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Product review: SYMON's NB-24x200 NetBrite Display

Looking for a great tool for your help desk or tech support center? Bill Detwiler reviews SYMON's NB-24x200 NetBrite Display. But be ready for some sticker shock!


Keeping your call center/help desk employees informed is essential in today’s fast-paced workplace. Most call centers are plagued by predicaments like network outages, telecom problems, application errors, and personnel issues on a daily basis, and technicians need constant updates on issues affecting their clients.

How do you keep your operators in the know about current problems? You may have a large marker board on which valuable information is written or a corkboard with sheets of paper pinned to it, or perhaps you just shout out notices across the room. The SYMON NB-24x200 NetBrite Display provides a better, high-tech alternative to these approaches, in spite of its hefty price tag.

Technical specifications and software
The NB-24x200 board features a 24x200 LED array; its dimensions are 64.2 x 10 x 5.4 inches, and it weighs a little over 32 pounds. The board consists of 4,800 tri-colored LEDs, a network interface card, and a sound card. It is controlled via SYMON Firmware, which is stored on the board, and SYMON2000 software loaded on a server and client PCs. Our unit arrived in December 1999 with SYMON Firmware 1.0 and SYMON2000 5.0.

For the help desk where I work, the SYMON NB-24x200 NetBrite appeared to be a good option. Because it’s over five feet long, with bright, tri-colored LEDs, this board is highly visible and flexible enough to display multiple messages simultaneously. The unit can be configured with different zones, each able to display a series of messages. I decided on three zones, each eight LEDs high and spanning the board’s entire length. With this arrangement and the system’s five-point font, I can easily display 40 characters across the board (including spaces).

SYMON software
The SYMON2000 software package consists of several parts—the most essential ones are SYMON2000 Server, SYMON2000 Administrator, and SYMON Says. SYMON2000 Server runs on a Windows NT server and manages communications between the software clients and output devices. SYMON2000 Administrator can be installed on either a Windows 95 or NT workstation and provides configuration functions for maintaining the display. SYMON Says is the client component that lets you create, send, and manage messages. The software is easy to install and use, with an approximate one-hour learning curve. Everything is menu driven and should be intuitive for most Windows 95/98/NT users.

Installation and setup
The board comes ready to install out of the box and can be mounted in a variety of locations. We hung the board from the ceiling above our work area, but it could be mounted on a wall or anything capable of supporting 33 pounds. The sign connects directly to a standard R45 Ethernet port and 220v power outlet. Once the sign is up and running, SYMON’s Firmware can be installed from any network PC. The NetBrite device is located on the network via its MAC address, and a static IP address is assigned during installation.

The whole process went smoothly. Hanging the board took about one hour, and the software installation/network setup took two. By this time, I was excited and ready to see my name in lights.

Cost
What does all this great technology cost? The NetBrite Display itself will set you back about $5,400, and the software and licensing for one server and two clients costs another $2,800. Throw in a final $1,000 for one year of maintenance, and you get a grand total of approximately $9,200. This makes the NB-24x200 a fairly costly piece of equipment for most businesses.

The bottom line
Does your company need a product like the SYMON NB-24x200 NetBrite Display? It’s highly visible, it’s packed with technology, and it’s easy to install. But is being able to see your messages in lights really worth $9,200?

Our employees like it, I’ll admit. But before the SYMON board, our help desk used (and still uses) a large dry-erase board for displaying important information. When someone needed to announce something, they just yelled out the problem and wrote it on the board. This approach was neither flashy nor sophisticated, but it was practical and didn’t cost as much as four new PCs. For more information on the NB-24x200 and SYMON’s other notification solutions, check out SYMON’s home page.

Bill Detwiler is a technical support services associate for a utility company and recently passed his Networking Essentials exam. His specialties are network administration, tech support, and programming. To comment on this article, please post a comment below or follow this link to write to Bill.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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