Dell Gets Small-Biz Religion

Once upon a time, Dell climbed its way to the top of the PC pinnacle by catering to the needs of small businesses, providing them with well-built, well-backed and exceedingly well-priced systems. Somewhere along the way, though, corporate buyers ready to order hundreds, if not thousands, of machines at a time became too big a draw to ignore, as did the unwashed masses of consumer shoppers who also happened to be awash in credit.

“Dude” got a Dell, and small business owners got stuck in the tech-support queue behind Dude’s mom calling to complain that the cup holder was broken (“It’s a DVD drive tray, Ma’am”). Heck, even gamers who bought Dell’s XPS models received priority and dedicated tech support lines. The perception, if not reality, was that service suffered, and there wasn’t a lot that differentiated Dell’s consumer PCs from those it offered to small business.

What’s Mine is Vostro
With the introduction of Vostro (Latin for “yours”), Dell hopes to correct its recent course. The new brand is meant to bridge the gap between the company’s Dimension and Inspiron consumer PC lines (now combined under the single Inspiron banner) and its OptiPlex and Latitude corporate offerings. Designed specifically for growing businesses with one to 25 employees, Vostro desktops and laptops aim to combine the hardware, software and service those companies need and nothing that they don’t.

On the hardware side, Dell says the Vostro lines deliver reliable, high-performance machines that offer good value. When the initial lineup is complete (sometime in August), it will include a Vostro 200 slim-tower desktop and Vostro 400 mini-tower desktop, as well as four Vostro laptops: the budget-conscious 1000, the 1400 (with a 14.1-inch screen), the 1500 (15.4-inch screen) and 1700 (with, you guessed it, a 17-inch screen).

As for software, a one-year subscription to the Dell DataSafe Online Backup service comes standard on every Vostro system. This automated service gives each computer 10GB of secure, off-site storage, so business owners don’t have to worry about (and maintain) a separate backup solution. As long as your PC can log online, its important data files will be backed up.

Buyers also receive the Dell Network Assistant, which simplifies the set-up, monitoring, troubleshooting and repair of smaller networks. That means a reasonably IT-savvy business owner can set up his or her own network, without hiring outside help. The machines also come preloaded with a one-year subscription to Dell Automated PC TuneUp, which keeps systems up-to-date and contains diagnostic and maintenance utilities for keeping the PCs running optimally.

Just as importantly, Vostro machines won’t come preloaded with the trialware (the polite term for it) that has increasingly cluttered the desktops of Dell, HP and other consumer machines in recent years.

Improved Service
The third aspect of Dell’s renewed commitment is improved sales and service for small-biz Vostros customers. Dell has specially trained 6,500 Vostro phone reps to understand the needs of small businesses and to be knowledgeable about technology for them.

Vostro buyers also get a 30-day money-back guarantee if they aren’t satisfied. Even better, Dell pays for return shipping, and there’s no restocking fee for returned merchandise. (Most national retailers typically charge a 15 percent restocking fee on returned PC equipment.)

The Dell Vostro 200 Mini-tower
An SMB Professional: Dell’s Vostro 200 Mini-tower is one of a new line of desktop and notebook computers designed especially for small businesss.

On the other end of the transaction, should you need tech support, Dell offers dedicated lines just for Vostro owners — available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Dell said the technicians have been specially trained to handle the needs of a small-business owner, and the reps won’t need to plod through the standard tech-support script (“Is the machine on? Is the mouse plugged in?”) to get to the root of a problem.

One help in that department: Each Vostro machine comes preloaded with the DellConnect1 utility, which, with the PC owner’s permission, will let the tech take control of an Internet-connected PC to diagnose issues and even repair many problems.

For owners looking for self-directed education on technology and other small-business topics, Dell also offers its Dell 360 online knowledgebase. It delivers industry-specific advice and tutorials, as well as technology guides, case studies and more.

Tune in tomorrow for our hands-on review of the brand new Vostro 200 mini-tower, and we’ll tell you whether you should make this PC, um, Vostro.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the Forums. Join the discussion today!

Must Read

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Daily Tech Insider for top news, trends, and analysis.