by Amy Birckhead
Administrative Account Manager, E-N Computers
25+ years experience in administration.
One of the services that makes us different from other IT providers is our concept of ‘onsite days.’
Onsite days are different from the regular help desk support we (and other IT service providers) give to clients.
If the help desk is like an urgent care service, onsite days are a little bit like going to your doctor for a wellness visit. Your doctor uses standard screening tests so he can catch problems before they become hard to treat. In a comparable way, onsite days allow us to keep your systems healthy and to plan for upgrades and maintenance, both of which save you tremendously by avoiding security issues and unplanned downtime.
In contrast, most IT service providers wait for you to have the equivalent of advanced heart disease before they act. When we take over the IT services for new clients, we find most of them have not been truly managed for years. Software and hardware are out of date. Security patches aren’t applied. Documentation is a mess. Finally, a crisis hits, and the client becomes painfully aware of the need for a different approach. And they call us.
E-N Computers is a Virginia-based IT managed service provider with remote services from coast-to-coast. We’ve developed onsite days over nearly 30 years of experience serving highly regulated industries like defense contractors, non profits and health care.
To learn more about the difference between managed service and other types of outsourced IT, read our article Break-Fix versus managed services: What’s the difference?
A good IT managed service provider will schedule time for documentation and regular maintenance of your systems such as the installation of hardware and software updates and security patches, and the monitoring of licensing, user accounts and permissions, firewall rules and more.
Who gets onsite days?
Onsite days are available as part of some of our managed services packages or as an optional addon. The number of onsite days we recommend depends on the size and complexity of your business.
For example, a large business with 75 employees and multiple office locations will need more onsite time than a remote/work-from-home business that doesn’t have servers to manage.
In the past, an onsite day usually involved a physical visit to your workplace – thus the name “onsite” day.
As technology has changed, we are now able to offer onsite or “focus” days even to our fully remote clients. A virtual onsite day becomes an eight-hour block of time devoted to scheduled proactive management and scheduled changes. Our technician may not be physically at your work location (you may not even HAVE a physical work location). But he will be focused entirely on your IT work for that day.
What to expect from your onsite day
What follows is a description of a typical onsite day for clients who receive physical visits from our technicians. Virtual onsite days may be somewhat different, depending on the complexity of your IT structure, but you will still receive a full day of focused time from us.
Onsite days are divided into two segments of four hours each. The first part of the day is devoted to “NetAdmin time.” In brief, NetAdmin time is dedicated solely to documentation updates, hardware checking, and routine maintenance for your systems. These many small steps avoid big problems like outages or security breaches. Our complete checklist is described later.
The second part is for hands-on support tickets and for what we call “change management.” Hands-on support tickets are probably already familiar to you. A small percentage of IT tasks might need to be performed in person, although we can resolve most problems remotely.
“Change management” tasks are often requested by our clients or involve IT work not covered under our standard monthly agreement. Change management involves adding, moving, changing, or removing hardware or systems in a way that doesn’t disrupt service. Your onsite day includes four hours for these kinds of changes, which saves you from submitting individual requests and being billed for them.
Anything that will take more than four hours to complete needs to be submitted as a project and billed accordingly.
Get the most from your onsite day
A day can go quickly. The best way to get a lot of work out of your onsite day is to plan for it. The worst thing that can happen is for our technician to show up and have you hand him a list of things to do.
Submit in advance
Instead, submit tickets separately and in advance, both for change management and for hands-on support work. Separate tickets allow us to track that the work is truly completed. Advanced planning allows the technician to show up prepared to work and with the right tools and hardware needed for the day and with a priority list.
The second important thing you can do is to have your point of contact available for the entire day. Our technician will need to consult with you on your change management requests. He’ll also need to confirm the accuracy of changes that may be made to documentation or to Active Directory.
Clients often try to squeeze too much change management time into half of a workday. Only half of the day is devoted to upgrades, moves, and so forth. The other half goes to maintenance. If your change management is going to take more than four hours, it needs to be scheduled for a different day.
Another area that can be confusing is routine maintenance versus manual patching and upgrades.
