Remote or Onsite: Is Your IT Support Visiting Only When Needed?

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Michael Chihlas
Michael Chihlas, Senior Consultant and Team Lead

Should your IT support vendor help you remotely or arrive onsite to resolve an issue? This may seem like a simple question, but we find that many IT vendors supporting cities often do not make the right decision—as shown by the vendor’s IT support actions. We still find too many cities getting charged for onsite visits when vendors resolve issues that they could easily solve remotely. Conversely, IT support vendors often lack proactive remote monitoring tools that identify issues long before they happen, allowing serious hardware failures to blossom into full IT fires that they do not address onsite until the IT fire is raging.

We often talk about the needed blend of both onsite and remote support for an IT helpdesk, but we’ve never written a post focused on the difference between remote and onsite support. You can use this checklist to see if your IT support vendor handles your IT issues with the right blend of remote and onsite support.

Remote Support

Remote support is when an IT engineer can help you resolve an IT issue without coming to your office at all. They can help you by accessing your systems from afar, logging onto an individual’s computer and taking control of it in order to resolve a problem, helping you by phone to address an issue, or calling a vendor on your behalf to resolve an issue.

Here are some common situations where remote support works best:

  • Monitoring for issues: An IT helpdesk should use monitoring software that connects to your hardware, software, and systems to help identify issues with performance. For example, IT engineers can monitor your firewalls for signs of suspicious activity or see if a server is starting to fail.
  • Patching and updating software: Patching and updating is important to prevent cyberattacks while making sure your software runs smoothly. As one of the most important IT support items, engineers can patch and update software remotely with minimal interruption to your systems.
  • Resolving everyday user problems: As you know, city employees will have individual problems with their computers and other devices. Maybe an employee forgot their password. Maybe an employee accidentally deleted an important file. Maybe the printer isn’t working. These are all problems usually best solved remotely. An IT engineer can initiate a remote session where they connect to your computer, server, or printer, or they can just talk you through a problem while troubleshooting for further issues.
  • Deploying some software and cloud “hardware”: If your city uses software that does not require any servers, or if your city uses virtual servers in the cloud that do not require any physical servers, then IT engineers can often remotely install and deploy this hardware and software without need of an onsite visit.
  • Responding to cyberattacks: When a cyberattack takes place, you need to act now. You don’t have time to wait for an onsite visit. Luckily, a 24/7 helpdesk can act now—mitigating an attack by shutting off hardware and software remotely, using your firewall to fend off the attack, and containing the damage so that it doesn’t spread.
  • Resolving website issues: Many website issues can be resolved remotely, assuming an IT engineer has access to your hosting provider, content management system, or website server.

Onsite Support

Obviously, everything cannot be handled remotely. Some items that still require onsite support include:

  • Interactions with physical hardware: If hardware such as servers, computers, laptops, printers, wireless routers, and networking equipment fails in physical ways, then an onsite visit is a must. Sometimes, physical hardware needs an in-person diagnosis and fix. Also, any hardware deployments, installations, and rebuildings require an onsite visit.
  • Extensive IT issues: Sometimes, IT issues are extensive enough that they need an onsite visit. For example, assessing the state of your hardware, data backup, or document management may require an onsite visit to ensure that IT engineers understand the exact nature of your problem and can ask questions of city staff. Or, you could be experiencing a longstanding issue with another vendor, such as an internet service provider, that requires onsite investigation to help you resolve the issue.
  • Training: While online training has its benefits and is not a bad thing, onsite training is usually better to increase the chance of employees retaining the information. They will be more engaged, more likely to ask questions, and more present when doing exercises.
  • Planning: When doing IT planning and strategizing, it’s best to meet in person. Sitting around a table, thinking aloud on a whiteboard, and generating good ideas works best in person.
  • Major projects: When working on a major project such as data backup and disaster recovery, document management, or a new email system, it’s good to have IT engineers on site. Even if many pieces could be handled remotely, these kinds of projects usually are complex and have a lot of moving pieces. For coordination purposes such as involving important stakeholders and documenting what’s needed to complete the project, having someone on site is good to ensure that all details are captured.

Receiving both remote and onsite support means that your IT support vendor must understand when to use each kind of support. A good 24/7 IT helpdesk will be able to help you as much as possible remotely, leaving onsite visits for only necessary items or situations where in-person engagement is better. After looking at this list, consider if your IT support vendor’s capabilities are serving you, or not, with their way of approaching remote and onsite support.

Need help evaluating your IT support? Looking to receive more efficient IT support? Reach out to us today.

Original Date: 3/11/2020