Upgrades Online Tech Support Tools

FRAMINGHAM (08/10/2000) - Inc. will launch on Monday a new version of its Web-based technical support system, which is used by Cisco Systems Inc., J. C. Penney Co., General Electric Co. and other large companies to provide personalized, automated help desk support to their employees.

The system, which includes client and server software, can be configured to automatically reach out over the Internet to a remote employee's computer to perform various tasks, such as changing IP addresses or network settings. The system supports self-healing, which involves automatically returning a computer system to an earlier functioning mode.

The system also supports self-service by walking an employee through the steps required to solve his own problems. If a problem can't be fixed, the employee can use the system to connect live to a specialist in the company's support center.

"What's really key here is that you can take a complex, manual, multi-step process and automate it," says Paul May, senior product marketing manager at "You can automatically grab lots of information from the user's system and very quickly get to what's causing their pain."

Version 4.0 takes all the technical support and computer information gathered by the system and packages it into XML-based forms -- dubbed SmartIssues -- for faster processing and automatic entry of trouble tickets. The latest version also supports six different languages for global corporations.

"Where we need to go is intelligent, Web-based dialogues. We need to provide the right information to the right support resource to enable a higher level of support," explains Gary Zilk, product marketing manager at "That's what we do with Version 4.0."

The system includes four components:

- Support Portal Hub, which provides the communications infrastructure for the system.

- User Center, which is the client software or downloadable plug-in for self-healing and self-service of end users' systems.

- Support Center, which is a suite of tools that help support specialists assist end users.

- Foundry, which is the software for authoring automated support solutions.

A typical configuration costs more than $100,000, including $75,000 for the Support Portal Hub, $20 per end user per year, and $2,500 per support specialist per year.

Founded in 1997, went public in mid-July. has more than 60 customers including enterprises like Bear, Stearns; ISPs like Excite@Home Inc.; and support outsourcing firms like Computer Sciences Corp.

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