Since covering Zenprise’s troubleshooting software back in July, I’ve had a chance to talk to some of the folks there about what they do. In a nutshell, Zenprise offers diagnostic tools to backend IT staff and dynamic troubleshooting flowcharts to front-line technical support in order to keep the company’s BlackBerry operations running smoothly. We would have liked to do a review, but we don’t run a BES at BBCool, and even if we did, we’re all so darned clever that we could figure out our own technical problems without some fancy-pants software package. That being said, we hooked up with the Paul Hinsberg, senior server engineer for the County of Alameda, California, who has been using Zenprise’s BlackBerry software since early beta testing. The county uses a little over a hundred BlackBerrys that have to be handled between 8 people.
First off, Zenprise displays simple, at-a-glance network status by visualizing the line of data from the BlackBerry Enterprise Server to Exchange server, to RIM server to carrier to a user’s individual device. Using this system, Paul from Alameda saved himself hours of time during the big BlackBerry outage in April simply because he could quickly identify that the service problem was out of his hands and he needn’t run around trying to figure out what was wrong.
You can also zoom in on particular users on your BlackBerry network, providing information such as PIN number, IMEI, device model, phone number, and IT policy. Zenprise also allows for real-time traffic monitoring, so you can see if the user is waiting for mail to come in, how much data their sending and recieving, as well as a whole bunch range of other useful information. On the front-end of things, Zenprise is a great troubleshooter. By pairing server-side error messages to knowledgebase articles. Zenprise not only provides speedy diagnosis, but even pre-empts problems that are on the way. When asked about his most memorable moment with Zenprise, Paul told us about how shortly after their initial set-up, Zenprise immediately spotted a bunch of potential errors – things that weren’t causing service issues right away, but would have blown up in a few months had they not been identified.
On a more individual basis, the integration with RIM’s knowledgebase provides technical support staff with all the information they need to nail down a solution. Paul’s biggest reason for adopting Zenprise was to make efficient use of his limited staff’s time, and to date he has been nothing less than satisfied with the results. Front-line staff are catching and solving more problems, meaning fewer need to be pushed to back-end workers, who can focus on the bigger problems. The front-line technical support personnel are also shaving between 20 and 45 minutes off their previous time in diagnosing problems.
Zenprise updates their database and pushes the latest information to their customers about once or twice a month, keeping solutions up-to-date. In fact, Zenprise’s focus on technical support often results in the corrections within the knowledgebase since they can find bugs that RIM doesn’t. As for what’s coming down the pipes for Zenprise, we can expect a handheld version of their troubleshooting software within the next 6 months, likely for BlackBerry first. These guys want to cover all of mobile though, and you can expect to see Windows Mobile and Palm devices being supported shortly thereafter. Also, they’re looking to give admins a little more control by allowing them to script their own automated problem resolutions for particular issues, so exceptions or chronic issues that are in the process of being resolved won’t burden the system.
While we might not be able to give a full-blown review of Zenprise, but hopefully this will give BlackBerry IT admins a little something to consider for their own operations. If this is something you’re interested, check out their web demo for a more in-depth look.