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BlackBerry troubleshooting a breeze for retail chain

BlackBerry troubleshooting and management are no longer challenges for a chain of retail stores.

Troubleshooting BlackBerry issues when you have a fleet of hundreds of devices deployed can be a daunting task. Gilbert Villaroman, senior network administrator for Ross Stores, knows that.

At last count, Ross Stores, a California-based national discount retail chain, had roughly 350 BlackBerrys deployed in the field, according to Villaroman. But he is quick to note that the number changes rapidly.

"It's constantly growing on a tremendous level," he said.

And as the number of BlackBerrys grows, the difficulty of supporting and troubleshooting them and making sure configurations are on point presents several challenges.

"With a large number of BlackBerry devices, we are always looking for ways to automate the day-to-day management of our BlackBerry infrastructure," Villaroman said.

Over the past few months, Villaroman and Ross Stores have been using tools from Zenprise Inc. for troubleshooting. Zenprise makes tools that offer automated troubleshooting of operational issues across BlackBerry enterprise deployments, according to a company representative. Using correlation, causation and correction technology, Zenprise troubleshoots and provides fixes for BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) email and application problems, allowing companies to manage the growth of BlackBerry deployments and service levels.

In a recent report, the Radicati Group projected that the number of wireless email users would grow from 12 million in 2006 to 199 million by 2010. That rapid growth of users puts enterprises in a tough position, requiring them not only to increase the number of devices and services while keeping a tight rein on budgets, but also forcing them to cost-effectively plan infrastructure requirements for capacity upgrades in order to maintain high service levels.

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"Use of mobile devices, such as BlackBerry, has increased throughout the enterprise," said Jayaram Bhat, Zenprise CEO. "Organizations face increased pressure around support costs, capacity planning and high service level expectations as the number of users with BlackBerry access expands."

Villaroman agreed, noting that for Ross Stores, "One of our biggest challenges is having the in-house expertise to troubleshoot the devices and the servers."

Provisioning devices and configuring replacement or new devices often also presents challenges, he said, and it can be time-consuming to determine whether BlackBerry-related issues are on the device or the back end.

"Other members of the team have to be able to tackle other issues and projects instead of having to troubleshoot an issue," Villaroman said.

Zenprise 3.0 for BlackBerry has several features to ease and automate troubleshooting to locate problems better and faster. According to Zenprise, it features:

  • Automated troubleshooting to proactively troubleshoot problems across the BlackBerry environment.
  • Visual capacity planning maps that show IT application, mail and use trends while also providing service performance profiles and helping companies to plan their BlackBerry deployments and manage growth.
  • Predictive analysis that forecasts impending service interruptions before users call in with problems.
  • Prescriptive fixes that automatically generate a prescriptive step-by-step action plan to resolve BlackBerry problems.
  • Embedded expertise, which detects nearly 5,000 problems and provides resolutions to detected problems.

Villaroman said using event logs to detect problems and determine how to rectify them helps him quickly rid the BlackBerry environment of problems, while also helping him and his team determine where issues are within the network. That, he said, can alert his team to any potential misconfiguration before it causes trouble.

"We can fix the problem before it gets worse," he said. "That's really critical. We can find where the problem is and fix it simply."

Now, Villaroman said, he isn't concerned about handling the rapid growth of Ross Stores' BlackBerry deployment. Deploying and managing new devices won't be as difficult, time-consuming or headache-inducing. At the same time, automated management and troubleshooting arm his team with the ability to sniff out and solve problems before communication disruptions occur.

"It's really just about trying to have the knowledge and technical backup to deal with problems," he said.

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