Repair a Dead Machine Remotely – Without Driving Onsite

IT techs – whether working at MSPs or in internal IT Ops groups – have long faced a miserable task:  physically visiting PCs and other devices that are dead by hard drive failure. In these cases, you must pack up your kit, head out to the site and see what can be done.  Depending on where you work, this can be called a truck roll, man-in-the-van work, or just plain wasted time that you would rather spend doing other work.

Each of these visits can take hours, and often technicians find themselves going back and forth from the site location and the main office to gets parts or new bits of software to solve the problem.

What if you could sit at your console in a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee, and repair that hard drive right then and there – in minutes?  What if this wasn’t just an edge use case, but you could essentially eliminate going on site to fix laptops, kiosks and PCs that are no longer responsive?  What if you could say goodbye to what MSPs sarcastically refer as “windshield time”?

There are two things needed to make this happen:  Intel vPro-equipped machines and Kaseya VSA.

A Quick vPro Primer

Intel vPro technology has many features.  For this blog, we’re discussing its active management capabilities, which allow technicians to access a machine at a very low level – including the basic input/output system (BIOS) level – and maintain, secure, monitor and repair machines using this deep visibility.

This low-level remote control capability is becoming more and more essential due to the mobile workforce transformation, where end points are increasingly more dispersed.

Growth of Self-Service Kiosks

Beyond the workforce, more and more companies (and the MSPs who support them) need to support a growing network of self-service compute assets, such as ATMs, vending machines, and self-service kiosks for airport check-in, patient self-service, photo orders, or retail point-of-service purchasing.

A recent market research report from Markets and Markets, Interactive Kiosks Market, predicts the market will grow at a CAGR of 9.2% from now till 2020, estimating the market to reach $73.35 Billion by 2020.

While a boon for consumers who want more self-service options, the rise of kiosks is a growing headache and resource drain for the IT groups who need to support these devices scattered throughout towns and shopping plazas.

The Dynamic Kaseya VSA/vPro Duo

The duo of Kasey VSA and Intel vPro allows for Remote Drive Mounting, which is how you eliminate truck rolls for dead machines.  Instead of diagnosing the problem on-site, now technicians can virtually mount the drive via the Kaseya VSA console, remotely run diagnostics, and copy files or applications such as security software onto the machine.

MSPs are putting the technology very much to use. “vPro-based systems let us do much more remotely. For hardware repair we can diagnose remotely and take the right part the first time. With KVM Remote Control, we can troubleshoot and fix most OS problems remotely and without having to walk the customer through the diagnostics. The more we can do from our desks, the faster we can serve our customers – and that equals happier customers,” said Jeff Franks, Proactive Service Architect for MapleTronics Computers.

The Remote Drive Mounting gives MSPs low-level access to the remote machine. If the machine won’t boot to the OS, the technician can mount the contents of that drive onto their own workstation or work on the drive as it sits in the remote machine. This way diagnostics and repair utilities can be run. Once the fixes are made, the technician can reformat or reimage the drive – and transfer the repaired volume back to the distressed end point.

Beyond this, you can:

  • Repair damaged disks and OS-level problems by accessing the BIOS and as well as exploiting low-level power control.
  • Use Remote Drive Mounting to repair, backup, register, and redeploy computer assets.

Rising Productivity

With this solution, productivity is on the rise while costs are plummeting fast. “We’ve decreased deskside visits by 100% and reduced PC downtime by 16%. The decrease in deskside visits has a huge impact on costs,” said Ugo Chiulli, managing partner at Progressive Computing. “While there is still labor behind the scenes to repair a system, with vPro, our techs can multitask, which improves our bottom line. In addition, I can send a tech to work on something else, or choose from a less-costly pool of labor, which also impacts the bottom line.”

vPro and Patching

With the ability to power up a remote machine, patches can be installed anytime – vastly increasing “patch saturation.”

Take education. Here you may have labs where the machines are used almost all the time. To make sure patches are installed, they can be scheduled to run during the lab’s limited set of off hours, such as in the middle of the night.

“Dependable remote power up – which vPro delivers and Wake-on-LAN can’t – is huge. The more we can successfully patch, the more problems we can prevent, the happier our customers are, and the lower our costs are,” said Matt Chines, president of ERGOS Technology. “Because we can reliably power up vPro-based machines, we can get more machines patched faster and reduce the cost of chasing unpatched machines.”

Measuring the Benefits of vPro and Kaseya

MSP productivity with and without vPro has been carefully tracked by Progressive Computing. Here are some the results:

ActivityWithout vProWith vProImprovement
Average time to resolve hardware problem140 minutes85 minutes40% reduction
Average time to resolve OS problem2 hours40 minutes66% reduction

Posted by Doug Barney
Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.

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