BoxTone has been an integral part of BlackBerry enterprise environments for many years now. BoxTone provides a clear window and a magnifying glass view of your BlackBerry environment. It graphically represents the data that can be found in your BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) log files and configuration databases as well as providing real-time trending of that information. BoxTone also alerts (via email or SNMP) when problems arise or certain trended values go above a set threshold. Its alerting engines apply intelligent algorithms to the data it sees and helps it alert appropriately.
BoxTone also provides different views of this data in the form of separate console views. A Help Desk console view for example displays only user information relevant to a first line HelpDesk representative while the Messaging Operator's console provides much more information more relevant to the messaging systems and BESs themselves. So far BoxTone has made a real impact on how BES environments are monitored and maintained but now they are releasing BoxTone version 4.0 which promises to up the ante even further.
What is New in BoxTone 4.0?
BoxTone 4.0 has four main new features:
- BoxTone Smart Advisors
- BoxTone "1-Click Fix-It"
- Enhanced BoxTone Smart Alerts
- Improved BoxTone Expense Management
Let's briefly look at each one to see what benefit it brings to the enterprise.
BoxTone Smart Advisors
Smart Advisors are pieces of advice that BoxTone gives you based on what it is seeing in your environment. This advice is specific to a particular issue it is seeing and contains advice on how to rectify it.
Here is an example of orphaned items. Notice how BoxTone shows the items that are orphaned and then goes on to give information about why this can affect performance and lastly provides advice on how to rectify it.
Another example would be some advice on load balancing.
BoxTone "1-Click Fix-It"
BoxTone now provides a way to fix a problem with 1 click. For example if a user calls in to the HelpDesk and complains that their activation has failed, the Help Desk representative can bring up the information about that user and see what may be causing it.
In this example BoxTone indicates that the activation failed because the user used the incorrect password. BoxTone goes further by allowing the Help Desk representative to set a new activation password by just clicking the link provided. This is a huge time saver and helps make the Help Desk more efficient by clearing calls faster.
While we are looking at this console I wanted to draw your attention to the graph in the top right corner. I personally find that this is the single most useful graph as it provides a visual indication on how an email is flowing between Mail server, BES, and BlackBerry.
By glancing at this graph a Help Desk representative can determine where an email delivery problem is occurring. This is a real-time graph that plots time from right to left. So when an email arrives in a user's mailbox, a point is plotted on the top line. When that particular email is discovered by the BES and picked up, a point is plotted on the middle line. The point on the top line and the one on the middle line are joined by a line. Then when that particular email has been confirmed to be on the BlackBerry, a final point is plotted on the bottom line and the middle and bottom points are connected with a line.
So for example, if you see straight lines from top to bottom, email is flowing from mail server to device almost instantly. This is a healthy environment. If you see slanted lines, this means that there is a delay between those 2 components. The greater the slant, the longer the delay. A Help Desk representative can quickly determine if they must troubleshoot a device issue, or escalate the ticket to another team if they see delays between mail server and BES.
Enhanced BoxTone Smart Alerts
BoxTone already sends alerts when it detects a trended value exceeding a threshold or if it detects other issue like a messaging agent down, or SRP connection down, etc. The alerts have now been enhanced so that they provide more details and include the steps that should be taken to investigate the problem plus a link that takes them directly to the correct BoxTone console screen.
Improved BoxTone Expense Management
This last feature allows enterprises to have easier tracking and control of department-level mobility support expenses and charge-backs.
This is an example of a report for a particular group of users (department or business unit) that can be generated for management. This report for example shows number of messages sent and received and growth of users.
Little Tweaks to the Interface
I wanted to show how the BoxTone consoles have been tweaked for flexibility and usability. For example, in BoxTone 4.0 you can now group your BESs under geographical areas (like AMEA, APAC, etc.). This allows you to see information about just a particular BES or group of BESs, or rolled up information about the area.
This screen shot shows how the console allows you to group the BESs and filter which are displayed on the left of the screen. The information is then rolled up to show overall trending of the grouped BESs. You can then drill into each geographical area to see the trends of those particular BESs.
I have been using BoxTone for a few years now and seeing how it has been improved in version 4.0 is really impressive. I cannot stress how much BoxTone helps enterprises stay on top of their BES investment by making sense of all of the log data for them and providing it in an easy to read and understand way for all ranges of support personal.
BoxTone 4.0 adds some critical pieces to this and further reduces the cost of owning a BlackBerry environment.
[ Craig Johnston is the author of Professional BlackBerry and is CrackBerry.com's Podcast co-host and resident enterprise guru and all-round BlackBerry expert. If you have an enterprise application or topic that you would like to have addressed by Craig, send him an email at crackberrycraig @ crackberry.com. ]