Perish the thought that we at Freeform Towers should try to over-simplify things, but from the whopping 465 of you who responded to this week's Reg survey, it is clear that there is more to 'remote support' than meets the eye. In analysing the responses we agreed with comments from Reg regular Trevor Pott, that "a true 'remote …
A good *free* utility for remote support (morely for internal) would be https://connectnow.acrobat.com. Allows you to remotely control their computer (with they permission) and also you can show your screen to them, transfer files between each other.
From the other side...
...some of the problems are the same:
Support availability: hell desk only working strange times, sometimes referred to as "normal office hours"
Level of IT literacy: the hell desk being barely capable of diagnosis beyond "have you rebooted it?"
Communication: hell desk being barely able to articulate their name
Attitude of hell desk: reticence to fix problem, or do anything remotely useful
Professionalism 1: [outsourced] hell desk signing emails as if they were answering another of their clients (and a competitor of ours...)
Professionalism 2: hell desk closing call just to get stats up, without actually doing anything about the call
Remote Support is one thing when you don't have to look the person in the eye and lie.
Local Support gives you the chance to roam the office building and become a Desk Rabbit (ref: The IT Crowd) when the cute blonde in finance has a problem ;)
Sometimes the users are just not up to thinking for themselves, and the checklist would have to be really long. Assuming they
1) remembered there was a checklist
2) didn't just phone you anyway because they couldn't (be a***ed to) find it
remote user calls about problem with phone (Blackberry yes but still a reliable one). Phone has frozen in use. They've tried pressing all the buttons, plugging it into the charger, and phoning it from another phone to try and spark some response.
But the suggestion that they take the battery out for a bit is greeted with some surprise.
3D pie charts
Could you be persuaded to resist the urge to make pie charts 3D? The point of a pie chart is to show the various fractions clearly. When the pie chart is tipped up and made 3D this can interfere with the observers perception of the ratios.
Okay, so we are agreed then.
Okay, so we are agreed then. Remote support is hard. So much so in fact as to be a whole series of articles, polls and investigations by El Reg and Freeform Dynamics over the last little while.
Official Comenttard Request time:
Don't give up now!
I want polls on what technologies that my fellow Commenttards use to overcome these issues. What works, what doesn't, what a small business can afford. I am not above admitting that my existing solutions could use some polish, and I would love to learn from the experience of others. The Intel dude gave us some VPro propaganda in the one article, and that's fantastic, it's one area to think about. (Especially since I have slowly been converting all of our systems to vPro-based devices over the past year.) There are so many other companies out there with competing solutions, many of which I am sure would love to have a propaganda droid type up an e-mail.
More than that, I’m hoping my fellow commenttards can offer up more examples of “how it is done.” We solved our problem with VDI. (Okay, we have a SINGLE hanger-on to the VPN way of doing things, but only because he’s high-up in the company and so resistant to change it borders on a force of nature.) We went the VDI route because it was cheap and simple, and was such low maintenance for the IT staff. (Honestly there’s no time for mucking about with remote users and VPNs. I’m already working an average of 16 hours a day. I’m dying here.) If others out there have a better, or some BIG GLARING WARNINGS about what to avoid…please, fellow commenttards, pass this along. The meat of what you learn when articles like this come out is to be had in the comments!
I would be deeply disappointed if all the articles so far culminated only in the conclusion “remote support is hard.”
Either way, there have been some excellent comments by fellow commenttards so far in these articles, and thank you very much to all of you. (The Original Steve’s description of his environment sounds enticing enough that I’ve got a sticky on my desk reminding me it’s been a few years since I really checked out what Citrix has to offer, and this might just solve some problems…)
So for my part of the above deal, other than saying “VDI is a good thing, and saves me many problems,” I will contribute my GLARING WARNING: stay away from Microsoft’s ISA Server. (They call it forefront somethingorother now.) I could do a very long rant about the dos and don’t there, (it does have some significant advantages,) but if you try to use it as a VPN gateway to your network, it will kill your dreams.
What about you guys?
Beer, because it's Friday, and it's pub o'clock somewhere in the world.
"what technologies that my fellow Commenttards use to overcome these issues."
