Until the advent of wireless communication devices, employers and employees generally parted ways at the end of the working day. If an emergency came up requiring the employee's assistance, the employer's only way to contact the employee was using a landline phone to call the employee's home phone. Some employees found it simple to merely ignore the call in order to avoid having to go back to work. Now that phones and email have gone portable using wireless technologies, employers now have the ability to contact their employees anywhere within a wireless network, and these devices have the ability to indicate if the employee might be avoiding contact. Those pesky excuses could become a thing of the past, and the day may come when managers may truly own all of their employees' time!**
Recommend this product?
All you managers looking for a communications solution for your team, have your analysts read the main portion of the text. You can just go ahead and skip down to the Manager Summary section to get the information you really want. I don't need to take up any more of your valuable time with all the minute details.
RIM BlackBerry Pagers
When the very first pagers came on the market, they were merely one-way devices that allowed someone to send a small amount of text, usually a phone number to be called by the recipient, to a single pager. Today's pager is most likely a two-way email tool that is capable of distributing large amounts of information quickly and relatively cheaply to any number of persons all at once, making it ideal for IT departments, emergency response personnel and other groups that require instant notification AND detailed information. RIM (Research in Motion) manufactures some of the most widely popular wireless paging devices in use by businesses today. Their BlackBerrry line of pagers has become one of the standards for on-call workgroups, allowing a group of people to maintain email contact among themselves at all times.
Businesses usually purchase sets of these pagers to be used by specific groups. RIM, in partnership with a wireless provider, supplies the business with the devices and a contracted price plan that the business agrees to pay depending on any number of factors, including usage, number of devices, the network(s) to be used, etc. Each device is assigned to an employee, and each device is given a specific email address that, commonly, is added to the global address book of the company. Typically, addresses of employees who function as a team will be grouped as a distribution list, enabling anyone to send an email to the pagers of all employees in that group at once. Very handy indeed
Installation and Synchronization
My RIM R900M comes packaged with the unit itself, installation software and a cradle adapter that plugs into a serial port on my laptop's docking station. The unit itself is fairly small, rectangular in shape - 3" wide, 2" high, and about an inch deep. It fits nicely in the hand, and has a decent size screen about double the width of those on most cell phones. The screen is not color, but the large display allows several icons to fit on the screen all at once, and the text size can be adjusted for readability. I think the default size of the icons and the text is fine. The unit comes with different alert tones that can be adjusted for volume and repetition, and it also features a silent vibrate alert. The pager has several features and indicators on the screen from left to right on my R900M
Messages, Compose, Saved Messages, Search Messages, Calculator, Address Book, Calendar, Alarm, Profiles, Memo Pad, Tasks, Printer Manager, Options, Turn Wireless Off/On (toggles connection to the wireless network), Turn Power Off
Each of these icons will lead you to detailed screens of varying function and capability. The data sections each show a basic display of common application features like your messages, a calendar, tasks and memos, while the others have easily navigated menus that will guide you through various settings and customizable options.
There is a large time display in the upper left corner, with the time in big bold lettering, and a smaller readout below it showing the date. Near the center is a message icon with a counter that displays when new messages have come in, alerting you visually to their presence and quantity. At upper right is a battery strength indicator, and a network signal strength indicator both indicators use five bars of increasing size from left to right to show the relative amount of power or signal available to the unit. If the strength of either becomes too low for the unit to work, the indicator will change to show the word "LOW".
Installation is fairly simple. You install the software following the instructions in the wizard, and then attach the cradle to a serial port on your computer. When you insert the pager into the cradle, it allows the unit to talk with the email program on your computer, allowing you to send common files back and forth between the pager and your email program. Pulling information from your personal files in the computer's application, the RIM is capable of synchronizing not only the contacts in your personal address book, but it can also synchronize your personal calendar, tasks and memos between the unit and the computer.
The software will install the RIM Desktop Manager application, which is used to configure your pager's settings while in the cradle, customize the details of how and what you wish to synchronize, create and load backup copies of the pager's most recent settings and information, and retrieve updates from the RIM website if needed.
The RIM pager is capable of synchronizing with several of the most popular email applications, including ACT!, Goldmine, GroupWise, Lotus Notes and Organizer, MS Exchange, MS Outlook and Outlook Express, MS Schedule, and Netscape. When you first setup your pager, you choose your application from this list, and Desktop Manager will search for your profile, setting it up in Desktop Manager for you. Installation was very easy using MS Outlook 2003 on my machine.
The Desktop Manager allows you to customize many features of the synchronization process. You can set up custom fields in your computer's application and then map each of them to available slots in the pager's address book template. You can tell the Manager to give priority to either the pager or the computer application when differences are found in a common record, and you can instruct it to alert you for manual intervention in these cases. The cradle can be set so that synchronization occurs automatically when the pager is inserted and the computer is on, or you can leave it so that the process will start only when you do it yourself (I prefer the manual setting).
