WebEx Offers On-Demand IT Management

By Dan Muse | Posted January 23, 2006

Small businesses often face two obstacles that interfere with their ability to manage their PCs — time and money. However, small business can't afford to avoid dealing with mobile workers, software license tracking, data backup and protection, patch distribution, and virus protection and compliance.

In a move designed to help small businesses easily and affordably manage their PCs, WebEx Communications today launched WebEx System Management Service, an on-demand (or ASP) offering that offers help in seven areas: asset management, software distribution, patch management, virus protection, online Backup, remote access and remote support.

"We have 4,000 customers of WebEx Support Center and we've had lots of requests to offer more. Small business love the software-as-a-service model," Jack Chawla, director of product management at WebEx, said. Back to the time and money issue, the nature of software as service means small business don't need to install complex software or acquire additional hardware. WebEx claims the services take only minutes to deploy.

Previously, WebEx offered only remote support and remote access products. With today's announcement, the company adds five new online services, which it developed in conjunction with Everdream Corp., a Fremont, Calif.-based provider of on-demand desktop management services. Online storage provider Iron Mountain, and security software provider Symantec have also partnered with WebEx to provide services.

WebEx System Management Service's asset management features are designed to offer a dashboard with information about the location of the assets, as well as the user assigned to each asset, and tracks hardware and software regardless of location.

To help small business keep track of its applications, the software distribution service is designed to automatically track software usage and distributes software to targeted assets.

In today's world of software vulnerabilities, the services patch management features are designed to eliminate security holes caused by viruses, worms and bugs by automatically assessing security threats and deploying patches to networked PCs whether they are in the office or a remote location.

Relying on employees to keep their virus software up-to-date is a leap of faith most small business can't afford to make. WebEx' virus protection service, which is based on Symantec Antivirus Corporate Edition, identifies virus vulnerabilities and installs the latest virus definitions remotely without user intervention.

WebEx System Management Service's looks to automate the process of data backup through its service, which is provided through Iron Mountain.

While WebEx integrates products from multiple vendors and uses Web services technology to deliver them, customers of WebEx System Management Service need deal only with WebEx — the fact that other vendors are providing the services is transparent to users — according to Chawla.

The software service are available over the WebEx MediaTone Network, which "provides security and reliability not available over public networks," Chawla said.

Monthly subscription fees are also designed to appeal to cost-sensitive businesses, Chawla said. Fees range from $5 to $15 per month, depending on what services you subscribe to.

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com's Small Business Channel and EarthWeb's Networking & Communications Channel.

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