The "hang up on yourself" technique works quite well. It'll have to do till we equip all our remote users with XTreme FryMaster DualShock FeedBack Pro keyboards...
reply to From the other side..
sir from the other side of the fence, yes. i hear you. there will no doubt be may reasons and excuses like economic hardship resulting in much cutting back on things like head count and maint/support for core devices etc. which are indeed an unfortunate harsh reality, however..
seems to me that such negative experience with support, is down to is the individual(s) concerned who are providing you this support.. and their skill, patience (or lack of) and attitude. dealing with an experienced support person who cares about people as well as systems can be an absolute pleasure and often quick and effective. sometimes problems are not straightforward and patience on both sides is required whatever the case.
i'm one of these masochistotards (scuse the twisted humour), who provide support. personally i love the challenge and choose this line of work both because i am good at it and i like helping others. to me it's not just a job, and i'm prepared to be flexable. this makes all the difference to the people on the other side of my support fence. i guess that why i've done well.
doing such support is not for the faint hearted, and demands much skill and constant learning new stuff. and a good capacity for learning/understanding new things really fast. seems to me that finding (or being able to afford) such support people is a tall order. it's not so much the skills that are hard to find, but the attitude.
sorry compadres. don't flame me down. i'm just saying it how i see it. and attitude applies on both sides. it's hard to help someone who just wants to cause trouble or vent because they've had a bad day, or maybe they've decided that they don't like you (you'd be amazed how common this is).
PS. nice work el Reg. very interesting article.
..perhaps we need a similar survey for the peeps on the other side (no, not dead.. the fence, silly! hehe). or pehaps i missed it. oh, and YES WWIII on the other side of the line does hamper remote support more frequently than you may have thought...
reply to Trevor Pott
yeah.. we're looking at citrix XenDesktop 4. very interesting indeed and really does address some of today's hassle very well. (no i don't work for them. hehe). seem like the way forward to me at moment...
Some users do not consider remote support to actually be support. You can Telnet, VPN, VNC or whatever but unless you actually stand beside them they do not consider they have actually had any help.
If I remote control and log into a PC, I am logged in. If I talk to you through the telephone, I am talking to you. If I say that your system needs fixed, it means that we need to spend some time with it. Travelling 50 miles to see you will not make a difference. It will still be broken when we get there.
Not The Point
Remote out-source support is done to reduce cost and to allow blame to fall elsewhere when there is a problem with the perceived quality of that support. Providing good support is left up to the support resources. Bit it seems to me that is the way it is anyway. So the moral is if you want good support then you have to be patient with the unintelligible voice at the other end of the phone. In the end that is all you have anymore.
Since I used to test and implement remote access solutions when they were a new and brave thing, I know there will always be limitations. But really, you're always remote from the server anyway.
You bunch of pussies! If you want real support, try working by yourself on supporting domestic clients. No corporate environment, cant just re-image a PC cause they've lost the originals. Every possible toolbar addon that you can think of. HP printers ie 320MB download + .net or the latest logitech wireless keyboard mouse combo, you know the one that requires the 80MB driver download that once installed asks you to "CLICK" continue BEFORE the keyboard or mouse is active, on XP it pops up whenever you change usb ports (Blooming idiots)...
Now try to charge fair rates....
Practical solutions for remote support
I have always found terminology and descriptions to be the major stumbling point in remote support. The last job where I worked I created 2 double-sided laminated A4 sheets that displayed and labelled all the parts of the PC, the Windows Desktop and shows several config screens (Start Menu, Control Panel, Network Config, Internet Explorer Properties, Windows Explorer, some sample Applications) labelling the icons and buttons and the methods of calling them up. Any calls from newbies had them refer to their crib-sheet (or borrow someone elses) and vastly sped up the diagnostic process.
Sometimes the best technical soluitions are non-technical. (and yes I am posting this from work on a Saturday night).
If you can accomplish all of that, you have my respect. I will easily admit that I am completely unwilling, even afraid to enter into such a market. "Unprofitable" would be a good way to start my description, but "sanity depleting" would probably be required in there as well.
At some point, I'd like to actually enjoy my job.
Good on'ya though if you can do it, and I'll raise a pint in your honour.
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