Providing Tech Support to Off-Site Locations

Technical support is, to some degree, necessary at nearly every business location in every industry. While some sectors will naturally need less IT support than others, the ubiquity of technology has made good support infrastructure a necessity. This is particularly true for “off-site” locations that may not have a dedicated service desk. These locations may even need more support than those found “in-house,” and having a working solution to keep them running smoothly is a required piece of the technology puzzle.

It's not always feasible to provide a full-staffed mobile support solution to smaller branches within a business. Temporary locations or sites with limited space need access to an online service desk to help with common technology problems. A service desk solution like this can provide a range of support including remote access and a self-service portal.

While this can be an effective solution for many businesses, there are a number of concerns when it comes to using an online service portal, not the least of which is security. Granting access to the service desk through the internet gives an easy way to communicate with IT support staff, but also opens up potential threats that need to be addressed before implementing an online service portal.

Remote desktop requires a secure connection

Remote desktop is often going to be the go-to solution for most tech problems that come up in off-site locations. Being able to have ready access to the end-users computer allows techs to quickly resolve more complex issues that can't be easily explained over the phone, through chat, or via a ticket.

This gives much finer control over the client system and ensures that any technical operations go smoothly. Being able to perform most software-based repairs through remote desktop enables real-time support even at a distance. Connecting through remote desktop allows technicians to fix everything from common software bugs to registry errors all from a central location without needing to be moved on-site to the client.

The convenience of remote desktop comes with a pretty hefty security trade-off, however, and remote desktop that's set up to be used outside of local intranet needs to be properly secured. There's a variety of remote desktop protocols and software available for use, and each one will have its own take on security. Understanding how your chosen method of remote desktop access connects to clients on a public internet connection is a key part of establishing a secure environment. Remote desktop applications can run into all sorts of problems, so having a working knowledge of how they function is needed to keep them secure.

One of the best ways to do this is to route all remote desktop related traffic through a VPN connection between the end-user client and the service network. This adds an extra layer of security by encrypting all communication to and from the client. Care should still be taken to implement secure logins and passwords, and remote desktops with public-facing internet should always be used sparingly regardless of implementation.

Self-service portals are a safe and effective way for extended support

One of the more universal service desk applications, self-service portals are a safe and somewhat reliable way to provide off-site support. It's not going to be an all-encompassing solution, but it does give a solid foundation for end-users to work with an attempt to troubleshoot their own issues. A well-maintained self-service portal can be combined with support staff to effectively cover a huge range of common issues in a secure manner.

The self-service portal can provide detailed information and resolutions to a number of frequently seen issues that arise within a company. It's critical that the self-service portal stays up-to-date with easy to follow guidelines on how to deal with each problem. Having one or two personnel dedicated to maintaining and updating this database will go a long way towards ensuring the information contained within is both accurate and helpful. Regular surveys for users of the portal can provide additional insight as to how effective the portal is and what, if any, changes should be made.

It's important to remember that, while a great self-service knowledge base is a powerful tool, a poorly maintained one can create even more issues than it solves. If most of the articles are confusing, inaccurate, or difficult to find, users will be left with more questions than answers, causing additional headaches for support staff. If a self-service portal seems like an effective solution, resources need to be allocated to ensure it has the tools to meet its goals consistently.

Mobile personnel should be used where it makes sense to do so

Eventually, something will happen that requires an on-site service to correct. This isn't an “if;” it's a guaranteed scenario. All the tools used to help facilitate off-site service are merely in place to reduce the likelihood of needing to send out a tech to come to fix a problem; there's going to be precious few businesses that can avoid it entirely.

Having some kind of mobile support staff that can travel to off-site locations is going to be a necessity. If everything is being put to use effectively, these trips should be relatively few in number and only required for serious issues like complete hardware failures. Mobile personnel will need to be factored into any off-site technology usage.

This is especially important for mission-critical locations, where dedicated or on-call support staff are going to be required for smooth operation.

Operating on a service desk platform that fits the business

Having the right tools for the job is just as important as knowing how to use them, and making use of an online service desk application can remove a lot of the headaches involved with off-site support. Being able to manage and respond to tickets, maintain a self-service portal, and have integrated remote desktop support will make a huge difference in both deployment time and ticket turnaround.

There's a huge number of platforms currently available, and many of them already have a public-facing service portal implementation. Developers are already taking advantage of the cloud to provide SaaS versions of their software, effectively allowing for the rapid rollout of client applications without the need for lengthy setup or configuration. This kind of deployment is perfect for off-site locations that need to get up and running quickly.

Finding the right software will have a huge impact on how effectively support staff can deliver assistance to off-site locations.

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