Help Desk Solutions

Providing options and technical guidance on implementing a help desk solution

Help Desk & Portal Monitoring Services

Monitoring the health of an environment is a priority and ongoing task of any organization. Whether your intention of the help desk solution is to satisfy all of your help desk needs or used to monitor a specific system (e.g. SharePoint), our methods for portal monitoring will address those needs. The process and templates below provide an effective method to create reports in measuring and track the health of the environment. All of our options provide the capability to notify the Help Desk Team of any adverse events, failures, deficiencies, anomalies, or other conditions affecting an environment.

Our SharePoint Support Team/ Help Desk recommends identifying thresholds to monitor including (but not limited to)

  • Monitor disk utilization (and notify the office when it exceeds 75%);
  • Monitor the server event log for errors;
  • Monitor the SharePoint health analyzer for errors in the following categories: Security, Performance, Configuration and Availability; and,
  • Monitor replication for portals running on a physical server(s)

For SharePoint environment monitoring, TEDI recommends monitoring SharePoint backups on a weekly basis to ensure the integrity of backups in the event a restore is required. Any backup problem(s) identified should be reported to the client POC and perform any and all actions necessary to resolve the backup problem(s). We recommend monitoring the following regarding backup policies:

  • Backups are performed successfully
  • Good data is retrievable from a prior backup.
  • Growth of backup files
  • Maintain backup files (e.g. .bak) per SAA infrastructure policies as applicable.

For all other system monitoring, TEDI recommends performing weekly portal monitoring tasks and reporting of adverse events to the client POC including monitoring of backups and resolution of any problems, performance of testing, ensure end user requests are addressed within a timely fashion, and testing of security patches and updates.

Alongside the Help Desk Solution, TEDI recommends a Patch and Update Management strategy to ensure that clients maintains a healthy and secure atmosphere. Coordination of scheduling, testing, and downtime if the updates require reboot. Below identifies our general patching focus and adherence to Government requirements:

  • Ensure that any and all security patches/updates for the Windows Server OS, Symantec Endpoint Protection (SEP), SharePoint, SQL Server and any third-party software used in any office portal supported/maintained and tested within 48 hours of release
  • Report any patch/update incompatibility to the COTR (or designee) within 48 hours of release
  • Install/apply on all Portal instances, all SQL Server security patches/updates, and all security patches/updates for any third-party software used in any office portal supported by the SharePoint Support Team within 72 hours of release and then verify portal functionality.

Help Desk Options

We recommend and provide several options to our clients regarding the implementation of a help desk solution. Each of these solutions provide integration with SharePoint or leverage SharePoint Lists directly. The purpose for these options are to address the individual needs of the institution who may not have Team Foundation Server (Option 1) or have a preference whether working in Microsoft Access (Option 2) versus just SharePoint Lists (Option 3). Therefore, we offer a range of options to accommodate the majority of requests. Each of the options are an 80% Out of the Box (OOTB) solution and require configuration and customizations to fulfill the needs of the institution implementing the solution.

Option 1

Defect Tracking with TFS and SharePoint

Team Foundation Server (TFS) offers much of the desired functionality for help desk implementations Out of the Box (OOTB). TFS was built in part to perform defect tracking but for custom development. We leverage this defect tracking and expand the use of TFS.

In many instances, client requests may require source control. Much if not the majority of our configuration is performed through PowerShell. Although not required to succeed, we strongly encourage our clients to consider using Team Foundation Server (TFS) for source control, defect tracking, testing, and deployment capabilities.

Once the Help Desk Team identifies issues and bugs via our help desk process, these individuals create Bugs, Tasks, and Issue work items as appropriate to track configuration, development, or customizations for resolution of those bugs as identified in the image to the left. A benefit of tracking defect resolution with TFS is that it will allow us to track these defects and provides a full development lifecycle to manage, track, and build any solution supporting our clients. Therefore, we can provide a central repository for all development, O&M, and defect management within a single location.

TEDI recommends source control material supporting defect resolution to be stored inside our TFS O&M branching model. This provides release management capabilities for isolating changes to specific environments. In other words, if one team has a particular defect or development request, TFS will automate the releasing of changes to a particular environment. As part of TFS, TEDI can automate testing or perform manual testing prior to release. In the event a release negatively impacts an environment, our branching and merging model allows us to rollback that feature and restore the environment to its previous configuration.

The image below identifies all work items within a template of TFS. “Bug” and “Task” work items are displayed in a gray box labelled “configurable” which is identifying the flexibility to configure how a team performs defect management.  (https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd380647.aspx). These work items have a parent to child relationship between the “Bug” and “Task” work item. A bug can encompass many tasks in order to facilitate the resolution of the bug fix. Using this option, the Help Desk Team will track components such as (but not limited to) priority, severity, state (e.g. new), reproduction steps, system information, associated test cases, history on the item, and attachments.

TFS-Workitems TFS and SharePoint integrate together to maximize defect tracking, document/source control storage, collaboration, workflow support, and an impressive array of reports. Workflows support deadline management to ensure that resolutions are sought within client accepted thresholds, provide updates to the Help Desk Team as new items or existing items are edited, and record necessary notations/instructions.

