ITS Desktop Computer Support Policy
The document that follows explains in detail the scope of the coverage provided. It includes the following topics:
- Definition of Full Support
- Support Methodology - How support services are delivered
- Request Procedure - How to report problems and get assistance
- Desktop Backup of Personal Data
- Supported Hardware
- Supported Software
- Replacement Cycles
- Special Support
- Power Management Initiatives
Wesleyan University's Desktop Support (DS) Staff is a part of the ITS User Services organization under the direction of the Associate Director of User Services. Its primary mission is the support of faculty and staff desktop computers. Support is also provided for printers, laptops, hand-held computing devices, and peripheral devices such as scanners, zip drives, and modems. The support services described in this document are provided by an experienced staff of Desktop Support Specialists (DSS) who work with faculty and staff members to ensure that their computer equipment is properly maintained and performing reliably.
The basic desktop support policy is to support all computer-related equipment in use by faculty and staff on the Wesleyan campus. However, the enormous variety of this equipment makes it impossible to deliver the same level of service for all devices. All standard desktop computers (PCs and Macs) purchased through the Wesleyan Computer Store and Service Center (WCSSC) and configured by ITS staff receive full support. Full support is also provided for departmental network-connected printers. Every effort is made to respond to all requests for help but the level of support may be limited for some computers and peripherals, depending on their hardware configuration, software configuration, function, age or other factors. The DS group's approach is to take a proactive role and work with the university departments and individual faculty and staff members to make sure that the equipment purchased is supportable and ensure, through proper maintenance, that it continues to function reliably for its expected life span. An important part of this approach is to work with departments to plan for a realistic replacement cycle to eliminate unreliable and obsolete equipment before it becomes a liability.
Scope of Coverage
Full support for computers, printers, and software includes the following:
- Initial installation and setup
- Customization for the user or department
- Upgrades (as needed)
- Diagnosis and correction of reported problems
Requests for hardware upgrades will be evaluated to determine if they are appropriate and recommendations will be made. For example, a request for an upgrade whose cost would exceed the cost of new equipment would be discouraged.
Although it is part of the DSS's job to answer questions and instruct faculty and staff in the proper use of their equipment, extensive training in the use of supported hardware and software is not one of their support functions.
Each DSS is assigned to a specific group of departments. They evaluate, prioritize, and respond to all requests for assistance from faculty and staff in the areas for which they are responsible. The list of departments and their corresponding DSS can be found on the web on the ITS Desktop support page. The following list describes their method of operation:
- Once a request is received, a DSS will respond either by phone, by email, or in person within 24 hours.
- Requests are handled during normal working hours, Monday through Friday.
- Requests will be prioritized according to urgency and number of users affected. Problems affecting an entire department (i.e. the inability to connect to the network or access a departmental printer) will usually take priority over individual problems. Non-operational computers will receive a higher priority than machines which are experiencing non-critical or intermittent problems. Computer viruses are given high priority because of their destructive potential and ability to infect other computers. Requests of approximately the same urgency will be handled on a first-come-first-served basis.
- If the computer will be out of commission for longer than five days, a temporary replacement will be provided.
- When appropriate, the DSS may dispatch a reliable student worker to attend to the problem.
- The DSS will utilize remote control tools when appropriate to provide quick problem resolution (the user's permission is required for remote control access).
- The requestor will be notified via email when the request is considered complete. If the requestor indicates that problems still exist or that additional assistance is needed in this matter, the DSS will continue working on the problem until both parties are satisfied. If new, unrelated problems have occurred, the user should submit a new request.
All requests are logged into the Request Tracking (RT) System, an electronic database and management system used by ITS to track user requests. Each DSS has a Request Tracking queue where requests are stored. Any faculty or staff member who would like assistance can submit a request to their DSS by sending email directly to that DSS's request queue. All Wesleyan departments and their assigned specialists are listed on the ITS Desktop support page. From this page, you can click on the specialist's name to send email directly to the appropriate queue. Should a DSS be off campus, the queues are monitored and other staff members will be assigned to the requests. This will not happen if personal email or voice mail is used to request help. The exceptions are those cases in which the user's computer or email program are not working or for extreme emergencies. In those cases, the DSS should be contacted by phone. If it is an emergency and the DSS is not available, the requester can leave a voice mail message and mark it "urgent". When this is done, the specialist will receive a beeper call to check voice mail immediately.
