Reality IT: Encouraging After-Hours Support

Motivating your IT staff to contribute around the clock if and when needed isn't always about money. It's about access.

July 30, 2004

2 Min Read
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Techno Toys

At ACME, our IT team is too small to staff every office and operations-center function 24/7. At one time, we gave extra "on call" pay to IT personnel who were expected to respond during off-hours, but we eventually phased that out in favor of a standard annual salary structure. Over time, we've found that motivating IT staff to contribute around the clock if and when needed is not just a matter of money--it's also a matter of access.

First, IT organizations should expect to pay for home DSL or cable modem service to help core IT staff provide support after hours. At ACME, as wireless technology improved, we started providing our IT staff with mobile phones and integrated devices that offer e-mail capabilities, so they could respond faster, with less impact on their personal lives. For many after-hours events, IT professionals can handle many tasks, such as problem diagnosis and system restart, without having to return to the office.

Case in Point

Every IT organization is different, and your mobile-communications technology will vary, but ACME's IT unit has standardized on those addictive wireless devices known as Blackberries. We use them to keep abreast of work and to communicate with one another via e-mail, IM and mobile phone.On July 4, we received some alerts from our network-monitoring system. The database server, which is an essential part of our finance system, had lost a critical service and would not restart automatically. The database was down. We had to restart it manually--and fast. I immediately found myself reading e-mail exchanges between Dirk Packett, our network manager, and Tara Byte, our database administrator. Soon Marvin Mips, our data-center manager, had joined the discussion, and I was getting IM updates from our network engineer, Eugene Wright.

Connecting to the network remotely, Wright managed to restart the offending service while keeping a close eye on the box in question. He also sent log excerpts to Byte to help her determine the root cause of the problem.

This was one situation where company-issued remote-access technologies helped us solve a problem quickly from outside the office, in record time. And not one of us had to leave the comfort of our homes.

When the crisis was resolved, I used my trusty Blackberry to send a thank-you message to my dedicated staff, ending the note with "Happy Independence Day."

Hunter Metatek is an enterprise IT director with 15 years' experience in network engineering and management. The events chronicled in this column are based in fact--only the names are fiction. Write to the author at [email protected].0

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