Like many companies, educational facilities often experience a unique need for round-the-clock support. They, too, are experiencing a squeeze in their IT budgets, which means that educational entities have to be innovative when creating support solutions.

When your users are working unusual hours and run into problems, are your reporting and response procedures simple and foolproof enough to prevent wasted time and money? If not, perhaps you’ll be inspired to create a better plan based on solutions implemented by two colleges, as described below.

Notre Dame’s solutions
Like IT offices at other educational institutions, the Office of Information Technologies (OIT) at the University of Notre Dame has a plan for users who need help after hours. The group’s Web site provides links and advice for emergency and nonemergency issues.

Users who come to Notre Dame’s OIT site with a dire situation after the help desk is closed may call an emergency number. If the problem is less pressing, the site provides two options for users to help themselves and two ways to request help that will be provided during regular business hours. Users are offered the following options:

  • Search the online Web Support Database (password-protected link provided) for solutions or answers.
  • Enter the problem into the Web Support Database.
  • Leave a voice mail message describing your problem.
  • E-mail a description of your problem.
  • Visit the OIT Help Desk Vendor Information page for technical information on common commercial products.

Another educational facility’s solution
Hamilton College, a small institution with 1,700 students, decided to get technically competent students to help with after-hours support. An article on Educause’s site details Hamilton’s solution: a student-run help desk called Help@night and an in-room technical support service called Support on Site (SOS).

The programs provide support for students—who are likely to be using their computers in the evening, after the school’s help desk is closed—with a minimal investment in staff and equipment. Further, the interns hired to staff the evening support gain help desk experience to add to their resumes.

How does your after-hours solution stack up?

Could Hamilton’s solution be implemented in a corporate environment using power users in place of students? Have you implemented a similar or equally innovative solution for your after-hours support needs? Send us an e-mail describing your solutions or the problems you’ve had while trying to find or implement a solution, or post them to the discussion below.