Desktop Management Systems Go Mobile

By David Essex, Computer World |  Networking

For Jay Markanich, senior network engineer at IT consultancy Clarkston Group Inc. in Durham, N.C., system management is inescapably a remote-control process. Some 250 of his company's 300 systems are notebook computers. But when Markanich needed to distribute Y2k patches last year, he discovered that the best-known system-management tools wouldn't be much help.

"We thought that Microsoft SMS [Systems Management Server] might be able to solve our needs," Markanich recalls. "But we actually tried SMS and found that it did not handle remote users very well."

Markanich eventually found Mobile Automation software from Mobile Automation Inc. in Los Angeles. It uses remote-agent software that, at 2MB, is smaller than SMS's, he says. It also optimizes communication with portable computers that connect sporadically, often over low-bandwidth networks.

Markanich uses it to track software licenses and to download an expense database and security-related updates to consultants' notebooks. "It makes it possible for us to download large pieces of information to users without their ever knowing it," he says.

Ahead of the Curve

Mobile Automation was largely the brainchild of company president Douglas Neal, says Chairman Rod Turner. The two saw firsthand the need for mobile support while at Symantec Corp. in Cupertino, Calif. "We were noticing through our customer base a strong desire to address the mobile workforce," Neal says.

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