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The computer company, Dell Inc., is currently testing a new system that could help relieve small businesses from needing to employ IT experts. The test is now taking place in Dallas.
The goal is to replace conventional computer services with a system that automatically stops most problems before they start. According to Dell, the test program has exceeded initial expectations.
Dell expects to launch the automated service system globally this summer. Its target market is firms with fewer than 500 employees.
"We're targeting small and medium businesses for two important reasons," said Steve Schuckenbrock, Dell's chief information officer. "First, they're a huge and underserved market. Second, they're willing to try new things. They just want working computers. They don't care how you make 'em work."
Unlike consumers, who spend far more buying new toys than fixing old ones, small businesses spend the majority of their technology dollars just to keep current systems running. Dell thinks it can change that by offering dozens of services, a la carte, for nearly any computer, running nearly any operating system.
Rather than using humans to keep all these machines healthy, Dell plans to automate most work. Dell servers will "ping" customer computers to check for problems that need fixing or tasks that need doing. In some cases, they'll report their findings to customers and ask permission to proceed. In most cases, though, Dell's computers will just do whatever needs doing.
Schuckenbrock said he hopes to automate about 85 percent of the work. As for the rest, he hopes to send most of it over the Internet to workers overseas. Automation and offshoring reduce costs, so Dell executives think they can undersell competitors and still profit.
"IT support costs so much today because it's mostly done by individual people working on many different projects at scattered sites," said Steve Meyer, Dell's VP of global services. "When you automate most of the tasks and direct most of the rest to groups of specialists, costs plummet."
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