Fortunately, a lot of patching goes on quietly and behind the scenes. Patching or updates might take 30 seconds in an ideal situation.
Unfortunately, many automatic patches fail and must be installed manually. Some server patching might need to have a server engineer or network engineer involved. Software patches or upgrades for third-party software might need vendor support.
Because patches and updates are so variable when it comes to the time involved, risk, and technical expertise needed, we need to communicate ahead of time about whether this can all be covered in a single onsite day.
A complete guide to NetAdmin time
We’ll review NetAdmin time in detail since this involves a thorough list of checks and updates. The task list that follows may seem too long to take care of at one onsite visit, and sometimes it is. Your technician should work the tasks to a point and pick up the list from that point on the following onsite day. They should always check in with you at the start of the day and check back in at the end of the day to review what they completed.
At the start of the day, our technician will check in with you to talk about their agenda for the day. They will ask you about any issues that haven’t been reported and submit a ticket for them if needed.
Our tech will then conduct a site walkthrough to visibly inspect all hardware devices and ensure they are free of warning lights that indicate hardware issues. They will also look out for messy cabling and correct it if possible.
Next the technician will perform a series of hardware checks. They will log into the Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC), which allows servers to be updated and managed, and verify the status of your RAID array, which is a series of hard disks that work together to minimize data loss or down time. The technician will also confirm that the iDRAC is sending alerts to our monitoring email at E-N Computers. He will also check that your RAID array has at least two backups at the ready.
The technician will log into a hypervisor like ESXi or Hyper-V to check for any errors on your virtual computers or servers.
The tech also will check over the firewall or router and verify no foreign rules have been added that open the site to undesired access. He’ll also check the Meraki security center and review login logs.
Operating systems will then be checked to confirm that computers are running the right build, BIOS version, and firmware version.
Lastly, the technician will check the UPS (uninterrupted power supply) and test the backup WAN (wide-area network) devices and backup VPN (virtual private network).
The technician will mark any unused equipment, hardware, or software as inactive in our document management platform IT Glue or in our IT service management tool ConnectWise. He’ll also confirm end dates for major equipment or licenses at the site and address any expired items in IT Glue.
He’ll remove any expired computers from ConnectWise Automate, our remote monitoring and management tool.
He will also check the domain and SSL certificate expirations and take a screenshot of the public DNS records and attach it to the IT Glue domain configuration.
He’ll make sure vendors and vendor contact information are listed in the vendor section of IT Glue.
He’ll also verify that we have up-to-date photos of your network closet, so we know how it’s organized and whether we’ll have easy access if we need to trace down a line. He’ll verify we have close-up photos of your equipment for the model and serial numbers so we can easily look up when your equipment is at end of life.
Network equipment check
Our technician will check that firmware is up to date on all network equipment. If any firmware is behind, he’ll create a ticket to have this updated by a level 3 engineer. He will also disable any inactive network ports.
Data accessibility review
The technician will audit file access to see if any permissions are set up incorrectly and may allow unintended access. He will also audit Active Directory group membership for the same potential issues. Any findings will be reviewed with you.
User accounts will be reviewed to see if any old accounts exist in the system. Remote access will be reviewed to see if anyone has unintended remote access. These findings will also be shared with you.
At the end of the day, our onsite technician will go over this task list with the site liaison and then sign off on the ticket for the onsite visit, if there is one.
To learn more about the advantages of using Active Directory to onboard and offboard new employees, read our article Onboarding new employees with outsourced IT.
As you can see, between the NetAdmin time and the change management time, a lot happens during an onsite day. We find that our clients appreciate the care we put toward proactive processes. Usually, they’ve not experienced this with previous IT providers.
If you’re a client with questions about your onsite days, feel free to discuss this with your account manager. If you’re not a client but you’re interested in how our IT processes can help your business, you might appreciate our complimentary IT assessment. You’ll receive a 30-minute review from a veteran IT engineer – the best deal in the business.
Is your business ready to weather changes, including employee turnover? Find out by taking our IT maturity assessment.
You’ll get personalized action items that you can use to make improvements right away. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to book a FREE IT strategy session to get even more insights into your IT needs.