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I’d had it. Having to remember which of four remote control units I should press when using my home theater system or TV had, simply put, gotten out of control.

It was time to take action, so I motored to the nearest Brookstone and got me a nifty universal remote that not only controls the home theater system and DVD player, but also the TV and the cable box.

The device is essentially a mini-computer with a touch screen whose single purpose is to enhance my TV-viewing comfort.

It lightened my wallet by 80 bucks, plus tax, but at least I could count on many hours of future couch potato bliss minus the aggravation of finding the right remote.

A small thing? Perhaps. But it is symptomatic of the technology-dependent world we live in, and how instead of making your life easier, technology often ends up complicating it.

It’s an issue that plagues companies large and small. I’ve seen too many quarterly earnings reports with write-offs for implementations gone bad to dismiss this as an unfortunate but tolerable side effect of automation.

It shouldn’t be, and the fact that we’ve come to accept IT problems as a fact of life offers an unflattering reminder of this industry’s maturity level.

The acceptance–indeed, the expectation–that computer problems will happen hinders the adoption of new technology.

For instance, a lack of trust in voice over IP is preventing many small businesses from embracing a technology that would certainly cut down on their phone bills.

And while respondents in a survey last fall specifically pointed to security concerns as the main reason for apprehension, the overarching issue is reliability. Or lack thereof.

To read more about SMBs’ security concerns, click here.

It is, therefore, no wonder that customers are demanding more thorough demonstrations and proofs of concept for technology that is pitched to them.

F5 Networks and Access Distribution are tackling this by making it easier for VARs to give customers technology tryouts.

VARs can either lease F5 Networks equipment from Access Distribution for tryouts or, if they are not ready to make that investment, they can apply for loaner units from the distributor to install at customer sites for 45-day trials.

The test-drive concept is brilliant in its simplicity. After all, what better way is there to decide whether to buy a car than to drive it first?

And for those of you who know what F5 Networks does, it won’t be lost on you that the company’s technology addresses the issue of network reliability.

Much like the universal control remote unit that improves the couch potato’s quality of life, F5 Networks’ network traffic-management tools are a tonic for the stressed-out network administrator.

Because it is the administrator who becomes the prime target of finger-pointing when applications don’t work as they should and network performance degrades.

Fortunately, as the universal remote has come to rescue the ideal of keeping movement and decision-making to a bare minimum when watching TV, so has technology that addresses network performance come to rescue the administrator’s nervous system.

In addition to F5 Networks’ load-balancing tools, VARs these days also have the option of selling and servicing diagnostic tools such as Network Physics’ NetSensory boxes, which collect real-time and historical data about network performance to help speed application response time and pinpoint security issues.

Network Physics just launched a version of its technology aimed at midmarket companies and priced at $10,000.

The vendor is counting on the channel to get the boxes into a market that previously had minimal or no access to a technology that was too pricey and complex to manage.

As tools aimed at improving network and application performance become more accessible, the perception that IT problems are as unavoidable as winter colds should start to change.

The recent moves by F5 Networks and Network Physics put VARs, integrators and service providers in a position to play the hero to customers grappling with moody IT networks.

By improving network reliability, these tools also will boost user confidence in them.

Of course, they are not the end-all, and if that blue Brookstone touch screen weren’t beckoning to me right now, I would share some more thoughts about this. But that will have to wait.

Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for The Channel Insider. He covered the channel from 1996 to 2001, took a break, and now he’s back. He can be reached at