Alleviate help desk stress

Meredith B. Derby, Assistant News Editor

In many enterprises, help desk staffs have to put one caller on hold when a new call for help comes in, thus increasing the time it takes to solve each caller's problem. Designed to increase help desk productivity, Altiris' new Helpdesk Solution software enables help desk reps -- even those working offsite -- to identify, prioritize, and deliver answers to users without even speaking to them in person. The web-based tool's close integration with Microsoft's Systems Management Server also gives Windows administrators a way to harness the power of SMS. SearchWindowsManageability spoke to Tyler Smith, vice president of marketing for Lindon, UT-based Altiris, to find out just how Helpdesk Solution can, well, help.

sWM: How does Helpdesk Solution increase productivity for enterprise help desks?

Because the Helpdesk console is all web-based, it's very customizable. For example, you may need an administrator console, as well as help desk personnel and user consoles. Each one of those would look different and would have different permissions to do different types of work. In an SMS infrastructure, you would send out a URL via e-mail that explains where users go to get the console and to submit trouble tickets. Users can submit their own trouble tickets, and that's going to save time for the help desk personnel.

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They don't have to receive a phone call. They can just open their log and see who submitted a trouble ticket. They can prioritize tickets and essentially do a triage without having to ever talk to anybody on the phone. Users can check status on something they've submitted, and managers can run reports to show where they are in terms of completion and who's behind in terms of their support.

sWM: How do users make their help desk personnel aware of a problem?

If I was a user having a usage question or another problem, I'd just log that in and it woud pop into the database. Depending on how the back-end is administered, it will then be put into somebody's queue as an issue to be resolved.

sWM: Why did Altiris decide to implement Helpdesk Solution within Microsoft SMS?

We started getting requests from customers who liked to be able to integrate their help desk as part of SMS. The initial [March] release of the product was just meant to provide some level of help desk support. It offered the ability to manage trouble tickets, help desk personnel, and service-level agreements from within a structured database or a structured application.

sWM: What other benefits come from an SMS-enabled help desk product?

I can publish a work item data from my SMS inventory tables. As I run reports, I can pull that data right out of my SMS database. I can also do searches and queries based on who's submitting trouble tickets for what types of problems from within SMS. From the help desk, I can now view my SMS machine data from within our Helpdesk console.

sWM: What does the complete Altiris Helpdesk Solution suite do?

With Helpdesk for SMS Suite, you can buy just the Helpdesk component of the suite, or you can buy the entire suite. Helpdesk for SMS Suite comes with the Helpdesk, which is priced at $12.30 per managed object in an approximately 1900-user environment. It also includes such tools as Web Admin for SMS, Web Reports, and Conflict Analysis. Bundled together, they provide a lot of value-add for an SMS administrator, because SMS either doesn't come with any of those tools or is fairly weak in some of those areas.

Web Admin for SMS is a web-based administration console that sits on top of the SMS infrastructure. From any browser I can look at what's in my SMS database, and I can run reports from that as well as do any administration from this console. I can view any work item from within Microsoft Management Console (MMC) or from within Web Admin for SMS console.

With Conflict Analysis, you can set a baseline and then go back and check for things that have changed. It will allow you to provide a report that shows things that have been changed and the potential conflicts that could arise.

searchWM: What products compete with Helpdesk?

Competitors with web-based consoles are Magic Service Desk and Track-it!. Magic is the only primary competitor that is completely web-based. Magic just recently introduced an end user console. Prior to that, only workers could access the help desk. Track-it! requires an additional purchase for the end user web console. They do not have a web console for workers.

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