NOVELL has expanded its authorised service Centre programme to Hong Kong by setting up five centres in Hong Kong, it was announced last week. The NASC programme, which started in the United States two years ago, was introduced in the Asia-Pacific region last November. According to Andrew Sylvester, Novell's technical services program manager for Asia Pacific, the NASC programme is designed to respond to changes in the market by providing a new front-line support programme. While not designed to compete with the existing Platinum sales channel, the NASC programme should help customers identify quality sources of service and support. 'The difference is that the end user customer can now identify more clearly those service providers that have a high level of capability,' Mr Sylvester said. Sales channels, third parties, original equipment manufacturers, distributors and other sources can qualify as an NASC by meeting a set of criteria laid down by Novell for the programme. These include having three certified Novell engineers, at least one of whom is an 'enterprise certified Novell engineer', maintaining a help desk or hotline, providing on-site support, maintaining a support lab and ensuring a two-hour phone response time. According to Mr Sylvester, each certified NASC site must maintain a strict set of standards to retain its membership in the programme. Novell uses a combination of tools, including customer satisfaction surveys and site audits, to verify performance of NASC sites. In addition to ensuring a guaranteed level of quality support to customers, the NASC also provides benefits to the NASC organisation itself, according to Mr Sylvester. 'Each NASC receives the latest updates, fixes and software patches directly from Novell,' he said. 'We provide access to private forums and databases on CompuServe that ensure every NASC has access to the latest product and support information. In addition, we also provide advanced technical support tools and training on a regular basis.' Initially, Novell has certified Jardine MicroTech Distribution, Asian Electronics, System-Pro, Expert Systems, and Hewlett-Packard in Hong Kong. Mr Sylvester said there were no immediate plans for further expansion in the short term. 'At this time we are not expecting any more. It is very important that we maintain a high level of quality expertise.' Still, according to Andrew Lai, Novell's regional director in Hong Kong, the NASC programme should provide Hong Kong's users with an improved after-sales support.