Five Ways to Stay in Your Help Desks Good Graces

What IT professionals wish all employees would do before calling the help desk in a panic.

Youve just arrived at work on a Monday morning after a long weekend and you havent had your coffee yet. You land your laptop on its dock and take your seat, waiting for the familiar image of your desktop wallpaper to greet you.

And you wait.

But it doesnt appear. What is this? you grumble to yourself and check your clock only to realize that you are late for your meeting and need to get into your email to find out where it is.


You panic.

You call the help desk.

And it must be your lucky morning because one of the IT guys arrives at your desk within a minute. He walks over to the laptop dock, presses down on the laptop lid and you hear a dull "clack." Your desktop appears on your monitor at last.

"Your laptop wasnt fully docked," he says with more patience than the situation deserves and walks away.

"Oops! Im sorry!" you call after him. "I just assumed something was really wrong!"

Thank goodness this has never happened to anyone you know (cough) because this is a prime example of how not to stay on your help desks good side. The problem was easily fixed, the panic was completely avoidable and the employee didnt do one iota of troubleshooting before calling in a pro.

You might think that in this day and age, nobody would be this dense or unthinking in the handling of their employee-assigned PC workstation, yet IT pros will tell you that it happens all the time. And while they may try their best to stay patient and friendly with the workers they were hired to assist, they can only reset a forgotten password so many times before greeting a call from the repeat offender with some eye-rolling.

eWEEK spoke to a range of IT professionals about what they considered the bare-bones computer tasks that every employee should be able to perform—aspects of daily work theyd consider almost inexcusable to request frequent help with.

Almost, they said, insisting that they didnt mind helping workers, as long as the workers would try to help themselves first.

1. You should know how to save and back up your work.

Almost every person with a personal computer has a tendency to assume that it will never die, yet every computer sooner or later does just that.

"That general assumption is what drives all the stupidity that happens around simple things. Most IT emergencies on a daily basis are because someones laptop dies on the same day they need a proposal or report into someone. It always comes down to backup," said Jeff Reed, chief technology officer of global technology provider Logicalis, in Seattle.

Reed noted that many people wrongly assume that they have no role in the backup or recovery process, and are often surprised to learn that their work isnt automatically backed up for them.

"Educate yourself on how your company backs up and recovers PCs. Reading the manual could save you two weeks trouble. Its pretty easy to save your work to the network or any drive where it can be backed up," said Reed.

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In addition to understanding the different places that their work can be saved, workers should also understand the difference between "Save" and "Save As."

"If you are collaborating with someone, or even working on your own, it will help you to keep a legacy of your work, versions A, B, C, etc., until you come to a final document," said Tomlinson.

2. You and you alone are responsible for knowing your passwords.

No matter how friendly they appear, IT professionals are never happy to hear that your forgotten password needs to be reset.

"You should know how to create, remember and change secure passwords for all personal accounts, applications and resources on the network," Richard Tomlinson, director of records and registration and assistant professor at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, in Harrisburg, Pa., told eWEEK.

Better yet, if you need to write down your password, you should do so in a way that does not announce to all passers-by your low opinion of the importance of network security.

"We see people with their passwords on a sticky note on their monitor all the time. Because I wanted to remember it! theyll say. But what they meant was they didnt want to be inconvenienced by having to look it up," said Tomlinson.

Next Page: E-mail security.