Solution providers looking to start a tech support business should look no further than the Bomgar Box. This is a one-stop tech support powerhouse that outperforms all of its Software-as-a-Service competitors. The Bomgar Box can provide on-site service to remote PCs without requiring a solution provider to travel to a remote site, install VPNs or even bypass firewall settings on a corporate site. Bomgar claims that the appliance pays for itself after two years. After that, it's all profit for VARs.
In addition to its compelling business model, the appliance is feature-rich and highly configurable. It only took half an hour for Channel Test Center engineers to set it up. Here's what they found:
Step 1: Installation
When engineers first received the Bomgar appliance back in March, the company had just released a new version, so the new documentation did not match the user interface (UI) on the old appliance. Engineers had to work briefly with tech support to upload a new software patch to make the server work. That experience helped engineers see how easy it was to change the box's configuration settings and navigate its administrative interface. Fortunately, solution providers do not have to go through this process manually since Bomgar provides all the active settings and latest features pre-built into the appliances, along with access to regular updates. Solution providers only need to login and update the software once they receive the appliance.
The Bomgar appliance has an administrative URL with the starting address http://188.8.131.52/appliance. To connect quickly to the appliance, change the IP address of a PC or notebook to 184.108.40.206 with a subnet of 255.255.0.0.
After connecting, the first step in setting up the appliance is to change default network configurations. Bomgar provides IP, DNS and custom port settings for HTTP and HTTPS that can be used to bypass firewall settings. The default Web ports 80 and 443 will suffice in most implementations. Installing the appliance in the firewall most likely will require port-forwarding settings changed at the router or firewall. NAT routing might be required as well.
Engineers installed inside a cable router/firewall and changed all network settings to the usual static Class C IP range provided by the router, along with the appropriate port-forwarding turned on. The box also provides static IP routing, which is useful when establishing connections between two disparate networks.
NEXT: Adding customization
Step 2: Customizing the interface and settings
The Bomgar box can generate is own SSL certificates with a single click or receive certificates from third-party authorities such as VeriSign and GeoTrust. Engineers recommend using signed certificates, even if the certificate is generated by the appliance.
Adding tech support accounts is next. In the User Accounts tab, administrators can start by adding user names and passwords manually. The Bomgar Box also can connect to Active Directory, allowing administrators to link up Microsoft Windows user names and passwords with the appliance. Since these are accounts created for the tech support representatives, most solution providers will not need to use this feature. The AD link feature is useful for VARs that have a team of 10 or more reps.
In addition, administrators can activate various access settings for each tech support rep. Bomgar provides granular access to what reps can modify inside end-user PCs. This is an extremely useful feature for controlling trainees as they begin to work with end users. Obviously, the new support reps should not be able to have complete remote control of end-user systems.
The Bomgar Box also includes policy features that allow administrators to manage a large technical support staff. One of the key features in the policy is the ability to let Bomgar link up with end users directly. In the My Account tab, administrators can see a link to download the Bomgar Representative Client software that is needed by tech support reps to connect to the management interface.
Bomgar's appliance architecture allows tech support reps to work from anywhere, even when connected through low bandwidth sites. Through the remote client, tech support reps can connect to end users directly, as long as the request is first processed by the appliance.
Step 3: Managing end-user requests and the engineers who respond to them
Upon starting the Representative Client, tech support reps have to check the appliance's queue to pick up requests. The software walks the reps through every step of the way using simple wizards and dialog boxes; even a newbie can follow these directions. First step: the reps check the URL that end users need to travel to in order to make a request. This feature is crucial whenever end users make a request through the phone, since reps only need to read the directions on how to download the remote session client.
Following directions is also helpful when working with multiple accounts. Support reps can easily mix up accounts without this feature because, in the queue, all user requests look the same. The step-by-step information in the wizards virtually eliminates training as well.
NEXT: Solving problems as they happenThe Bomgar default public site is fully customizable. To modify this page, VARs have to connect to the appliance site in the appliance. Information displayed on this site can vary depending on the fields that VARs want end users to see and change. For instance, the Representatives option can be omitted from the HTML page if VARs want to keep the names of the reps private. Tech reps can use session keys instead to connect to end users.
Tech reps also have the option to send e-mail invites with links with embedded session keys. By clicking on a key, the session client automatically is downloaded to a PC.
Another way to start a session is to the main Website where the VAR maintains the appliance. This option is viewable in the Issue Submission section. VARs can embed an issue submission link on any page on the site so that users can make requests without having to catch support reps on the phone. This is a good support functionality that's useful when a small staff is supporting many clients at once.
As far as access, tech support reps have the full power of a remote access solution. In addition to screen sharing, reps can download and transfer files from a command prompt.
The appliance also includes a transfer manager to allow reps to download multiple files at once. System Information is one of the support functions that the remote session client automatically collects from client PCs. This information provides a quick overview of the health of a system, which is helpful when first troubleshooting a system.
In addition to installed programs, reps can see all Windows updates and other files that are registered by Windows. This is a powerful way of doing troubleshooting without having to go to a dozen places and run separate Windows tools to view this information.
Another powerful feature in the appliance is the option to transfer sessions to other tech support reps. Reps that are located at remote sites can easily pass sessions to co-workers if they cannot come up with a solution or identify a problem within a predetermined amount of time.
Bomgar also provides a group of tools and features that are designed for unattended functionality. The appliance's Jump Point component is a piece of software that can be placed on a network that allows reps to connect to any computer on it. The Jump Point component is useful for managed service providers that want to add tech support and would like to use the Bomgar remote client instead of using VPN or some other connection method.
Because the appliance can be offered as a complete tech support business, Bomgar packages a full set of business and activity reports to track each client. While the reports provide a comprehensive look at all the steps it takes to identify and fix PCs, they lack a way to connect them back to each client. In the current version, VARs have to download the reports into a third-party reports engine and link up and normalize the fields to generate bills