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Need computer support help? You’ll be calling a long way away

When the Florida Atlantic University e-mail doesn’t work, the system won’t accept a login name and password or the Internet seems dead, students and faculty members call the Help Desk. Most people believe it’s based on the Boca Raton campus, but they’re wrong.

Help Desk workers won’t tell you where they are. They won’t tell you if they are FAU employees. They cloak details of their relationship with FAU in a manner that equals the top-secret creation of the atomic bomb.

The so-called Help Desk is actually based in Somerset, Ky., and its techies most likely never heard of Florida Atlantic University until they were trained to pretend they’re FAU employees.

The Help Desk workers actually work for Presidium Learning Inc., a Virginia-based company that provides a service desk for 700 colleges and universities, as well as online and K-12 schools across the United States. The company calls it an education services management methodology.

FAU signed a contract with Presidium in February 2006 to ensure that faculty, students and staff would have access around the clock, every day of the year, to telephone and online support. The cost of using Presidium is significantly lower than if FAU had the same level of support on campus, university officials said.

Under the contract, FAU pays $151,500 a year to Presidium. Jason Ball, FAU’s chief information officer, estimated that the same service, with a staffing level of two employees at any one time, would cost $491,400. This estimate is for labor only and does not include the cost of licenses and equipment needed to support a help desk, he said.

While trying to deal with technical support hundreds of miles away has proved frustrating for some in the college community, students and faculty have noticed that system upgrades have caused e-mail incompatibility with the newly upgraded Internet Explorer 8 and AOL.

“Internet Explorer 8 and MyFAU are compatible,” Ball said, discounting complaints that some portions of the FAU site won’t work properly with the newest Microsoft applications.

Occasionally, a message might pop up, he said, informing the FAU user that some channels are not supporting inscription. He suggested that answering “yes” to the question allows everything to continue properly.

In regard to AOL, Ball said he tested it and discovered issues.

“Older versions of AOL seem to have had problems, but 9.5 has been tested, and we have not been able to make it fail when using the e-mail client,” he said.

As for the future of MyFAU e-mail, expect upgrades and changes to make the system as efficient as possible for the always-increasing high volume of messages, Ball said.

Issues are not going unnoticed, he said, adding, “We have a lot of work to do to improve the quality of e-mail.”



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