The University recognizes that its employees may occasionally make personal use of University owned computers and does not wish to prohibit such use altogether. However, the University will not be responsible for the backup and restoration of non-work related data including: music, personal pictures, games and non-Wesleyan owned software. The University may ask for such data/software to be removed if it is hampering the function of the computer and the ability of the employee to perform his/her job function. In the event the employee gets a new computer or hard drive replacement, the University will not be responsible for the restoration of personal data. It is recommended that personal data is stored on external devices such USB/Firewire external drives which are to be purchased with personal funds. The Desktop Support Specialist who is performing the data transfer or configuration will have discretion in identifying personal data. By default, only the local C: drive or the primary Macintosh Hard Drive will be backed up. Users requiring additional volumes or external drives that contain scholarly data to be backed up must specifically request this from their Desktop Support Specialist. Additionally, as a general guideline, files in My Pictures and My Music, including iTunes, will not be included in nightly backups nor will this data be transferred to a new hard drive. Users will assume responsibility for this transfer should it be desired. Please note that music, photographs, and videos used in scholarly work are exempt from this policy amendment.
Full support is provided for desktop computers purchased with Capital funds by the University through the WCSSC and in use at campus locations.
Set-up of New Computers: Full support for new equipment includes pre-configuration of all hardware and software to Wesleyan standards by the WCSSC and on-site set-up by a DSS. The specialist will make certain that the new machine is fully functional and that the user can access any resources (via the campus network or the Internet) that are needed to perform job responsibilities. Before removing the old computer, all data from the old machine will be backed up and the DSS will selectively transfer the needed files the new computer.
Service to Existing Computers: A DSS will respond to all requests for assistance and evaluate the nature of the problem. Most problems can be corrected on site, including simple hardware replacements, software installation, upgrades, or re-configuration. In more complex cases, the specialist may consult with ITS network support or server support staff, or other technical specialists to fully diagnose the problem and determine if the cause is within the computer or caused by external factors. If extensive or specialized hardware repairs are required or a complete re-installation of the computerUs software is necessary, the machine may be brought to the WCSSC for repairs. In such cases, if the computer will be unavailable for more than five days, a temporary replacement will be provided. This will probably not be the same make/model computer and may not have all of the same capabilities, but it will perform the basic functions required for desktop computing (email, Internet access, the standard Wesleyan software configuration).
Obsolete Equipment: As computers age, components begin to fail and it becomes increasingly difficult to find compatible parts for repairs or upgrades. Once they no longer have the ability to run currently supported software it becomes increasingly impractical to invest time and money into their maintenance. For this reason, equipment beyond a certain age should not be used for any critical function or relied upon to perform acceptably. These machines should be retired and taken out of service, but this is often not the case. ITS maintains definitions of the minimum configuration that is still supportable by our desktop support staff. If asked to fix equipment that falls below this level, the DSS will evaluate the problem and, if easily repaired, will do so. If extensive time or cost will be required, it will be recommended that the department replace the unit with one that meets or exceeds the minimum standards. Once a replacement machine has been designated, it will be re-configured to meet the userUs needs.
Each department should have one or more networked Hewlett Packard or Ricoh printers. Full support is provided for these printers. Departmental staff should be familiar with basic printer operation (i.e. how to power the printer down/up, how to clear a paper jam, etc.). The DSS provides the first level of support for problems with these printers. Before calling for help, the individual should check to see if others are able to print successfully to the printer so it can be determined whether the problem lies with the printer or an individual's computer. If the DSS cannot resolve the problem, a repair technician from the WCSSC will perform repairs. If possible, these will be done on-site, otherwise the printer will be brought to the WCSSC. If the problem persists, an outside vendor will be called to make the repairs. If the call is authorized by ITS, there will be no charge to the department for these repairs. However, for some older printers, extensive repairs may not be justified and replacement of the printer will be recommended.
The DSS will attempt to resolve problems with non-networked or special-function printers, but cannot guarantee results. If considering such a purchase, the department should consult with their DSS for recommendations.
Other Hardware Devices
All faculty and staff should consult their DSS before purchasing any special-function equipment such as scanners, modems, CD Burners, DVD Players, etc. The DSS can recommend equipment that will be compatible with the computer and operating system. The equipment should be purchased through the WCSSC to ensure that any problems with the equipment on delivery or during warrantee will be handled expediently. We cannot support equipment purchased independently which turns out to be incompatible with the computer or operating system, or when the software required for its use conflicts with other critical software on the system.
Research and scientific equipment falls into a special category. In light of the enormous range of specialized devices that can fall into this category, the DSS may have no experience with the specific type of equipment and cannot guarantee that it can be made to function properly if problems develop. When purchasing specialized equipment it is important to consult with the DSS to determine the level of support that can be provided. In some cases it will be necessary to arrange for on-site service from the vendor or ensure that the faculty/staff of the department has been trained in its use and support. If the device must connect to any Wesleyan systems or to the campus network, the DSS should always be consulted on compatibility issues.
