Magazine article Technology & Learning

13 Tech Support Strategies: Looking for Ways to Streamline IT? Make Your Own Luck with These Time-Tested Techniques

Magazine article Technology & Learning

13 Tech Support Strategies: Looking for Ways to Streamline IT? Make Your Own Luck with These Time-Tested Techniques

Article excerpt

Providing quality technical support in K-12 environments can be challenging. Unlike the business world, there's generally a less-than-ideal ratio of technical staff to computers, numerous software titles from dozens of vendors, and of course--a much smaller budget. At the Victor Central School District in Victor, New York, we've employed a number of techniques over the past five years to streamline tech support, the best of which we've listed below. Each tip falls under one of three key areas: standardization, centralization, or documentation.

STANDARDIZE

1. Hardware Try to use no more than two computer brands on your campus. Technicians will become familiar with the particulars of those machines, ultimately cutting down the amount of time it takes to troubleshoot problems. Similarly, only deal with vendors who guarantee "component level standards" for machines purchased at the same time. Without this, hundreds of seemingly identical machines may have different optical drives, motherboards, disk drives, and installed memory.

2. Word Processing Five years ago, my district had four different word processing packages with several incompatible versions within each package--a technical nightmare. Standardizing on one version of a single suite reduces support requirements by making it a cinch for users to trade files. It also lets the IT department build a large database of collective knowledge about the software program.

3. Naming Districts and schools increasingly support and maintain their networks remotely. None of this is possible without a standard method to name computers and printers. At Victor, the convention is building/room/number for computers and building/room/number-printer type for printers. If a room contains more than one computer, we tack on a number.

4. Cloning Save time by using disk imaging software, which copies the entire contents of one hard drive and applies it to other machines of the same model so they are all set up the same way. To learn more about imaging Windows XP and Mac OS X computers, visit www.victorschools. org/departments.cfm?subpage=43.

CENTRALIZE

5. Tech Purchases Assign a point person to examine every purchase order for equipment and software before it leaves the district. You might think this is to enforce hardware standards and ensure that all purchased software will run properly, and you would be right. But there's an even more important reason: making certain that the software meets specific educational objectives.

6. Installation Purchasing a site license/ network version means simply loading software once on a server and launching it on every computer in a building. This saves technicians the time-consuming task of having to load software on hundreds of individual computers.

7. Software Storage Load software installers, utilities, printer drivers, and software patches on one computer accessible by technicians from every computer in your district. This allows them to reach across the network and access tools without having to run back to the office and locate the original media. Speaking of which, store original media and manuals in plastic hanging bags, available at library supply stores. Use narrow bookcases and long lengths of stainless steel rod to hang the bags (organized by category and cross-referenced with an inventory database).

8. Security Updates The company that supplies your virus protection software maintains an FTP site for downloading signature file updates. …

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