; remotely booting to another operating system (dual boot); recovering and restoring the hard drive from a previous image etc. The Software-Free Advantage Software solutions for remote support typically require the addition of software agents to be installed onto each of the target mission-critical computers. This creates a number of problems: 1) Increased chance of compromising the system s security; 2) Reduced system performance; 3) Remote accessing difficulties if the computer is busy or not responding to network connections. With a KVM IP device installed however, remote support can be enhanced: 1) Technical support can be implemented over a parallel network that does not occupy bandwidth from the business network; 2) If the computer operating system won t start, the technician can reboot the system remotely without sending a field technician; 3) Administrators or technicians can access and manage the devices even when the systems are powered off. The use of a KVM IP device fixes a wider range of computer problems remotely, avoids the many problems of software-type solutions, and reduces the call-out frequency of field technicians. ROI of KVM IP Solutions The ability to remotely monitor and proactively service and maintain intelligent devices securely, and in real-time over the internet results in a number of significant ROI advantages to the organization: 7

8 Increased device uptime and efficiency - KVM IP increases the availability of the IT environment enabling the business to proactively identify problems in real-time and improve the overall performance and management of the IT infrastructure. Typical device downtime is reduced from hours/days to minutes eliminating the risk of loosing valuable customers, revenue or reputation. Lower one-time service costs - A typical system problem begins with a call to a company s technical support in many cases this being outsourced. The minimum cost of a call to the service center typically starts at between $20-50 per call. The next stage routes the caller to the technical support technician typically costing $ per call. If the field technician fails to resolve the problem over the phone the final stage involves a field technician and truck roll-out typically at $ per session. An installed KVM IP solution acts as an effective barrier to spiraling support costs by cutting drastically the times that a call-out field technician will be needed. 300 KVM IP Device Reduces Cost* Escalation and Repair Time of a Technical Support Session 250 Cost $ Call Center Technician $50-200/call Call Center $20-50/call 0 minutes Time to Resolution * Approx figures Lower long-term service costs - In addition to saving time and cost on each individual repair job, by installing a KVM IP device, a company makes major cost savings over the long term. Since the call-out cost of every single field technician is comparable to the cost of a single KVM IP device, return on investment is achieved with the very first operating system problem (this is particularly true with regard to KVM IP Gateways). 8

9 6000 Long Term Cost* Comparison: Remote Software Solution vs. KVM IP Solution Remote Software Solution Cost $ KVM IP Solution 0 1-time 5-times 10-times Problem Frequency * Approx figures More efficient use of personnel - In an environment of tightened IT budgets, many organizations can no longer afford the luxury of spending thousands of dollars on a successive number of callout s, or a large IT staff. With a KVM IP device a company can leverage the experience and know how of call-out staff experts by helping them to identify whether a problem actually requires a field technician and truck roll-out. Higher customer satisfaction - Manufacturers and operators of mission-critical computers and intelligent devices demand the highest quality remote support service. The use of KVM IP devices helps to improve the availability and effectiveness of that remote support service leading to higher customer satisfaction. A manufacturer or operator of intelligent devices can take up less time maintaining and protecting the IT environment and focus more on critical business activities. 9

10 Remote Support Scenario Before KVM IP Solution Problem Type & Approx Frequency (%) Type of Remote Support Solution Remote software Application 50% Field Technician Service Operating System 40% Hardware 10% Figure 1. Without a KVM IP solution, problems associated with the device s computer application are solved using software solutions. Problems that arise with either the operating system or hardware both require a field service technician call-out which is both expensive and slow. Remote Support Scenario After KVM IP Solution Problem Type & Approx Occurrence (%) Type of Remote Support Solution Remote software Application 50% KVM IP Gateway Operating System 40% Hardware 10% Field Technician Service Figure 2. KVM IP can answer up to 90% of typical device problems. Those that arise at the operating system level do not require field technician service, and problems at the application level can be solved by either remote software or KVM IP. The result is significantly reduced downtime and lower IT service expenses. 10

11 The Minicom Advantage Once the decision has been made to acquire a web-based remote KVM IP device, the next question is deciding which vendor offers the best solution. Minicom Advanced Systems, a leading manufacturer of KVM solutions for the server management market has a proven track record of technological innovation. Minicom s latest KVM IP offering is the IP Control, a palm sized, high-performance, KVM IP Gateway device designed to give simple web-based access for administrators to operate a complete remote support system. Computers and intelligent devices can be monitored and maintained from anywhere in the world using the highest industry security standards (128-bit SSL). Problems can be diagnosed more accurately and fixed in less time, and at lower cost. Based on proprietary KVM technology, IP Control expands an administrator s remote support capabilities to the computer s BIOS level giving complete remote support. IP Control is a software-free solution so it doesn t require the installation of dedicated software onto the host operating system, and thus eliminates the possibility of conflicts with mission-critical applications. Software-free installation also reduces potential security breaches and doesn t compromise the server s performance. IP Control also provides a number of advanced features that you would not expect to find in this price range including enhanced, web-based visual management with full screen, high resolution video, real-time mouse synchronization, and remote Serial control. 11

12 Conclusion - KVM IP for Complete Remote Support For the growing remote support market of mission-critical intelligent devices, the superiority of remote KVM IP devices lies in their combination of web-based access, BIOS level entry, and software-free installation. As well as being safer and healthier for the mission-critical application, this combination is a complete remote support solution offering greater access than software remote support, and eliminating the need for expensive field technicians when operating system failure occurs. This greatly increases the efficiency and speed at which problematic devices can be made up and running again. KVM IP technology is the ideal solution for remote support in mission-critical scenarios where reducing the length of server downtime is of the highest essence. Choosing the right KVM IP Gateway ensures that remote KVM access comes at minimum cost, and with maximum capability, serving your organization with new capabilities and opportunities for many years to come. 12

13 About Minicom Advanced Systems Minicom Advanced Systems is a principal manufacturer of KVM solutions for out-of-band server management and distribution systems for Digital Signage. Synonymous with both innovative knowhow and commitment to partnerships, Minicom is leading the development of internet-based centralized KVM access technologies and multi-media distribution systems. Founded in 1987 and based in Jerusalem, Israel, Minicom has a global presence with regional headquarters in North America and Europe. In 2005, Minicom acquired Replicom Ltd, a leading developer of remote KVM systems, which operates today as Minicom s R&D center for IP technology. Text 13

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