Synchronization of my personal address books (about 300 contacts right now) takes about a minute at most. The Desktop Manager prompts me to save a backup of the unit once a week, or on the next day that I put the pager in the cradle after a week has expired. If you have the Manager on manual settings, you will need to remember to synchronize on your own why not put a calendar item in both calendars to remind you to do this? Works pretty well for me
Using the RIM R900M
The unit has a QWERTY keyboard that is surprisingly easy to use with just your thumbs if you have any typing skills at all, you'll pick up thumb typing fairly quickly. A CAPs key and a dedicated shift key are used in combination to capitalize letters or insert the numbers and common characters that are shown in the upper corners of each of the alphabet keys. This is where typing gets a little tricky at times, because while you hold the CAP or shift key down, you must continue typing with only one thumb, meaning you have to shift your grip to reach keys opposite your typing thumb. It's not hard, but it's a maneuver you'll need to get used to.
When you send a message, the unit tracks it's progress for you, showing you with simple icons that the network has received the message, sent it, delivered it, and here's the feature the managers really REALLY wanted that the message has been read by a recipient. If you send it to a group, you even get to see who has read the message. This has always been the most anticipated moment in literary history waiting for someone to read what you've written and acknowledge the fact. Here, the pager does the work for you, publishing your message to your chosen audience, telling you exactly who has read your words of wisdom. Instant Feedback = Analyst Nirvana
One of the primary tools on the pager is the scroll button on the upper right of the pager. The scroll button pushes in to power the unit on and off, or to access any of the icons on the main screen. You use the scroll button to cycle across the displayed icons there are more icons than show at one time on the screen. The screen will scroll as you move left or right across the icons. When you reach the one you wish to access, you push the scroll button to enter that specific area. Once inside, you use the scroll button to navigate up and down, and push it to enter the item you highlight. RIM has done a good job of laying out the various icons, menus and records using the scroll button is pretty intuitive. I figured it out in a few moments after I got the pager set up. I've never seen anyone having the use of the pager explained to them most people with basic computer or wireless phone experience will be able to use their pager within a few minutes.
It's not hard to read text on the pager's screen there are two font sizes available, large and small. Large is about the same as reading 10 point font on a typical computer screen, while small is closer to 8 point font. I prefer the large font, but only because I don't like the compression of the text into a smaller number of pixels on the screen - the letters just look weird to me at that size. Of course, the screen is not bright and glaring like a computer screen, so you can bring the pager much closer to your face to read it.
I did have to get a new pager when a battery leaked into the pager's inner casing, though I have no way of knowing if this was due to a defective battery or if it was caused by the pager itself. I don't know what the average lifetime of one of these pagers is, but of the power users I've seen for myself here in the IT department, I'd venture to guess that they last a few years at least. Most users here still have the same one that was given two to three years ago.
My company began distributing the RIM R900M and R950M to just about everyone here in the IT department a few years ago. Most managers within the company also have the devices, thus connecting all of our offices and many sales and service locations into a network of pagers. With the addition of an integrated issues reporting tool, a helpdesk and a 24/7 support team for the network, anyone in my company with a pager can report a problem and have it routed to the appropriate response team within minutes. This has greatly increased our ability to respond to our customer's needs, and to problems within any of our systems hardware, software, buildings, anything.
Within my own group, there is a rotating on-call schedule in which certain managers and employees are expected to keep their pager with them at all times for a set number of days. During this time, if a page goes out to the group, those on-call are the first responders, and they will make the decisions necessary to further route the issue if needed. All of this is done via pager in fact, most communication is done over the paging network until it becomes necessary to hold a conference call for live discussion. The pagers are even used to create the appointment info for the call, adding it to the recipients calendars, and will alert each recipient in advance, according to the alarm time set for the event.
All in all, I've found the RIM R900M very easy to configure and use RIM has created an intuitive interface and logical menu tree that is easy to learn and navigate. Installation is easy, and the Desktop Manager allows you to customize your pager to your own preferences. Typing using the thumb method is fairly simple after a few days practice, and the unit appears to be dependable, despite my own personal experience with a battery leak. RIM pagers are an excellent tool for managing communications within a large workgroup, and have enabled my company to save time and effort when addressing emergency situations. You just need to be sure that your manager doesn't take over your entire life by paging you constantly with stupid questions about things that can be handled in the morning. If you think he's prone to this sort of thing, don't recommend the RIM pager as a solution for the group. Make sure he and those ABOVE him get them that way, he'll learn first hand and won't subject you to the same abuse he's going to get from his directors at three AM on a Sunday morning.
RIM R900M (and others in the RIM pager family)
- Facilitate human-computer strategic infrastructures
- Transform downsizing distributed resources
- Rationalize fiscal outflow in communication budget in order to maximize shareholder bottom line profits
- Send messages to everyone on your team, 24/7.
- See when each team member reads your messages, 24/7.
- Organize your golf days on the included Calendar.
- Track your golf scores in the included Memo feature.
RIM - BlackBerry Pager
Review of the R900M as provided by my employer
*Depending on your company's agreement with RIM and chosen wireless provider, your usage and network connectivity may vary
**For all you employees out there I'm actually one of you. I am not a tyrannical dictator, and I don't have anyone working for me. I'm part of a larger group, and we all have RIM pagers, and we use a rotating on-call schedule to show who needs to answer emergency situations within our 24/7 coverage. I wrote this semi-satirical piece to illustrate some of the real-life advantages and disadvantages in using RIM's pagers it is not a reflection of any delusions of grandeur I secretly harbor, nor is it an accurate portrayal of my manager's methods. I certainly hope that you aren't a slave to a pager, but I do know some people within my company who are. It is my hope that all managers would use the power of the pager responsibly, but I know this is not always the case
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Amount Paid (US$): Company Use