Ameritech Library Services has introduced a program to remotely manage the PCs of a library. The service includes unattended software distribution, automated inventory, and security. These automated tasks would otherwise be done manually on site, on individual machines.
Unattended software distribution includes not just software upgrades, but also file changes to individual machines. The completion status of each upgrade job is tracked, with failed jobs automatically undone and restarted.
Automated inventory keeps track of the processors, memory, disk space, installed software, and other characteristics of each managed PC and generates reports for asset tracking or to determine upgrade needs.
Security includes networked anti-virus software, security software that protects against many of the methods used by hackers, "lock down" of the standard configuration to prevent changes by users, and disaster recovery to assist in recovering from a crashed hard drive. Optional products include cable traps and floppy disk locks to reduce theft and damage.
While Ameritech provides PC troubleshooting and support to remote sites from a central location, it does install a local management server. It is required that a PC have a minimum of 32 MB of memory to be remotely managed. It is also required that it have a remote on/off feature. Typical of remote control products is the REMOTE/CONTROL-21 from USA Communications at $109. (800-724-5434) Site licensing is also available for this product.
Remote management of PCs should not be considered by organizations having fewer than 40 PCs. However, when a mini-mum of 100 PCs are managed, it becomes highly cost effective. A rule of thumb is to assume $300 to $400 per PC to be managed as a start-up cost. Approximately one-third of the start-up cost is for network analysis, management server, management software, installation, and training. The other two-thirds is for hardware and software for the PCs.
Beginning in the second year, the annual support costs are approximately $1,000 for the management server and $15 for each managed PC.
The service is available to all libraries, not just to those which utilize one of Ameritech's automated library systems.
ISCI, the consulting firm with which the author is affiliated, recently compared the cost of in-house PC management against the cost quoted by Ameritech Library Services. While the eight percent savings realized by outsourcing PC management was modest, there was great advantage in not having to recruit and retain local technicians, and in not having to worry about staff schedules, etc.
[Contact: Ameritech Library Services, 400 Dynix Drive, Provo, UT 84604; telephone 800-223-5413; FAX 801-223-5202; Web page www.amlibs.com].