CXO

Should corporate help desks support home PCs?

With telecommuting on a rapid upswing, corporate help desks are being pressured to support the home office. However, this practice can cause more problems than it's worth. Let us know what you think in this installment of Point and Counterpoint.

Point and Counterpoint’s purpose is to present a balanced discussion between our members regarding hardware, software, and any other topics that our members wish to debate. If you have a suggestion for Point and Counterpoint, feel free to send us a note.
A constant dilemma
For as long as I’ve been working in IT support, and probably longer, help desks have been struggling with the question of supporting employees’ home PCs. It’s a recurring debate that refuses to die.

During my last tour of help desk duty, I confronted this dilemma on a daily basis. Many of our employees used company software to access our corporate intranet from their home PCs. This software, although secure, was not the easiest product to install or use. Needless to say, these users would call with connectivity problems ranging from incorrect TCP/IP settings to personal Internet Service Provider software conflicts.

Although our help desk staff only supported the company software, it was difficult to draw the line between what we would and would not do. Time and time again, I had to tell people that our software would not work with AOL, and was not supported with Windows 98. The users just didn’t understand that the help desk would only work with the company software, and I felt badly for not being able to resolve their problems.

Point: Corporate help desks should not support home PCs
On the one hand, I feel that corporate help desks are just that—corporate—and should not spend time and effort supporting non-company equipment. Our help desk supported the company software, even if it was on the employee’s home PC, but that was all. If the employee wanted the convenience of working from home, they had to accept the responsibility for some of the setup and support.

More importantly, supporting a home PC raises several liability issues. What happens if something the help desk does crashes the operating system? Then a technician has to make a visit to the employee’s home or the employee has to bring the computer in to the help desk. Supporting home computers causes more problems than it’s worth for corporate help desks.

Give me your opinion! If you think corporate help desks should stick to company machines, send me a note!

Counterpoint: Corporate help desks should support home PCs
On the other hand, I understand the end user’s frustration when his or her computer doesn’t work properly. Also, even though users aren’t required to work from home, it’s expected of many that they remain connected to the office via e-mail. They therefore assume the IT department will be able to make this happen. When IT support fails, it gives a bad impression to the user and damages the support/user relationship.

Let me know what you think! If you think corporate help desks should do whatever it takes to get the job done, send me a note!
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About Bill Detwiler

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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