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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.


333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
United States


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November 30, 2010 |

Smartphone Apps for Channel Pros to Tap

In addition to email, find out what smartphone apps channel partners are using to save money and up their–and their technicians’–productivity. By Colleen Frye

Smartphone Apps for Channel Pros to Tap

In addition to email, find out what smartphone apps channel partners are using to save money and up their—and their technicians’—productivity.

By Colleen Frye

What’s on your phone? If you’re an IT provider, increasingly you’re downloading apps for your smartphone that are helping you run your business more efficiently and productively.

First and foremost for many is email access. “We live and die with email integration,” says MJ Shoer, president of Jenaly Technology Group, Portsmouth, N.H., which provides outsourced IT services. Shoer, who carries a Google Android phone, says the TouchDown app to synch with Microsoft Exchange from NitroDesk ($19.99 on the Android Market) enables his employees to have “constant connect to mail, calendar, and contacts.”

According to a recent report from IDC, “Currently, 20 percent of all mobile phones are smartphones, and IDC forecasts smartphone shipments to grow 55.4 percent in 2010.” For business use of smartphones, “email is typically the first application enabled and one of the most pervasive.”

Beyond email, partners are using a variety of cost-saving and productivity apps. Adam Steinhoff, president and CEO of DedicatedIT, a managed services provider in West Palm Beach, Fla., says his employees use Media5-fone for the iPhone ($7.99 on iTunes), a VoIP client. “The VoIP client allows us to take the tech support queue with us wherever we go,” he says.

And with the use of the Citrix Receiver 4.0 app (free), Steinhoff’s employees can access any XenApp hosted application from their iPhone. “We can login via the iPhone and work like we would with a PC.”

Steinhoff’s technicians also use the iPhone’s camera frequently. “It seems simple, but when the techs are on site they’re snapping pictures of computers, serial numbers, wiring closets, whatever, to attach to our documentation for accounts to quickly get information about them.”

Likewise, IT technicians from VAR Centerpoint Direct in Atlanta use the Qik video app that came installed on their 4G Samsung Droids to video chat “if they need to show me something,” says Wayne Gosselin, vice president of technical operations. Gosselin says IT techs are all equipped with Droids because they need more functionality via their phones than the company’s phone technicians, who have BlackBerrys.

Gosselin says Droid-equipped employees access the company’s back-end professional services automation (PSA) system from Autotask via the Skyfire mobile browser from Skyfire Inc. Autotask is the company’s main application, and while employees can access it via the browser, Gosselin says Autotask’s anticipated app designed for a smartphone’s screen size will make “a big difference,” as will the ability for a technician to log tickets, he says.

A PSA vendor that has apps for both Android and iPhone is Tampa, Fla.-based ConnectWise, and Shoer says he downloaded the Droid app “the second I found out it was available.”

Shoer continues, “Obviously there are some limitations, but in terms of getting the data I need when I’m in the field, I have no problem. I can find things, look up critical information, keep track of my time and schedule. If a client replies to something related to a ticket, I can jump to ConnectWise mobile for more detail. It’s a very functional mobile version of the product. Anything I’ve needed to do when I’ve just had that on my hip I’ve been able to do. [Smartphones] definitely enable us to be faster, and more thorough in our [customer] response.”

Gosselin also notes improved response time. And for techs out on the road, when something comes up they can use Skyfire to log into the company portal, versus “flipping open their laptop, waiting for it to boot, putting in the aircard. That’s an extra 10 minutes techs don’t appreciate,” he says.

Of course, a smartphone app is no panacea. “It’s still a small screen; that’s the practical reality,” Shoer says. “Do you really want to work on a screen like that or just do things you need to do when you’re in mobile mode?”

And then there’s your personal life. “The propensity to allow [a phone] to interrupt your personal life is too much; I find myself guilty as well,” Steinhoff admits. “It’s a great tool, but at same time you need to know when to turn it off.”

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