22 February 2005

Helpdesk Statistics

Some interesting and possibly useful statistics on the activities of the Division’s Helpdesk.

The Technical Services Unit HelpDesk tracks jobs, those that can't be dealt with summarily, using a Web-based tracking system. Requests for support come in a number of forms: email, phone and personal contact. From the table below, it can be seen for example that in May 2004 the cehelpdesk email account received almost 450 emails but there were less than 150 jobs added to the system. No statistics are kept on the number of phone calls for assistance received by helpdesk staff, nor personal requests, unless they are added to the system.

The following statistics are therefore incomplete and based on only those jobs that required managed planning and tracking to resolve.

Note that the Feb 2005 figures are not complete: the statistics for February 2005 were gathered on 21 February 2005 in the morning and except for emails the figures already exceed those of a year ago (including the number of outstanding jobs).

While by no means complete these figures demonstrate the yearly cyclical nature of the demand for TSU support: with the period around the beginning of Semester 1 the period of greatest demand. Demand tends to drop off during breaks, and taper off over the year.

The graph should not be taken as an indicator of TSU activity: break times are the busiest period for the TSU for jobs like clearing out older facilities, installing new laboratories, rolling out software and hardware updates and other activities that aren’t reflected in the helpdesk statistics (the helpdesk statistics are just the jobs other people want the TSU to do).

Response times
Last year (2004) the comedu helpdesk system recorded 1,243 jobs. Of the jobs completed (98.8%), the mean time to complete was 10.2 (calendar) days, the median less than 5 days, and the mode 1 day. 17.5% of jobs were completed in a day or less, 36% in less than 2 days, and 68% in less than a week.

Problems raised via the helpdesk
The following chart shows the breakdown of requests by category over the past four years. Further analysis of the data show trends down in the proportion of support requests for Printing, Email, Software, Systems, Hardware and Development, and up in Media, Assets, and unfortunately Other (indicating that a better categorisation of requests is needed, or that the helpdesk is doing new and different things compared with when the tracking software was first developed in 2000). ‘Other’ requests have more than doubled from 11% of requests in 2001 to 22% in 2004.

The helpdesk support application has not been used to report statistics before, and was not developed or managed with a view to reporting data in the form above. There have been no reporting metrics proposed or agreed, so these statistics should be considered with that in mind.

Three years ago the Division had around 400 computers listed in the Asset Register. That figure today is around 800, although it includes a number of machines waiting to be written off. 548 computers have been purchased from IT Loan funds since 2001 (others have been bought from Research and Consultancy funds), and best estimates put around 681 computers currently in active use in the Division (including servers, desktops, portables and lab computers). It is difficult to be accurate about the numbers since they change constantly as computers are upgraded and new ones commissioned. Old computers never seem to die: there is always someone with a use for a recently retired computer it seems. The AUVA computers are not being returned to service on desktops because of the failure rate among hard drives and power supplies, but even some of these have been pressed back into service to give some Macintosh users better access to Callista.

Overall the trend is for more computers, but with the same number of permanent Technical Service Unit staff positions supporting them. While there is a constant search for more efficient ways to manage the installed based of hardware, and casual staff are being employed to ease the load at busy times, the increasing load is having an impact on the service that can be provided.

Development support
The TSU does not have the developer expertise to help the Division to fully exploit the resources available to it as a result of the National Institute of Language Learning (NILL) infrastructure grant, in particular the Video on Demand (VoD) server and associated off-air live streaming, recording, and streaming on demand capability.

While all of this is possible to do manually, it would be much more efficient to automate the process of taking requests for recordings, transcoding recorded programs and preparing them for on-demand streaming (including generating the code to be inserted in WebCT pages), and moving the media files to the correct place on the server.

All the hardware is now available to deliver the solution, which can be automated if we had the expertise and the time to do it as it was first intended. A proposal for funding some contracted support to help the Division realise the potential of the VoD server is being prepared.