IBM Global Services last week rolled out a comprehensive desktop management service with a focus on security for small to midsize businesses that need help managing their desktop PCs and printers.The new suite, called IBM Desktop Management Services, starts at $40 per seat, per month.The services are delivered remotely by IBM via the Internet through servers loaded with desktop management software that IBM places at client sites.The suite will enhance and reduce the cost of companies' desktop management, while freeing up IT staffers to do more sophisticated work, said Dale Moegling, manager of International Desktop Services at IBM Global Services, during a conference call with reporters. "This is intended to be complementary to the work of in-house IT folks."The services eliminate the need to use desktop management tools, such as LANDesk's management suite or PowerQuest's DeployCenter, he said.According to Moegling, the Desktop Management Services will keep any Microsoft Windows XP or 2000 desktop up to date on software patches and anti-virus signature updates, which would be provided by Symantec. If a virus outbreak has erupted on a customer's desktops, IBM says it will isolate the virus, clean up the hard drive and re-image it. Other desktop operating systems, such as those based on Linux, aren't supported, he said.IBM also will have in place as part of the service a virtual help desk via a Web portal that will contain information on gaining support in a multi-vendor environment. In addition, IBM will provide an anti-spam and anti-virus gateway filtering service through third-party vendors the company declined to identify.For the monthly charge, IBM delivers a suite of services that includes:\u2022 The IBM servers, which are remotely managed by the company over the Internet and that have the necessary desktop management software.\u2022 Automated backup of end users' desktop PCs, so that in the event of a hard-disk failure, the PCs can be reconstituted remotely by IBM without intervention from a client's IT staff.\u2022 Updating of virus definitions, sometimes before the definitions become generally available, and virus scanning.\u2022 Remote desktop monitoring, including automatic software distribution and updates."This suite of services is interesting because it is fairly comprehensive and addresses buckets of different areas that are of concern to SMBs," says John Madden, a Summit Strategies analyst. The suite shows that IBM effectively adapted services and methods it has provided to large companies and repackaged them for SMBs in a way that is affordable and simpler, he says.IBM's initiative is another indication of the rising importance of SMBs for large IT services providers, which see a growth area in this market segment, Madden says. Other IBM IT services competitors focusing on SMBs include Electronic Data Systems, Dell and HP.Perez is a correspondent with the IDG News Service's Latin America bureau.