IBM offers fixed-cost BlackBerry support for enterprises

For less than $18 per user per month, the managed service includes secondary end-user support, integration with corporate back-end systems, and monitoring services

IBM wants to manage BlackBerry devices for enterprises and will now do so for a fixed cost.

IBM has been offering BlackBerry management services for businesses, but there was no standard cost model, said Dan Papes, vice president of IBM Mobile Enterprise Services.

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Now, an enterprise can pay a fixed fee per user per month and IBM will manage the BlackBerry service, including secondary end-user support, integration with corporate back-end systems, and monitoring services.

Depending on the services delivered, enterprises will pay $15 to $18 per user per month, Papes said.

Enterprises want that kind of predictable cost structure, he said. Some large enterprises IBM works with don't know what it costs them to support BlackBerry devices. "They look at deploying another 5,000 BlackBerrys to their field force and they're not sure what it costs them. We can tell them what it will cost," Papes said.

He estimates that paying IBM to manage the service typically will reduce the total cost of ownership of the service by 15 to 30 percent.

IBM will proactively monitor the BlackBerry Enterprise Server for customers, using a combination of tools that it has built in-house plus those it has bought from third-party providers. In some cases, IBM can resolve a problem before it occurs, he said.

Depending on the deal with an enterprise, IBM may also configure the devices for end-users, loading software and IT policies onto them, Papes said.

IBM also offers customer service for end-users. A user will first call corporate IT support and if the problem is not easily resolved there, IBM will handle the issue.

An enterprise can decide to house the BlackBerry Enterprise Server on premise or ask IBM to host it.

The offering makes sense for businesses that have 300 or more BlackBerry users, Papes said.

IBM is well-positioned to deliver such management services after a long and close relationship with BlackBerry maker Research in Motion but also because IBM has internal experience with the phones, he said. "We have approximately 25,000 BlackBerrys deployed inside IBM today," Papes said. Those users are spread across 15 countries. IBM pilots some of the tools that it uses to deliver the support services internally before using them with customers, he said.

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