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vPro Case Study

Case Study

Intel® vPro™ Processor Technology Columbus Micro IT Service Provider

New Markets, New Service Offerings

Hardware reseller looks to Intel® vPro™ processor technology1 to shift  into managed services and expand their customer base.

 Challenge
  • Shift into new markets and acquire new customer base
  • Expand service offerings
  • Smooth out cyclical demand for services

Solutions
  • Deliver PCs with Intel vPro processor technology to client base
  • Offer remote patch management, regardless of PC power state
  • Add managed services to the Columbus Micro business model

“Intel vPro is redefining our business class of PCs and giving us the ability to provide services we have  not historically been able to provide.

Steve Bohman

Vice President of Operations,  Columbus Micro

Columbus Micro has historically been known as a system builder. Although they have offered a  few break-fix services for customers, their primary business is hardware sales in the educational, government, and small-and-medium (SMB) arena. In these areas, they have focused on building a customer base that is relatively self-sufficient, satisfied with their network and equipment, and not in need of managed services. However, as IT services become more attractive to SMB customers and more of a strategic asset for others, opportunities are opening up for resellers to provide managed services, not just hardware, to clients.

To take advantage of new service opportunities, Columbus Micro is looking to Intel® vPro™ processor technology to round out their portfolio of service offerings, reduce the cyclical revenue streams they see with much of their business, and expand into this new market. It’s a significant shift for Columbus Micro, and the company is excited about learning to use the new processor technology to become increasingly sophisticated as a service provider and grow their client base.

Assessing the Situation

SMB companies are increasingly concerned about security updates, making sure they don’t lose their data, and keeping their users working. Especially for small companies such as legal practices, doctor’s clinics, dentist offices, insurance brokers, and builders, an inoperative PC or a user who cannot work for the day can have a large impact on business.

Although the Columbus Micro client base is relatively self-sufficient, Columbus Micro’s research exposed three key opportunities for the company to shift into the managed service market. First, many SMBs are not keeping up with security updates and critical patches. Their businesses are increasingly vulnerable to security threats, and their PCs are requiring service more often than necessary.

Second, most SMBs have IT services of some kind, but often those services are provided by the owner who treats the office like a home network, by an employee who works on the side to update and repair PCs, or through a part-time staffer who is not available all week or during all business hours. Services can be uneven, inefficient, and can distract workers from the SMB’s primary business. 

Third, for SMBs who are already using service providers, many are not receiving the amount or quality of service they want in a timely manner, and at rates they can afford.The needs of these SMB companies offer great opportunities for a service provider who can deliver remote service with rapid response times, in a cost-effective business model.

Along with discovering new business opportunities, Columbus  Micro is facing several critical business challenges, including  cyclical revenue. Much of the company’s current business is  the educational market – an arena in which customers have one main buying season per year for equipment. Such cyclical buying makes it difficult for hardware resellers such as Columbus Micro  to achieve steady revenue streams. The company needs to expand services in other areas to smooth out revenue streams and become more financially robust throughout the entire year.

Dale Sydnor, Technical Manager at Columbus Micro, explains, “There are a lot of customers out there whom we haven’t been able to approach because we haven’t had the manageability  tools that larger IT shops have at their disposal. Frankly, trying  to support 200 PCs at one site with our current service model would give me even more grey hair than I have right now.”

Advanced Management Software andPowerful PCs

Level Platforms Managed Workplace*.

Columbus Micro  is using Level Platforms Managed Workplace*, an advanced management service solution, to remotely and securely power up and power down PCs with Intel® vPro™ processor technol-ogy, collect alerts and events, and collect detailed hardware asset information, regardless of PC power state or the state  of the OS, even if hardware (such as a hard drive) has failed.

Objective Diagnostics – No More Guessing

 Remote diagnostics for many PC problems is often a guessing game. For example, many users can describe a problem only as, “The screen is blue, that’s all I know.

” This requires technicians to be skilled, not just in how a PC or OS works, but in psychology and interviewing so that they ask the right questions to guide the user through the troubleshooting session and accurately diagnose and/or fix the problem.With Intel vPro processor technology, technicians have remote access to critical system information anytime.This information includes detailed hardware asset information, BIOS configuration information, and events and alerts.

Technicians can now look directly at the underlying cause of the problem – without leaving the service center – even if the PC’s OS is already unresponsive  or hardware (such as a hard drive) has failed.

Explains Dale, “With Intel vPro, we have objective measurements and pointers to events that will tell us what’s going on. We won’t require so much user participation, and we won’t have to try to figure out the problem from third-hand clues.”

 

Spotlight: Columbus Micro

•  Columbus Micro Systems (Columbus Micro), founded in 1987, is a premier provider of PCs in Central Ohio. The company is dedicated to providing leading-edge technology and supplying only the highest quality systems to meet customer technology  needs. The company provides products and services for  hundreds of Ohio schools, serves small and medium  businesses in a variety of industries, and is growing steadily. Currently employing 30 people, Columbus Micro generates annual revenues of more than $12 million.

Delivering the Solution

Columbus Micro is now relying on the hardware-based capabilities of PCswith Intel vPro processor technology to enable new features in management software and allow the company to expand from hardware sales into managed services. Because  Intel vPro processor technology is built into the PC, technicians  can remotely manage and secure these PCs anytime, even if PC power is off, the OS is unresponsive, or hardware (such as a hard drive) has failed.

 For example, Columbus Micro technicians can now use a management console to remotely and securely power on PCs with Intel vPro processor technology for off-hours security updates, critical patching, routine maintenance, and proactive monitoring. When work is completed, the technician can power the system back down to the state in which the user left it: on, off, hibernating, or sleeping. Explains Dale, “This capability alone will let us transfer a substantial amount of work from on-site services to our remote office and drive down our costs.”

