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9/17/2009
11:19 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
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AT&T Expands Remote Tech Support Push -- With Help From Intel VPro

Last week, AT&T TechSupport 360 expanded coverage from very small businesses to companies with up to 50 employees. This week, AT&T joined with Intel to announce a new level of support for computers equipped with Intel's VPro technology.

Last week, AT&T TechSupport 360 expanded coverage from very small businesses to companies with up to 50 employees. This week, AT&T joined with Intel to announce a new level of support for computers equipped with Intel's VPro technology.The Tech Support 360 Service supports some 100,000 U.S. small businesses with virtual help-desk functionality. Orignally targeted at very small busineses, the company last week announced plans designed to let companies share their "Desktop Helpdesk Minutes" across all employees. Instead of buying by the individual PC ($19 - $28 per month per computer), AT&T now sells yearly plans that start at $250 per month for 200 monthly minutes that can be used for any computer in the company.

So what's new this week? Ebrahim Keshavarz, vice president of Business Development for AT&T, explained in a conference call that users typically access TechSupport 360 by firing up a Web browser and going to the service's home page. Obviously, that doesn't work when you can't even launch a browser.

Those kinds of more-severe PC problems typically required an expensive and time consuming "truck roll," said Intel's David Tuhy, general manager of the Business Client Group. Alternatively, the business user would have to bring in their machine to a service center, losing valuable time and potentially making data on the machine more vulnerable to theft.

The new collaboration between AT&T and Intel uses VPro's management capabilities to let AT&T remotely address problems when the browser is unavailable. Typical use cases include BIOS issues that won't let the operating system boot, malware that won't allow browser operation, network driver problems, and even forgotten passwords that prevent normal access.

The process remains user-initiated, Keshavarz says. If users can't reach their browser, they hit a special key during the boot sequence which pops up a screen where they cent punch in a permission code that let's the AT&T support staffers go in and fix the problem.

AT&T is the first company to offer the service, Keshavarz said. VPro was originally designed to work on intranets, Tuhy explained, but the company has figured out how to make it work over the Internet to serve small businesses and computers in mobile settings.

Of course, the process works only on desktop PCs equipped VPro-enabled Intel processors. VPro laptops are expected next year, Tuhy said.

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