Using Technology for Cutting-Edge Help Desks

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Whitefish Bay Schools in Whitefish Bay, Wis., aims “to provide a solid, basic skills foundation followed by rigorous college preparation” for students in kindergarten through high school.



As such, the district’s technology needs are myriad and varied, and to meet them, teachers and students turn to one person: Bryan Manzeck, network systems manager. Together with a single staff member, Manzeck is in charge of network, phone and computer issues in all five of the district’s buildings.



From single desktops and the storage area network to teachers with mouse problems and principals getting “the blue screen of death,” Manzeck is the go-to guy for these and many other problems.



But in his years at the district, he has seen the advent of improved technology make his job (and his life) much easier.



“When I started here, people use to fill out a piece of paper, submit it via our interoffice mail and give us their technical problems that way, which was just slow and inefficient,” Manzeck said. “The other thing they used to do is stop me in the middle the hallway or call me on my phone — there was no rhyme or reason. I had to lay the law down [with the district] and say, ‘OK, we’re going to get some piece of software, and if you have a technical problem, you need to put in a ticket, then we know people are working on it and what they did.”



The software Manzeck refers too is an Avensoft help desk system to which every user in the district can access through their Web browser.



It’s where problems are reported and then assigned to be fixed. Manzeck said a major plus of this program is its reception wizard function, which allows him to populate the user help page with customized frequently asked questions to send people in the right direction and possibly even help them correct the problem without direct assistance.



Additionally, Manzeck can edit the user help page when needed and post announcements if a networkwide problem occurs.



“Its simple stuff, but if it wasn’t here, and we didn’t have like a little question for it, they’d either send us a ticket or be calling us, and that was the thing we liked about it,” Manzeck said.



On any network, large or small, problems inevitably will happen. This is not news to Manzeck, who has to be ready at a moment’s notice to respond to problems at all five locations.



The technology improvements he’s seen over the years, however, have helped him to deal with a malfunction preemptively instead of it causing panic.



“The other thing I have in my back pocket that I find very valuable is our network management software,” Manzeck said. “It basically sits and watches our network and key pieces of hardware, and if something happens, loses power, it automatically will e-mail us and also call or page us if one of the more critical components goes down.



“So, with any luck, before I even get a phone call that the whole school is having problems, I’m going to get an e-mail from a piece of my equipment saying there’s a problem, and I can head the problem off before people notice.”



The ability to customize help desk software, as well as remotely staying abreast of any situation that might come up with the network, have been the primary ways technology has helped Manzeck’s job.



He said, though, that it’s not about getting fewer problem calls but more about having the flexibility to create more of a self-sustaining overall help desk.



“The big thing for me is to help people help themselves,” Manzeck said. “I’ve got 500 customers internally who need help, and if they’re all calling about the same problem, and there’s anyway I can put that upfront in our software, that’s a plus.”

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