Feeds

You did what? The trials of supporting remote users

It's a dirty job, but...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Reg Reader Workshop IT support, as we know, is that job function in the technical ecosystem that takes the flack for any problem affecting a user. These can range from the straightforward if annoying forgotten password requests and slightly cryptic ‘my-laptop-isn't-working-anymore’ complaints, through to the more serious ‘accidentally deleted’ mission-critical spreadsheet containing the lottery syndicate's surefire numbers for the week's rollover jackpot.

Often in parallel, the help desk also has to field the endless calls arising from slightly more perturbing problems such as the 'service interruption' following an issue deeper in the IT infrastructure. And in most cases, an end user's admission that the problem stems from some action they have taken is about as rare as the thanks given to IT support staff.

Of course, back in the day at least the help desk would be situated in the same building, or the same campus as the user with the problem. With mobile technologies enabling the continued increase in remote working however, the help desk increasingly needs to investigate problems with users who probably will not be in an office. In some situations it may be days before a laptop can be dropped in for a physical look, if indeed this can happen at all. Given the nature of many support calls, those trying to support remote workers can find things challenging, particularly if they do not have remote control or management tools to hand.

The consequences, naturally, can be the cause of some amusement. At one point in time I was an IT manager, and during the course of a typically long day I was with a member of my team when he took a call from a manager working at a remote site: in effect he could not connect to any of the business systems he needed. My team member worked through a near-perfect call resolution process to diagnose, and indeed try to fix the problem the user was experiencing. After resetting various passwords, checking permissions on authentication systems and back end applications, looking at the network kit to see if anything was out of place and even asking the “customer” to inspect a few items on the laptop being used, normal service had still to be resumed.

What could be wrong? We were mildly concerned. After another ten minutes of fruitless efforts on our side and that of the user we were flummoxed. At this stage we were about to initiate a physical recall and replacement of the manager’s laptop. But when we asked him to take a few notes of addresses, courier schedules and such, we discovered the user had left his glasses at home and could not, in fact, see anything he was typing onto the keyboard. Problem identified and solved. Frustration immediately replaced on our side by huge guffaws, and I had a story I have been telling ever since.

Can you beat this? I hereby challenge readers to nominate their funniest mobile user support experience; if the powers that be at Vulture Central like your anecdotes, preferably factual, they might even turn it into a little competition with a giveaway.

But this does raise a serious matter when it comes to supporting remote machines and their sometimes ham-fisted users. If the above call had been handled poorly there is no question but the reputation of the IT department would have suffered. Catalysed by remote users, the traditional role of the IT support desk – to act as the primary contact point both when things go wrong with users’ systems and for new service requests – has evolved into being the interface, and indeed the public face of the IT organization as a whole.

As a result, the responsiveness of what we call ‘IT Support’ is now so intertwined in the mind of remote users that it has become the measurement by which IT service quality is measured, at least subconsciously. The question is, should it be?

Does the help desk really want to become a combination of the public face, the communication channel, the marketing machine and the very service delivery of business services. In the case of mobile workers who may have limited daily contact and exposure to the organisation itself, there may be little choice: wanted or not, it is compelling to consider that IT Support must cease to be the reporting point for problems and advice and become the very conduit of business service, even for the communication of the overall culture of the whole organisation.

Done well, IT support can begin to demonstrate the value IT delivers to the business, and can position itself as a very visible means for the business to better exploit IT.

Or is this a step too far for hard-pressed support staff? What do you think?

Complete our desktops study and let us know

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Leaked pics show EMBIGGENED iPhone 6 screen
Fat-fingered fanbois rejoice over Chinternet snaps
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Rounded corners? Pah! Amazon's '3D phone has eye-tracking tech'
Now THAT'S what we call a proper new feature
Leaked photos may indicate slimmer next-generation iPad
Will iPad Air evolve into iPad Helium?
Feast your PUNY eyes on highest resolution phone display EVER
Too much pixel dust for your strained eyeballs to handle
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
US mobile firms cave on kill switch, agree to install anti-theft code
Slow and kludgy rollout will protect corporate profits
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.