 “I’m spoiled by our ability to remotely manage servers, and Intel vPro is going  to give us that same ability in the PC arena – for me, it will be Nirvana. This  is a great opportunity for us to expand into a new service area and acquire an entirely new customer base.”

 Dale Sydnor

 Technical Manager, Columbus Micro

For Columbus Micro, the new capabilities will help keep site visits to a minimum, allow technicians to show up with the right replacement part in hand on the first visit, and repair PCs faster so users are working again more quickly.

“With Intel, we earn business that we never would have won with other  third-party equipment. These new PCs are letting us compete successfully with Tier-1 manufacturers and service providers, and offer a compelling and cost-effective service portfolio to grow our business.”

Steve Bohman Vice President of Operations, Columbus Micro

Off-Hours Work from Home

For Columbus Micro customers, a key benefit of Intel vPro  processor technology is the ability to do more off-hours work, which in turn means that IT services don’t interrupt users. For technicians, the new capabilities allow them to be on-call at home after hours, instead of at the office, yet still provide fast, responsive, remote service.

“I’m going to love being able to do  a lot of workstation updates without leaving the house,” says  Dale, “That sure beats sitting in a quiet office on Saturday  during football season.”

 

Columbus Micro services Without Intel® vPro™  processor technology

With Intel® vPro™ processor technology

Estimated improvement

Encrypted, remote security update for 40 PCs Ask users to leave PC power on. Check power status of PCs, remotely update PCs that are on, then site visit to update PCs that are powered off.Time: 4 to 6 hours Remotely power up PC, then remotely update.Time: 20 minutes
  • User participation: eliminated
  • Site visit: eliminated
  • Improvement: up to 91% faster
Hardware problem diagnostics  and repair Phone call with user to try to troubleshoot PC remotely, then site visit to diagnose component failure, then 2nd site visit to replace  failed component.Time: 3 hours Remote access Intel AMT event log, identify failure, access Intel AMT hardware information, identify failed component, order part. One site visit to replace failed component.Time: 30 minutes
  • User participation: eliminated
  • Site visit for diagnostics: eliminated
  • Improvement: up to 83% faster
Disk defragmentation, other maintenance Schedule off-hours or weekend  work on-site, then site visit  for maintenance. Remote power up PC, perform maintenance, return PC to previous power state.
  • Site visit: eliminated
  • Improvement: less interrupted business
Monitoring Site visit to check hardware state  of PC (disk usage, fan speeds,  other components). Remote access Intel AMT event  log to identify fan speeds slowing,  CPU usage, and other system conditions
  • Site visit: eliminated
  •  Improvement: Proactively recognize performance issues and opportunities for service and/or upgrades

Integral Answers

  • Columbus Micro realized the key to shifting into managed  services lay in being able to perform many service tasks remotely, such as off-hours security updates and critical patching, even if the user’s PC is powered off.
  • With rapid notification of PC problems, Columbus Micro can offer new services, such as timely and unintrusive updates, remote application upgrades, and proactive monitoring for performance issues and upgrade opportunities.
  • Eliminating the need for site visits for many services will  allow Columbus Micro to save time and money, and use  existing resources to serve more customers. In turn, this  will help Columbus Micro expand their business further.

Return on Investment

  • With Intel® vPro™ processor technology, Columbus Micro can improve service efficiencies substantially over the break-fix model – for example, updates are expected to be up to 91% faster, and hardware problem resolution up to 83% faster.3  The improvements in efficiency will free up technicians to  serve more customers in the same amount of time. Says  Dale Sydnor, Technical Manager at Columbus Micro, “We are  very interested in expediting our customers’ transition to  Intel vPro on all their machines.”
  • By shifting more business into managed services, Columbus  Micro expects to see a much more even revenue stream throughout the year, which will help them manage their business even better.
  • Offering a complete portfolio from hardware sales to IT services will help Columbus Micro attract new clients and grow their business in an increasingly competitive market. In addition, the new remote monitoring and remote power on/off capabilities will allow Columbus Micro to service much larger customers. Explains Jay Adkins, Marketing Director, Columbus Micro, “It’s a level of sophistication we haven’t been able to approach before, but with Intel vPro, we can move rapidly  into that market.”

New Customers, New Portfolio of Services

Columbus Micro is excited to have the opportunity to add managed services to their portfolio. With Intel vPro processor technology, the company can now target customers who have been unable to keep up with their own IT demands or who don’t have the quality or level of service they need.

Says Jay Adkins, Marketing Director, Columbus Micro, “In the  same way that Intel Centrino expanded the mobile market for  us, we see Intel vPro as giving us the ability to expand into  managed services.”

For Columbus Micro, Intel vPro processor technology is the key that will allow them to create a new cost-effective business model, offer new, compelling services, and exploit new markets.

For information about the benefits of Intel vPro  processor technology for small businesses, visit  http://msp.intel.com

For more information about Columbus Micro products and services, visit www.columbusmicro.com

Key Technologies

  • Hardware-based capabilities that allow secure remote access to the PC anytime for updates, upgrades, maintenance, and hardware diagnostics.
  • Multithreaded performance and great multitasking through Intel® Core™2 Duo processor, so IT technicians can run virus scans, e-mail synchronization, back-ups, and other tasks in  the background without bogging down compute-intensive  user applications in the foreground.
  • Ready for Microsoft Windows Vista,* including support for  64-bit applications and the performance required for the intensive, multithreaded OS.