As with hardware, when the software installed on a computer is out of date, servicing it becomes more difficult and time consuming. Beyond a certain point, technical assistance can no longer be obtained from vendors, compatibility problems arise, and familiarity of the DSS with the software diminishes. For this reason, there are also minimum supportability standards for computer operating systems and commercial software.
DSS support all current versions Microsoft Windows and Mac OSX operating systems. ITS also offers support for Linux/UNIX computers.
Faculty and staff should consult their DSS before installing software on their desktop machines. Since there are a limited number of licenses for some software packages, many applications are 'keyed'. This means that a system in the data center monitors their usage across campus and only the legal number of users can run the software concurrently. If a user consistently cannot use a keyed software package because all licenses are already in use, the DSS should be contacted. The possibility of purchasing additional licenses will be pursued.
In order to comply with software licensing regulations, a DSS will install only legally licensed software, freeware, or shareware.
Wesleyan has negotiated a special software agreement with Microsoft that licenses all Wesleyan faculty, staff, and students for Microsoft Windows Operating systems and Microsoft Office. All software in this category is fully supported, however, users should not attempt to upgrade operating systems themselves and should request assistance from their DSS.
As software companies release newer versions of software, the old versions eventually become obsolete for the following reasons:
- The software vendor no longer offers technical support for problems encountered
- The files or documents created by the software may be in a format no longer recognized by current software, making them un-sharable
- The original disks from which the software was installed may have been lost and can no longer be replaced
- The software will no longer run under current computer operating systems
The DS group does not support software that falls into these categories. If a user or department needs assistance with such software, the DSS will recommend a currently supported software package that will perform the required functions and assist the user in making the transition to the new software.
Wesleyan hardware is on a four-year replacement cycle. Departments should work with their Desktop Support Specialists prior to the outset of the fiscal year to determine replacement for that year.
Additional policies specific to faculty technology acquisition are covered in Equipment Purchase and Replacement for Faculty.
It is important that Professors Emeriti, like all other supported faculty and staff, have computers that meet the ITS minimum supportable standard. This is cited as a special case since many departments do not budget for replacement of the computers for these faculty members and the state of their equipment is often far below that of the rest of the campus. While it is not necessary that they have new equipment, the department must provide these professors with a computer that meets these minimum standards in order to benefit from desktop support.
When a service request is received, the DSS will make a brief diagnostic visit. If the problem can be quickly and easily resolved, the specialist will do so. If the equipment does not meet the minimum standards and more extensive work or hardware repairs are required but not justifiable due to the age of the computer, it is the department's responsibility to provide a machine that meets the minimum hardware standards. The DSS will assist in backing up any data stored on the old machine so that it can be copied to the new one. The replacement computer will be configured with current standard ITS-supported software.
If the equipment meets minimum requirements, but extensive work is required to correct the problem, the DSS will arrange a schedule for this work, but the request will receive a lower priority than requests from active faculty and staff.
Faculty working off-campus
The DS group is unable to provide on-site service for computers located off-campus. Faculty on sabbatical or faculty working from home who encounter computer problems should first call the Help Desk at 685-4000 for assistance. This is the speediest route for problems that can be resolved over the phone. If the Help Desk cannot fix the problem, they should contact their DSS. The DSS will evaluate the problem and attempt to fix it over the phone if appropriate. If the problem is too complex or hardware problems are indicated, the DSS will advise the user to bring the computer in to the WCSSC, where further trouble-shooting and repairs can be made. The faculty member will be charged at the WCSSCUs current hourly rate for the service. It is the responsibility of the faculty member to provide payment or a departmental account number to cover the cost of the repairs.
Faculty members on sabbatical rarely use Wesleyan office computers off-campus. Faculty who need a computer during sabbatical should work with their department and Academic Affairs to obtain one. The faculty member should contact their DSS at least two weeks prior to their departure so the computer can be reconfigured for home use.
As part of the University's overall sustainability plan, ITS has deployed a power management application that allows for central energy management of computers. The program puts idle machines into a sleep state and tracks the energy consumption and amount of savings. Regular actions such as updates and backup still occur. Not all machines are candidates for this program and the Desktop Support Specialist will work with the faculty or staff to determine the appropriate course of action. Since many users establish remote connections to their machines from off site, users can wake up a sleeping machine as needed. Click here for information on how to wake up a computer.