An outside eye keeping watch

Robert Horwitz admits flat out that he is not a computer expert, and he doesn’t consider many of his staff to be experts either.

The president of Toronto-based Interior Dimensions, a business relocation or business renovations company, said in the past his employees would try to handle any situations that came in to the server, be they viruses or hacks.

Horwitz said the company’s Internet connections were going down frequently and staff working on the corporate intranet were finding it impossible to get their jobs done.

About a year ago he turned to ProServeIT for help. ProServeIT, in Toronto, had been acting as technology consultants for Interior Dimensions for about 10 years, Horwitz said. Together the two companies decided that ProWatch, a server-monitoring tool, was the way to go.

ProWatch is a remote network monitoring tool that uses the Internet connection to the servers to monitor their “live” status on a regular basis, and to review the disk space, event log, backup log and antivirus log, for example, of the server(s) on a daily basis.

Michael Atkinson, vice-president of strategic alliances for ProServe IT, said people at the end-user level often do not have time to use monitoring tools. “We’ve got guys monitoring the system 24 x 7 and implementing proactive management. Many issues can be handled remotely or dealt with without raising an alarm.”

One benefit of implementing the ProWatch system, Horwitz noted, was that there was no training involved. The company just placed its server in ProServeIT’s hands.

“Problems are detected remotely and I don’t have to worry about it,” he said. When a problem does occur a monitoring technician immediately contacts the client’s technical contact to resolve the issue.

After using ProWatch, Horwitz then started looking at some other monitoring tools and has now implemented ProHelp, a help desk-monitoring tool that Atkinson said is tied in to ProWatch.

ProHelp is an Internet-based, remote-control tool that lets ProServeIT take control of client computers for resolution of problems, requests for training and installation rollouts.

Horwitz said this has been especially helpful for people working remotely or on the weekends. If something goes wrong they can contact ProHelp and have the problem fixed by ProServeIT technicians remotely.

Warren Shiau, a software analyst with Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd., said remote monitoring may face an uphill fight for acceptance in Canada, where companies are more likely to outsource the whole enchilada.

“I’m not really convinced in a general basis that this is really the larger trend or a more efficient way to do things,” Shiau said. “If you are going to outsource part, it may be more advantageous to outsource the whole thing.”

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