Army enlists aid for help desk

The 3,000-employee Army depot, a tenant at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, runs
Informix Software Inc.'s database management system on a Unisys Corp. minicomputer in a
mixed minicomputer and PC environment.


Computer specialist Connie Salas said technicians log on to the minicomputer to add
reports to the database. A C program creates a text document with the user's name,
location and problem description, and the converted information is delivered by Microsoft
Mail to users' desktops.


The depot has plans to migrate from its Unisys minicomputer to a Hewlett-Packard Co.
Unix server and to upgrade the e-mail system from Microsoft Mail to Microsoft Exchange for
NT.


Help desk troubleshooters can assign different priority levels to users and can program
HelpTrac 5.0 to page technicians for high-priority users. HelpTrac builds a knowledge base
to document how technicians solved previous problems. Managers can monitor the
troubleshooters' workloads, Salas said.


Only 45 depot employees now use HelpTrac 5.0, but a new fiber-optic network will give
all users access before next March. Salas said the current broadband Ethernet serves users
in the depot buildings but not in the shop.


The only difficulty with HelpTrac 5.0, she said, has been slowness in searching the
database of 9,000 archived trouble tickets to find certain ones.


She said Monarch Bay Software is working to improve that in its next release.


The Army will buy more PCs for the shop employees. Eventually, all depot employees will
be able to submit a HelpTrac request directly through a "Help me" function,
which Salas said will speed response time.


"At times, there have been delivery problems between the Unisys box and the
Microsoft Mail system," she said.


The depot bought a 10-user license of an earlier version of HelpTrac in 1995 for $7,050
on the open market, plus $800 for annual maintenance.


When the depot upgraded to HelpTrac 5.0 last January, it paid more than $10,000 for a
40-user site license and $2,000 for annual support and maintenance, Salas said.


Technicians access HelpTrac from a server running Microsoft Windows for Workgroups.
They work at Zenith Data Systems Corp. 486 PCs running Windows 95, but Salas said the
group is upgrading to Dell Computer Corp. 133-MHz Pentium systems running Windows NT 4.0
Workstation. The server also will get an upgrade to NT 4.0.


Other government HelpTrac users include the Social Security Administration, the city of
Vero Beach, Fla., the state of Massachusetts, the Texas Transportation Department and the
Virginia Conservation and Recreation Department.


Contact Monarch Bay Software at 713-450-2800.


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