Help me to build the ultimate IT Help Desk for a 1:1 Laptop program at a K-12 private school.
November 12, 2009 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Help me to build the ultimate IT Help Desk for a 1:1 Laptop program at a K-12 private school.

We're doing a 1:1 laptop program for Fall 2010. We'll be using the new MacBooks just released by Apple. Every student from 4th-12th grade will receive one.

And so we're now planning the building of a "Tech Center" at our Middle School and Upper School campuses. Inside each of these "Tech Centers" will be a manned IT Help Desk where students can come for hardware & software problems. It will be manned from 8am - 5pm every day.

I have quite a bit of space to work with--a room about 50 feet long by 14feet wide. We'll be purchasing all new furniture, partitions, storage cabinets, shelving, etc.

What features define the best IT Help Desks you've seen? What works? What doesn't work? How have you handled intake, repair, storage, pickup logistics? If you could build the ultimate IT Help Desk, what would it look like?
posted by to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
First thing I thought of - massive heavy secure storage - enough to hold all systems you'd have on-hand and withstand a full night of teenagers with crowbars. A simple locked office won't cut it.

What features define the best IT Help Desks you've seen?

In a single word: triage. I have no idea about your staffing or expected turn times or what have you, but making people wait in a queue is horrible. If you can hand them a spare while your techs resolve the issue then great.

(aside: supporting laptops for hundreds of kids sounds like my version of hell. good luck to you sir.)
posted by anti social order at 12:19 PM on November 12, 2009

well i just talked to one of the people I do hardware repairs for and he has runs a similar program at the school he works at.
I hit him up for some advice and he had some suggestions:

-he has several filing cabinets for keeping hardware documentation/licensing stuff etc. It helps keeping track of who has what machine.
-if you are going to have a couple of people working with you make sure you have enough resources for all of them (tech drives, copies of installers (OS and software) etc.
-he just has a big table that he has a couple power strips, a small ethernet switch, and a bunch of power adaptors, that everyone can work on
-he suggested have a small dedicated printer and a dedicated wireless access point.
-also extra chairs

The the things that he said were things that you shouldnt skimp on are: extra power adaptors, extra power strips.
He also said the thing that really helps him is a full version of Apple Remote Desktop and Timbuktu

Hope that helps.
posted by ShawnString at 12:54 PM on November 12, 2009

Response by poster: A clarification: I'm not really asking about *software* solutions or advice. We'll be using ARD, Casper Suite, and WebHelpDesk for imaging, software maintenance/updates, and inventory. I really mostly curious about the *logistical* considerations, successes, and pitfalls.
posted by at 1:00 PM on November 12, 2009

First thing I thought of - massive heavy secure storage - enough to hold all systems you'd have on-hand and withstand a full night of teenagers with crowbars. A simple locked office won't cut it.

THIS. I worked for a major city school system years ago, and the first pilot program that district ran to give teachers laptops (this was back in '92-93) turned into an utter DEBACLE - in the first 6 months, 80% of the laptops given out had been stolen.
posted by deadmessenger at 3:06 PM on November 12, 2009

I think running a corporate helpdesk vs. a high-school helpdesk are two completely different situations whose kpi's may be quite different.

I think you opt out of the phone / email channel, and have the students physically come to the helpdesk and describe their problem. Provide kiosks where students can log in and print off their papers / assignments in case they are without a machine.

Create a firm policy that requires the return of the laptop every week / month for a complete wash of the hard drive. This puts a good amount of control over what I would think will be your 2 biggest risks: Missing inventory and viruses. You could also force a password reset at this time to tighten up your identity management. You need to really wrap your hands around your inventory and get a hold of the machines as much as possible.

This solution presumes you would force students to ultimately save their work to your cloud / fileshare. Your teachers will be happy that you eliminated the dog ate my laptop problem.

For a good PR campaign, issue raffle tickets each time a laptop is returned, and give away a iPod / gift card every month / quarter / year depending on your budget and or savings you incur.

Make it hip and something that the students can get involved in. Create a competition out of it somehow. Have teams of students work out the optimal workflow for taking an out-of the-box laptop / infected laptop to a fully charged secure, clean, and powerful learning machine.

Get the helpdesk to get into the habit of tagging tickets to create some kind of taxonomy. Or at the end of every week, take a sampling of the tickets and do this. Look for your largest problems trends and put your mind to solving them and reducing the amount of time your are spending fixing those problem.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:38 PM on November 12, 2009

On the Macbook side...

Keep an ample spare stock of moving parts used by the Macbooks. I believe that model has one system fan. Other than HDDs, fans will fail or get clogged, so keep a lot of those on hand.

Numerous 2.5" x 9.5mm size SATA laptop HDDs ranging from 120GB to 500GB as needed.

You can speed up reinstallations of OSX on a laptop by not using optical media. Frequently you may encounter a laptop that has a screwed up optical drive, but will boot fine from USB2. Use Disk Utility to take a Snow Leopard .DMG and image it onto a 8GB or 16GB USB2 flash drive. This will result in significantly faster installations.

Seconding the use a trouble ticket system. Try to find something that lets you open, modify and close a ticket very quickly without filling in many fields, or people will not use it.

Get a safe to keep laptops, RAM, HDD and other highly portable valuables in.

If it's worthwhile for educational purposes for the grade 7+ students, hand out the machines with a preprepared VM of Ubuntu 9.10 running inside Virtualbox so that students can play with a copy of Linux without worrying about messing up their OSX install.

If I were designing the OS load for each OSX laptop, I'd set up some hidden daemon that periodically pings a central server to report the location of the laptop, but that's just me... If a machine is stolen and turns up on a particular IP in a cablemodem ISP's DHCP range, your local police may or may not be able to help you get it back. Of course this will not help with anything but the most casual type of theft, if somebody steals the laptop and sells it to somebody with a clue the first thing that will happen is a wipe of the HDD.
posted by thewalrus at 12:10 AM on November 13, 2009

« Older How should I set up my new HTPC's Hard Drives?   |   Hear us roar! Help me find information on women's... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.