IBM Offers All-in-One Support Service

Support Line, a new offering from IBM Global Services, provides on-site and remotely delivered software, hardware, operating systems and networking services for systems programmers, network administrations and systems administrators.

Support Line lets customers choose the most appropriate options for their technical support. The offering's flexibility covers multiple IT environments with a single, customized agreement for platforms, middleware and application software.

"Focus groups have told us that they want one place for all their support needs, and IBM is the best place for that," says Mark Brown, solutions manager for development activities with IBM Global Services. "Before this announcement, we could support multiple platforms only on separate contracts."

In addition to support for IBM software, Support Line offers support for platforms from other vendors such as Windows NT and Novell, and middleware from various vendors.

With the global announcement of Support Line, customers can obtain remote support for any company location around the world. Customers can also purchase and contract for remote software support in the same way, regardless of where the support is required.

Several service improvements have been added to Support Line:

  • For prime shift and critical non-prime shift, a maximum of two hour response time
  • Access to Internet-based self-help databases
  • Support in the language of the caller's primary support center
  • Hours of support based on that country's normal business hours
While the maximum response time is two hours, IBM maintains that typical response time is much shorter. In the United States, callers for AS/400 and RS/6000 support can connect directly to a service specialist more than 90 percent of the time during prime shift. Of the 25,000 calls a month that Brown estimates are for AS/400 issues, more than 22,500 reach a live connection immediately.

"By using Support Line, IT Managers have the opportunity to leverage their staff in a more productive manner; they have a quick way to get answers to potential problems and concerns while they're running their operations or loading their software," Brown comments. "We provide another level of expertise so their staff is not spending time looking up answers or figuring out if it's really a hardware or software issue. IBM is the industry standard on software support. What we're doing with Support Line enhancements is taking the best of IBM support and making it better."

Considerations to Weigh When Choosing a Support Program:

  • Experience and expertise: How capable are the people that are actually going to resolve your problems?
  • Response times: How quickly will your phone call be answered? How quickly will you get the correct information?
  • Flexibility of coverage: Do you have enough options to cover your current hardware and software issues? Is the plan scalable to grow with your company needs and requirements?
  • Depth of support and infrastructure: Can you find the information that you need? Are there searchable databases or Web-based self-help areas you can turn to for more assistance?
"Our research shows that IBM is always on top for almost every level of service they perform--from hardware maintenance to software support," says Eric Rocco, principal analyst for Dataquest (San Jose, Calif.), a Gartner Group company. "IBM tends to have a quality system in place and really premium prices. Their organization has carried tremendous clout over the years."

Ron Perratta, assistant director of computer operations for St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, N.Y. uses IBM's Support Line for hardware and software questions and problems on AIX and AS/400 platforms. Perratta says they usually have about two-to-four calls a month on average: Most calls are for AS/400 client access and network printing issues.

His staff recently installed a high-speed network printer, but could not get it to function properly. "We called the support number and they were very helpful; it took only about 20 minutes before we had the solution. IBM has been really good for a support contact; they have a quick response and the IBM service specialists are very knowledgeable. I've noticed that the support has gotten much better over the years."

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