CyberMedia unveils beefed-up Repair Engine for Workgroups

CyberMedia Inc. earlier this month introduced a significantly enhanced version of Repair Engine for Workgroups, a tool that provides centralized remote diagnostics and trouble-shooting of networked computers.

Repair Engine for Workgroups lets administrators trouble-shoot PCs not only from their management consoles but also remotely through the Internet. The software uses a World Wide Web browser interface that lets users dial up from any location and diagnose problems through their Web browsers.

But Release 1.0, introduced in December, had only limited scalability. The product supported only 50 users and one server for the Microsoft Corp. SQL Server database, which stores critical technical information. Release 1.1, demonstrated at the FOSE trade show in Washington, D.C., last week, supports 250 users per server and supports multiple servers per Repair Engine database, so network administrators can diagnose 1,000 or more PCs from their consoles.

The National Institutes of Health already is using Repair Engine for its help desk, and Unisys Corp. is using the product to support the Army's technical support needs. The Department of Veterans Affairs, the Transportation Department and the Defense Logistics Agency are also customers, and the Navy and the Marines are evaluating it, said Geoff Stilley, vice president of federal sales and marketing.

The common Windows problems addressed by Repair Engine include missing and overwritten system files, crashes, disk space problems, driver conflicts and hardware problems.

Rather than compete with existing enterprise-class network management solutions such as Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenView, Computer Associates International Inc.'s Unicenter and Tivoli Systems Inc.'s TME, Repair Engine works with these solutions using standard network management and messaging protocols to fill in trouble-shooting and diagnostic "blind spots" in those systems, according to CyberMedia. "CyberMedia's move to integrate its desktop diagnostic engine into the existing support infrastructure adds an important new tool in the effort to cost-effectively support the end user," said Tom Sweeny, director of software services for Dataquest. "The ability to automatically repair end-user problems offers potential time savings for IT managers and improved productivity for users."

Chuck Roth, manager of the Indirect Sales Division of the Federal Systems Division of Unisys, said the increased scalability in Release 1.1 is important. "Most of the networks we are looking at in the federal government are larger networks," said Roth, who has worked with the product. "The customers we have talked to about Repair Engine for Workgroups have been very excited about it."

Such administrative tools can be valuable, said Tim Barnes, branch chief of the intramural technical systems branch at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH. "When we went to Windows 95, we saw a dramatic increase in the support needs of end users," Barnes said. "We were looking for a product that would reduce the amount of time help-desk people spend running around."

Repair Engine "seems to work pretty well; it found problems like drivers that were missing or device conflicts," he said.

Reducing Help-Desk Costs

Research by Gartner Group, Stamford, Conn., found that an organization with 1,000 PCs averages 72 help-desk calls a day, at an average cost of $22 to $41 each. If Repair Engine can eliminate 25 to 30 percent of those calls, a 1,000-user agency could save $100,000 per year in support costs.

The company estimates that Repair Engine can solve Windows-related problems 80 percent of the time, Stilley said. And even if Repair Engine cannot fix the problem, it can usually identify the problem remotely for the help-desk technician, the company said. "The average help-desk call takes 40 minutes," Stilley said. "The first half of that call is trying to figure out what is wrong with the PC."

CyberMedia has met with success in the federal market with its stand-alone diagnostic and tune-up tools: First Aid 95 for trouble-shooting, Oil Change for maintenance and Guard Dog for security. But most customers want networked solutions for their computers. "We found the government is predominantly a networked environment, and the federal PC companion kit was a stand-alone solution," Stilley said.

Federal agencies will be able to negotiate their own licensing agreements with CyberMedia, but the commercial pricing is $2,375 for 25 users, $4,600 for 50 users, $8,600 for 100 users and $21,000 for 250 users.

Repair Engine requires Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3 or newer installed, SQL Server 6.5 for the Repair Engine database and Internet Information Server 3.0. Clients can have Windows 3.1, Windows 95 or Windows NT installed.

-- Carney is a free-lance writer based in Herndon, Va.

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