As everyone working in IT support knows, the job would be so easy if it wasn’t for hardware and software problems getting in the way. Oh, and of course the users. Every help desk call has at least one irate and annoying user attached to it. Without users getting on the phone and sending emails complaining about life, the …
Surprised this is still the case.
I currently support retail clients. Ie Joe in the street buys a computer, has a problem with it I sort it out. I haven't set something up to tell when memtest has passed correctly (still needs manual intervention) most of the other tasks are automated. Cloning/Virus Scanning/Editing startup items services, software installation etc. Remote Control etc.
I'm a sole Trader. I would have thought that most corporates these days would simply pickup a box wipe it and replace.
I would have thought that helpdesk these days would be a hand holding service dealing with app operation quirks, the odd bit of office shenanigans, making sure everything is actually turned on, dropped laptops, and hand holding, until you can get a replacement, for those printers with unstable drivers..
Mind you I have trouble getting repeat business.... I seem to catch up with my clients about every 18 months or so.... I need to open a proper shopfront rather than operate out of a home office, sigh.....
Software inventory, included powerful helpdesk features, automatic propagation of hardware inventory based on WMI and SNMP...
Creep with me
Spiceworks is a bit too low-end for me. We've got thousands of desktops to support and we can't have things that like creeping around our network. I'm not allowed to say what we use, but it's pretty good - ties the entire infrastructure reporting to end users and service desk. We can get stats by almost every measure possible.
The problem though is, as you say, users, lack of tools and, more often than not, simple shortfalls in the OS - badly structured management process typically that hinder our ability to deal with issues effectively. We can develop workarounds and more often than not we have. But as desktops creep, problems creep and capabilities creep in the other direction. I'm reasonably hopefuly that Windows 7 will give the whole thing a kick in the rear and advance us a little further. But that's still always a short-term solution. That's the nature of the beast. Hardware or software comes in resolves old problems, creates new ones so unless you multiple management and resolution tools coming in from all kinds of different angles.
Still, it never gets any easier........
Helpdesk personnel are in most cases worse than users. They pass jobs onto 2nd line without even attempting any 1st line support. They are a breed of there own and comparable to pond slime.
At least the users have an excuse. They do not work in IT.
Help me help you help yourself
Like it or not, there will always be informal knowledge sharing between users in a given work area. Some users have encountered a particular error before and help their peers resolve it. Others feel they have (justified or not) enough experience "with computers" to help themselves or others troubleshoot whatever issue they are having. This concept can (and often does) illicit fear in the hearts of many experienced sysadmins.
Trusting users to be able to seek out resources (internal or external) to solve the problems they face is a difficult thing to ask of many IT personnel. Anyone who has come up through the ranks has had to earn their stripes on a help desk somewhere. That help desk experience can be dehumanizing, not only for the help desk staff member, but for the users as well. We, as IT personnel have to bear in mind that the calls we get at the help desk, (at least those we remember years later), are not truly representative of our user base. There are usually simply the worst case. Experience unjaded by cynicism will show that in fact many users really are smart enough to solve basic problems.
As a systems administrator, I am the first to admit that my job simply wouldn’t be doable without access to the internet. From search engines to newsgroups, forums and even El Reg, I spend a large part of my day looking up solutions to the various problems that are brought to my attention. Formalizing the exchange of knowledge that already takes place between users in their "natural habitat", thus providing a knowledge base of common errors (and their solutions) is beneficial to everyone involved. Not only can junior IT staff make use of this while “learning the ropes,” but many of these already-solved issues can be taken care of within the group structure that already exists amongst your users.
Not everyone will take advantage of this resource, but you can rest assured that in a given group of users everyone knows who the one person is that actually will. Properly implemented, it is often true that users will find a great benefit in formalized "knowledge bases," and that they might even have wisdom to contribute. While I would not be open to giving my users the ability to blindly edit (read: delete information put there by IT) a knowledge-base wiki, something where the contributions are vetted for accuracy holds a great deal of promise.
I seriously doubt IT will ever fully be able to rid itself of the need for a helpdesk. We can however increase our interaction with the users in constructive ways, relieving some of the burden of problem solving from the tired and weary IT staff. This leaves more time for planning, preventative maintenance, and of course, El Reg and beer.
Desktop Support (or lack of it)
I firmly believe that in SOME cases the problem lies in the "outsourcing" done in our names. It is all fine and well that knowledgeable persons are used but the fact that in some cases you have to deal with people whose first language is not English this does not ease the situation. Yes, those with whom you speak are undoubtably well trained in their subject. Yes, they are very nice people , love their mothers, kind to stray animals and kiss childrens bumped knees better BUT. An incomplete understanding of the language which they are using and the lack of knowledge of the nuances of expression are counter productive. Just look at the differences between American English and English English, there is a complete study alone. Add to that the problems of dialectical pronounciation and differing usages and you exacerbate the situation enormously. Take this into account when making yous assessment of efficacy. Francis J. P. Offord.
Help Desk Fool?
Our line around my major corporation is that "I'm from the Service Desk- I can't help you, but I can service you". Each location had local help desks but we all got folded into a uber-IT group, with several additional layers of management for leavening. I was a HD tech until I moved into another job, thank god, and I ain't looking back.
The temps they hire at the corporate level to take the calls are tools, with no investment in solving the problems that they should- their call stats might suffer, and management would come down on them like the wrath of god . By the time the second level folks whip them into shape, they're off in some other job or position. The only ones happy with the situation are the managers tasked with endlessly shuffling the deck, because that's what middle management does.
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