University opts for larger desktop support system

William Schertz

Computer staff combines to be more efficient

Kent State’s Information Services department is in the process of improving the university’s desktop support system.

Dubbed the Desktop Federated Service Model, the university’s new plan for desktop support will make fixing departmental computer problems less problematic, said Greg Seibert, director of Network Services.

“There’s a whole effort underway right now,” he said. “We’re taking desktop support people throughout the institution and putting them into one big group.”

Seibert said university officials have been discussing the system for the past three years, but they finally put it into effect this summer when they set it up in the Michael Schwartz Center to test its effectiveness.

“That’s where a lot of the administrative offices are in the institution,” he said. “That was just a natural place to use as a pilot because everyone was already on board early and ready to go.”

In the old support model, most departments on campus had their own desktop support technicians, and some of them had none at all. Under the new system, desktop support will be divided into various “zones” on campus, distributing tech support people evenly and by geographical location.

“Now we are guaranteeing the same level of service to people in different departments,” Seibert said.

Rather than having to report to the department when a computer problem arises, everyone will be able to handle problems through the university Helpdesk.

While university desktop support workers will be assigned to various zones, they will be able to work in other areas if the need arises.

“If everyone is cross-trained, it’s more helpful,” said Alice Iden, director of Shared Services.

Under the new system, the university will be installing a program called Altiris on several university computers.

“Altiris is a client server-based program that resides on a server and keeps an inventory of a computer’s history,” said Michelle Craig, manager of Information Support Services.

The system can track problems on computers it’s installed on, keep a record of those problems, report on the state of a computer and determine how much memory the computer has.

“We can quickly use Altiris to let us know which computers don’t have updates and then download them,” Seibert said.

Craig said that one of the biggest advantages of using Altiris is that it can allow desktop support technicians to fix minor problems on one computer without leaving their office.

“It allows the user to invite a remote connection so the technician can fix whatever problem they have,” she said.

Craig said that Altiris will monitor what the technician does to the computer during the remote connection by recording keystrokes.

Craig said this will not be used to monitor employee use of computers, but rather to check what was done to the computer to fix it if anything else goes wrong with it.

“It’s not going to be used to spy on anybody,” she said. “The user has to invite the technician. The purpose of that is to show if any problems arise after the fact.”

Seibert said so far the new system has been a success, and the department will be starting the new support model in other departments as the year progresses.

Contact technology reporter William Schertz at [email protected].