Magazine article University Business

Tech Repair Centers: Seven Essential Parts: Operational Requirements for a Well-Run Campus Computer Repair Center

Magazine article University Business

Tech Repair Centers: Seven Essential Parts: Operational Requirements for a Well-Run Campus Computer Repair Center

Article excerpt

Part of keeping a campus computer repair center running smoothly is staying aware of what problems are likely to disrupt its smoothly running operations.

For instance, a Saturday in the fall at major universities can bring a large influx of machines needing repair "When Florida State is doing well in football, we tend to have more machines come in that have had beer spilled on them," says Alison Kearley, a student worker in the institution's Computer Repair Center. She's not joking.

Many universities will service a variety of computers and devices, both student- and university-owned, in an on-campus repair center. Employee-owned devices are typically not serviced. Lenovo, Apple, Dell and many other manufacturers will provide online training so university technicians can perform repairs on machines under warranty.

Certain best practices have been defined by leaders of highly successful centers; here are seven elements for operating an efficient campus repair center.

1. Streamlined diagnostics through electronic ticketing

When a repair center is getting more machines than it has technicians, organization is a must. At Seton Hall University in New Jersey, 10 or more computers are coming in daily to be handled by a technology support staff of eight. "We have a process we follow with each machine," says Paul Fisher, associate CIO and director of the Technology, Learning and Teaching Center. "If the issue is software related, such as email not working, out student technology assistants run a virus scan."

A third-party USB key is used to scan for malware and spyware. If no viruses are discovered, student workers run through a checklist in ServiceNow, an entetprise electronic ticketing system. "They check off whether or not firewall is on, whether the antivirus is on, etc.," Fisher says. If it's not a simple softwate fix and the machine needs to be checked in, the background information is there for the technician.

Every time a technician works on a machine, he or she records the work completed, and the subsequent results, in the ServiceNow ticket. Tickets are assigned priority so technicians can address their time appropriately. The tickets are a record of best practices, as every step of diagnosing and troubleshooting is recorded.

At Ball State University in Indiana, a ticketing system developed in-house details the expected delivery of manufacturers' parts and the progress of repairs. "Faculty also can submit a ticket of request for assistance," says Ben Armstrong, senior hardware technician. At the beginning of the day, the technicians check the system for these requests to figure out how to structure their time.

Technicians then examine the damaged machine, determine what parts are needed and quote the department the cost of the parts.

2. Fair pricing structures

For repair centers not intending to make a profit, low labor charges and at-cost parts are best. "We charge $30 an hour for labor when the device is outside of warranty or the damage is directly due to user abuse," says Dan Lutz, Ball State's associate vice president for IT.

The same approach is taken at Seton Hall. "If the screen is coming off a laptop and it looks like a defect, we do not charge for labor," says Fisher. "If a student left his machine on the top of his car and ran it over, we will charge for labor at $ 15 an hour with a $ 125 cap." Parts are always at cost. The $45 diagnostic fee is refunded if the machine failure is determined to be covered under warranty.

The team at the University of Alaska, Anchorage looks at local competitors such as independent repair stores and chains like Best Buy when establishing rates. "We always come in considerably lower because we are not looking to make money," says Diane Byrne,

service center director. "Our rates are set yearly by the total cost of operation divided by worked hours. …

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