True Life Tale: Remote Support at All Hours of the Day

Users who travel expect 24/7 support on the road too.

I'm in one of those positions where I do help desk support, server support, Exchange support and SQL Server support for more than 350 users and 30 servers. My luck increased last year when we started to offer up laptops to our execs.

Here's the situation: Exec A goes on a business trip and he takes his laptop without letting me know or finding out what type of connection he'll have at the hotel. He gets there and we find out the hotel has dial-up. We give Exec A external access via a Citrix server; he calls me on my cell to fix his Internet connection and connect him to Citrix, neither of which he has used before.

My first task was to walk him — a non-technical user — through adding a dial-up connection to his laptop, adding a modem and trying to connect to Citrix. I'm talking on my cell phone and driving down the road and trying to explain to him how to cancel the Internet Explorer window when it refuses to open, then talk him through the process of right-clicking an icon to select Properties so he can add the dial-up connection.

Next step: launching IE, then going to the Citrix site and loading the ICA32 client. He wasn't completely lost by this time. I arrived home so I launched IE and tried to walk him through adding and installing the client. It wasn't working, so I asked him to click on the Start button and click Run, type "cmd" and "ipconfig /all" so we could run VNC (luckily, I did install this for network support before he left).

I needed that IP. Once I had that I launched VNC and was able to connect to him (yes, it was very slow). Once his laptop connected, I was able to start the install. I had to shut down on my end a couple of times to refresh my screen. With ICA installed, I was able to launch IE again, connect to our Citrix box and set up his client on the Citrix server. Thinking I was done, I bid him good night.

Not five minutes later he is calling and an Excel add-in isn't working. I log into our Citrix server as the user to add the user DSN, then log in as myself to run the install, and then I ran VNC to connect to him. Once I connected with VNC again I connected to the server, set up the mail and Excel clients. This was about two and half hours later and he informed me he was off to bed and should be back tomorrow afternoon.

[For his tale, Rick received Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Unleashed, courtesy of Addison Wesley. Submit your tale to: with "True Life Tale" on the subject line of your message.]


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