Topic: Help Desk
|Date:||October 19, 2004|
|Moderator:||Ethan Benatan, Director of Computer User Services, Reed College|
|Facilitator:||Hana Levay, Secretary, NWACC and Reed College CIS
|4.45||Value of Peer Networking|
|4.55||Food, location, and other logistics|
|4.60||Interest in attending future workshops|
Topics of discussion ranged widely, from policies and management to tools and technology. The workshop included detailed discussions about:
- Patch management: Technologies and experiences for managing patches on end-user machines were discussed, especially Microsoft OS patches, with and without Active Directory. Tools mentioned included SUS, Kickstart, AVG, and others. SUS is the most widely used tool and users are generally satisfied with its performance, indicating that it is easy to administer if there are no local decisions made about which patches to roll out.
- Classroom support technologies and practices: The group generally agreed that real-time support for in-classroom use of technology has become a critical service, and that it is hard to do. Even schools with well-developed structures for rapid response report that many computer problems cannot be fixed fast enough to allow classes to proceed without significant impact. Preventative maintenance and responsiveness are valuable. Users like consistent, simple interfaces.
- Remote support: A number of members of the group use technologies to view and control client machines, as well as for file manipulation. Those who use them report that they are valuable, but that sensitivity is required to user's privacy concerns. Users tend to appreciate the technology once they see it help them. Technologies used include Windows Remote Assistant, Apple Remote Desktop, VNC, PC Anywhere, and several others.
- Tracking systems: Most NWACC Help Desks use tracking systems, though few workshop attendees were extremely pleased with their systems. Members of the group use a wide range of systems from home-grown packages to expensive commercial systems such as Remedy. Chris Sinnett of Oregon State University provided a demonstration of OSU Help Desk, an open-source application that they recently developed based on Bugzilla. It is available from http://helpdesk.tss.oregonstate.edu/. The group also discussed practices in the use of tracking systems, such as which calls are logged and how tickets are handled.
- Support for student computers: A lively discussion took place about supporting student-owned Windows computers. The wide range of hardware and software makes this difficult for schools without laptop mandates (most schools in the group); viruses and spyware make it difficult for everyone. There was also a great deal of discussion about protecting the network from infected student machines. The best practices seem to involve preemptive protection using tools such as Perfigo SmartEnforcer and/or network scanning with tools such as Nessus.
- Managing labs and imaging: Most schools use sophisticated tools for these tasks. Troy Juntunen of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory offered to share the National Lab's Ghost Cookbook, a 30-page document describing a polished method for building and maintaining Ghost images that will work on multiple different hardware systems. (Troy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Hiring, training, management, and collaboration: Topics of Help Desk operations surfaced throughout the day, including knowledge management, staffing, and training. Many useful tips for interviewing were exchanged. The group also discussed the integration of the Help Desk into the IT organization including the importance of the Help Desk in change management and internal communications.
The original page for this workshop can be found here.