Behind the Helpdesk

Cryptic Microsoft Exchange NDR’s

Just today there was a Helpdesk ticket created for the following NDR (non-delivery report):

Your message did not reach some or all of the intended recipients.

      Subject:    test

      Sent: 4/15/2008 3:20 PM  The following recipient(s) cannot be reached:       Billing on 4/15/2008 3:21 PM            The message reached the recipient’s e-mail system, but delivery was refused.  Attempt to resend the message.  If it still fails, contact your system administrator.

            <server.domain.com #5.2.1>

Typically at this point, I go to Google and search for: exchange 5.2.1 The first link is for Microsoft’s Support website. I won’t bore you with the details, but they (the manufacturer of said product!) was way off. I remembered that I downloaded Microsoft’s Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant. From there, I drilled down through the following menus: Exchange Mailflow Troubleshooter >> (Symptoms) Users are receiving unexpected non-delivery reports when sending messages >> Delivery Status Notification Code (remember 5.2.1 from above!) 5.2.1. Right there in plain text, Microsoft has finally done something right! The following are possible reasons why the message was refused:

– Message is too big

– Absent Master Account SID on the recipient is missing

– Access permissions (for the recipient)

The first two were wrong, so I checked on the third. The recipient of the message is in fact a Public Folder in Exchange, and the Anonymous permission was set to “None”. What’s weird though is emails from outside the organization come in. Senders from another (internal) organization were getting the NDR’s. So I set the Anonymous permission to Contributor (one up from None), and sent another test message – viola! Success!

Moral of the story? When you are troubleshooting Exchange problems, get yourself the Troubleshooting Assistant and get some real answers, fast!


How to beat spyware and viruses!

I’m reading through this article I found on Yahoo. In the IT world, the title might as well say “Get more inches with this pill!” Ok, maybe not that extreme, but close. There are a lot of articles out there that talk about how to remove spyware and viruses from your computer. How about first understanding how your computer became infected.

1. What type of websites are you visiting? Let’s face it, you’re not going to pick up spyware and/or viruses from checking out your local weather forecast.

2. Email – are you opening malicious messages? You should always be cautious of opening any email, even if you know the sender. Yes, sender names can be spoofed!

3. Downloaded software – “No, you mean this free software may come loaded with spyware?” I think I’ve made my point. If not… look back for important key word – free.

So now go ahead and read through the Yahoo link above if you feel it may be too late for your computer. And when all else fails, ask your in-house IT guru at work or call your favorite support group for assistance.


Numara Track-It

At my previous job, and last June at my current job, we integrated an all-in-one IT package called Track-It, by Numara. Some basic features of this program include:

  • Asset tracking
  • Helpdesk
  • Purchasing
  • Searchable knowledgebase
  • Reporting (w/ the help of Crystal Reports)

 The module that has helped our department (here) the most is the Helpdesk feature. An email address is assigned to the software which the end users send their requests to. A web interface is also available, which is more robust (more on that later). Within a scheduled time frame, the requestor receives a conformation email from the Helpdesk system with their work order number and other customizable information. Once the request is in the Helpdesk system, the ticket is assigned to the appropriate technician. After the request has been completed, said technician will “complete” the work order with the details of the resolution, and the requestor will receive yet another email with that information. Additional features with the web interface include:

  • Reviewing previous requests
  • End-user ability to complete their own requests (the problem fixed itself, etc.)
  • Searching the knowledgebase

The asset tracking (Inventory) module allows IT staff to audit and manage their inventory more effectively. As computers/servers are auditted, those records are merged into the database, which then that information can be used for a number of tasks – reporting, software tracking, corporate auditing, etc. As long as the database is properly maintaned (running monthly audits) you will always have a centralized view of all of your company’s assets.

Perhaps a module that doesn’t receive much attention is the Purchasing feature. This part of the software allows you to create PO’s (Purchase Orders), track when items are ordered and received, and apply those items as assets to end-user’s accounts. Just the same as the Inventory module, if this is kept up to date and maintained properly, it becomes very simple to see who has what hardware and/or software being purchased for them.

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Remote Administration

With more and more employees and offices becoming remote, it’s becoming more difficult to administer employee computers and network infrastructures. However, more and more manufacturers are noticing this, and making remote administration almost as easy and local administration.

Employee computers can be remotely managed by a variety of programs. One method is the built-in software titles from Microsoft called Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance. However, these programs are only available if said computer is on the same local LAN as the IT technician or via VPN link. What happens when the employee is remote and there is a VPN problem? One particular solution is from a company called LogMeIn (.com). LogMeIn provides a free remote administration program that only an internet connection is required. Once connected, you view the employee’s desktop just as if you are physically sitting in front of the computer.

Remote network administration can be handled in a variety of ways as well. One method is configuring the devices to allow specific connections to each device (normally via public IP address). Other methods include email notifications, SNMP, and an endless variety of free programs are available.


When to blame the manufacturer?

Everyday, Helpdesk Technicians are faced with different challenges. Anything from a busted keyboard to a server-down emergency. Are these problems always resolved? Unfortunately, that answer is “no”. Does that make for a bad Helpdesk Technician, or is the manufacturer (of the product) to be blamed for?

It’s easy to say, “The product is poorly made”, but let’s face it, this excuse does not work all the time. One can only use this excuse after spending countless hours searching news groups, updating drivers, phone calls to said manufacturer, etc. Once the technician has thoroughly examined the problem inside and out and has extinguished all available resources to get to the root of the problem and work back from there to resolve the problem, can they say the product is poorly made.

So, now you’ve gone through the motions and made your peace with the defective product. Well, now what? Some products it’s easy to say, “Toss it and buy something else.” What if that product cost you or your employer a decent sum of money? Let’s take for example a brand new laptop. Perhaps though, the laptop is not a total piece of junk, but the problems it exhibits cause a nice set-back in your Helpdesk log.

Here’s the scenario – Your company bought five new laptops for you to deploy. You configure each laptop to spec and deliver the laptops to the employees. Things are great! You just replaced their old, outdated, spyware-ridden, laptops with nice, shiny, brand new machines. What could go wrong?! Anything. First it starts with undocking/docking issues – either the screen doesn’t display on the external monitor, or the USB ports don’t power up, or the entire laptop locks up and a hard reboot is the only fix. You start to question your ability to configure laptops, “Did I do something wrong, five times in a row?” (for each laptop of course!) At what point do you blame the manufacturer? Regardless, you are the Helpdesk Technician, and you must fix it. The end user doesn’t take “no” for an answer, and why should they? You are getting paid good money to be the “Helpdesk Hero”, not the “Helpdesk Technician”.

What will you do? Blame the manufacturer or stay true to your roots and find a resolution? Being the Helpdesk Hero, you must make this call each day. I wish you the best of luck.


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