In addition, TEDI’s defect help desk and management solution contains custom reports to provide effective progress measuring instruments. This functionality integrates with SharePoint and using reporting features from TFS, SharePoint, and SQL, the Help Desk Team works to automate many of these reports to monitor items such as (but not limited to)

  • Functions properly under production load conditions
  • Meets stated usability and accessibility criteria
  • Is tolerant of normal fault conditions
  • Behaves identically for users in all office sites

TEDI will customize these reports for tracking defects and remedies that are performed over 30 calendar days. All reports will be built to automate generation on a weekly and monthly basis. Customized reports will provide Portals’ behavior during the Period, noting any outages, failures, deficiencies, defects and/or anomalies identified within the environment.

HelpDesk-Support

The image to the left identifies the TFS method for defect tracking. It encompasses how the Help Desk Team performs changes and customizations and deploys across multiple architectures. Defect tracking is integrated with deployments and releases. This allows for the Help Desk Team to effectively test their customizations in an environment built to perform the full lifecycle of development. Therefore, testing and releases become traceable and part of the project management piece for the Government institution. Using TFS, we can perform cradle to grave management for capturing, building, storing, testing, and deploying solutions for client environments.

Option 2

Defect Tracking with SharePoint Only

SharePoint can be configured and customized to manage the defect resolution lifecycle. This requires our customization of our Help Desk SharePoint solution to work with client requirements for defect tracking. The Help Desk Team will work in parallel with the client to configure our baseline template to effectively govern the defect management process.

The image below provides a baseline approach to how our Help Desk solution (without TFS) will work. These are controlled and performed through various workflows, lists, alerts, and automated reporting.

HelpDesk

  1. End Users Contact Help Desk:

End Users can contact the help desk via telephone, email or local URL. An Administrator will field the issue, discuss the problem or request, and identify any special needs. They will communicate with the end user next steps and confirm the request via email.

  1. Support Tickets are Generated: The Help Desk Team will can create the help desk ticket (SharePoint Form) that will capture all needed information concerning the request. The End User can also submit this ticket request which the Help Desk Team can update as needed in the event more information is captured once the Help Desk Team and the end user collaborate on requirements.
  1. Records Management: Maintaining records of requests and information surrounding the request is vital for metric calculations, traceability, and supporting Government records keeping policies. In many instances the Help Desk Team may refer to prior work for new requests and therefore having this records management solution provides their ability to perform search and queries in identifying use cases or prior examples.
  1. Automated Reporting: Our baseline template comes with several options on reporting that we will look to utilize in implementing this template with the client. These reports calculate time averages, identify bottlenecks, and capture fundamental Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for review by the client. TEDI will customize reports for tracking defects and remedies that are performed over 30 calendar days. All reports will be built to automate generation on a weekly and monthly basis. Customized reports will provide Portals’ behavior during the Period, noting any outages, failures, deficiencies, defects and/or anomalies identified within the environment.
  1. Customizations are Performed: Once the ticket is generated the Help Desk Team will collaborate with the client to produce the changes/maintenance needed within the threshold of included support hours or prepare requirements and design guidance for a Task Order. Our Help Desk Team will document and record every change, maintenance request, and customization within the environment. For more complex solutions, training and how-to documentation will be performed.

SharePoint lists and forms will be constructed to create items to identify bugs and subsequent tasks as a result of classifying these defects. Classification of these defects will include the Critical, Serious (no workaround), Serious (with workaround), and other. In addition, workflows will be leveraged with these lists to perform process functions one the creation, edition, or completion of defects. Steps within the process will provide capabilities to record metrics, create reports, alert administrators, and communicate with project managers throughout the lifecycle of defect resolution.

As an option, SharePoint provides all of the needed functionality. However, much of it requires customization to support the effort. Our second option, Defect Tracking with TFS and SharePoint provides much more OOTB solutions to defect management, reporting, collaboration etc. TEDI mitigates this issue by supplying many of the baseline templates to facilitate an immediate impact for defect management and therefore decreasing the overall time to prepare our ability to field new SharePoint requests.

Option 3

Defect Tracking with Microsoft Access and SharePoint

Our Microsoft Access and SharePoint option provides a method we have employed with many Government institutions. Microsoft Access integrates with SharePoint and has a long heritage within many of our Government clients. We find that Government end users quickly appreciate and feel comfortable with Microsoft Access and SharePoint. It’s a tool that has gone through many editions and improvements throughout its over 20 year existence and has been used by a variety of users.MSAccess2013

Microsoft Access provides a fundamental baseline for tracking, reporting, and collaborating on defect management. Our Help Desk Team will use our existing Microsoft Access Templates to implement a system that will capture, store, report, and communicate the progress of a report defect. We will customize the Access interface and controls to ensure defect management and resolution is easily queried within Microsoft Access and accessible to the client for review at any time. All forms and reports are published in SharePoint and can be accessible to both the SharePoint Support Team to support their operations and visible to client staff to see our progress.

These custom reports provide effective progress measuring instruments to identify KPI’s. Using Access reporting features, the Help Desk Team will automate the Portal Readiness Review Report to monitor items such as (but not limited to)

  • Functions properly under production load conditions
  • Meets stated usability and accessibility criteria
  • Is tolerant of normal fault conditions
  • Behaves identically for users in all office sites

Microsoft Access will provides a database backend to track all of the data we define during the defect management process. Our Help Desk Team will track defects and requests from end users using a SharePoint interface, where our Microsoft Access forms will capture essential information from client’s requests. Our defect Access forms will identify critical priority, severity, state (e.g. new), reproduction steps, system information, associated test cases, history on the item, and attachments.  We will configure TFS to classify the severity to support the Senate’s request for Critical, Serious (no workaround), Serious (with workaround), and other.

Help Desk Download Material

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