IBM Wants to Be Your IT Department

It’s a fact of life: Small and mid-sized businesses face many of the same technology-related challenges that larger enterprises encounter. The difference is that SMBs can’t devote a lot of people, time or money to dealing with problems — or just as important to preventing problems.

To help businesses that don’t have large IT staffs, IBM yesterday announced its Desktop Management Services program aimed at companies with between 100 and 1,000 employees. For a monthly per-user fee (starting at $40), IBM manages your entire technology environment: operating systems, applications, desktop PCs, mobiles devices, printers and so on.

IBM Is Only a Server Away
It works like this: IBM puts a server with desktop management tools at your location. IBM then remotely manages virus detection and protection, operating system and application updates and patches, nightly backups of employees hard disk images — basically IBM monitors every component of your technology environment.

In essence, Big Blue becomes your IT department. “Larger companies can throw resources at problems, resources not available to SMBs,” said Dale Moegling, manager of desktop services with IBM’s Global Services.

Moegling said the program has been in development for eight months and follows IBM’s on-demand philosophy. “It represents a real change in mentality, treating the desktop as a service,” said Moegling.

Big Blue reports that the service leverages tools and technologies developed by IBM Research that help transform networks into “remotely managed, self-healing, self-updating systems.” Beth Feeney, director of small and medium business offerings at IBM Global Services, describes the move to tap IBM’s managed services as a natural outsourcing evolution for small businesses. “Why would an SMB outsource IT? Like accounting and payroll, at some point it makes sense to outsource desktop and infrastructure management.”

Just as companies don’t benefit by spending time mired in bookkeeping functions, Feeney said, outsourcing IT services allows an SMB to focus on its core business rather than battling technology. “It’s a never-ending race to keep operating systems and applications updated with patches,” Feeney said.

Viruses and Spam … Let’s Get ’em
Of course, of particular interest to companies of all sizes is a way to address the threat of viruses and spam. IBM reports that one of the key features of IBM Desktop Management Services is the capability head off attacks. While many SMBs have some type of system in place that typically involves manually installing anti-virus software on individuals desktops and e-mail or gateway servers, viruses are moving faster than most SMBs defenses against them.

IBM said through partnerships with Symantec and other anti-virus and anti-spam software companies, it pushes protection to your local server before new signatures are publicly released. IBM said it is also able to provide further protection prior to the release of new virus signatures by using its policy and attribute blocking capability to block specific kinds of attachments or filter e-mail based on the particular characteristics of a message.

In addition to backup and security, Desktop Management Services can also ensure that all users are compliant with your company’s policy on operating systems and applications. That is, you can automatically push updates to individuals PCs to ensure that everyone is using the most current version. Also, if an employee moves to a new or different computer, once he or she logs-on to the server, the disk image with both that employees’s iindividual settings and the company’s settings are deployed on the PC.

Desktop Management Services is “hardware agnostic,” according to Moegling, but systems need to be running either Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP operating systems on the desktop.

Moegling said that IBM is considering a service aimed at businesses with fewer than 100 users. However, currently the $40 per user, per month fee applies only to companies in the 100-to-1,000 user range.

The new service is also available in Europe and Canada for $50 and $55 per user, per month, respectively.

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

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