Software targets help desks with diverse users

Network Associates Inc. last week released its Magic Total Service Desk, a browser-based service-support suite that allows a single help desk to service multiple departments within an organization.

Magic TSD builds on Network Associates' McAfee ServiceDesk and Magic Solutions Inc.'s SupportMagic help desk, acquired when Network Associates bought the company last year. Magic TSD can be integrated with all of Network Associates' other products to complete what the company calls its Net Tools network security and management system.

Every group within an organization has different needs, leading to a specialized set of problems and solutions that make up the help-desk history, said Arvind Narain, director of product marketing in the Net Tools Manager division. One of the major features of Magic TSD, pulled from SupportMagic, is its ability to keep each group's history separate within the database, Narain said.

"We found that each department had its own help desk with its own type of problems and tools," Narain said. "You have to have the ability not only to customize the help-desk forms but also the tools."

The Defense Logistics Agency's Defense Supply Center, Richmond, Va., is a beta tester for Magic TSD and has been using SupportMagic since 1994. Initially, only the automatic data processing support team used the support-desk application, but in 1996 the group added the customer-support call center. The ability to separate out the database at this point became key, said Kathy Gaul, computer specialist and systems administrator at the supply center. "Magic allows you to segregate the data, so depending on who I was serving, I was able to have different screens," she said. "It's more cost-effective; it's more efficient."

"Not many other help desks can do that," said Philip Mendoza, system management software analyst at market research firm International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass. The fact that Magic TSD is a World Wide Web-based support desk also means a lot to administrators, Mendoza said.

"Browser functionality allows the administrator to use the help-desk application anywhere, whereas before the help desk could only be run on a system where the application was installed," he said. "For administrators who are always mobile and not always in one place, it makes a big difference because they can just go to the client, launch a browser and access their help-desk console."

Even within a group at one site, such as the Richmond Defense Supply Center, this mobility can be an asset. With a staff of about 20 on the help desk and more than 2,200 employees to service, the browser-based application gives help-desk staff members the ability to truly serve each user at his or her desktop, Gaul said. "If you have a customer on the outside, [the customer] can just access [the] status [of an order] on the Web," she said.

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