An RSE Workstation: Behind the Scenes at the IT Helpdesk

WorkstationIf Pinterest boards are any indication (or Forbes, or, America loves to see pictures of office workspaces. Cluttered desks tangled with high-tech gadgetry, sleek and spotless minimalist workstations, it doesn’t matter—we just want to see what other people sit down to every weekday between 8 and 5.

As Director of Operations for a managed IT services provider, I want to provide my Remote Services team with the best environment for their comfort and ability to quickly and efficiently respond to client troubleshooting questions.

NetGain Technologies’ remote systems engineers—RSEs—aren’t the standard Tier I helpdesk. These engineers resolve at least 95% of issues during the initial call, with 98%-plus client satisfaction rates. Those stats require a highly-certified and capable RSE, but also a well-equipped office workstation.

Let’s take a look behind the scenes.

The typical RSE workstation in NetGain’s Network Operations CenterWorkstation

You’ll notice that my team’s workstations are different than the average office desk. Here are a few of the standard-issue tools we employ to expedite the helpdesk process:

  • Multiple monitors: Our guys have to be able to multi-task, and doubling (or tripling) the screen “real estate” gives us an edge. It’s a practical setup for our purposes, allowing the engineers to see multiple applications at the same time.
    For instance, if you call in with a network issue we’re quickly checking things such as:

    • Our NOC (“Network Operations Center”). A monitoring tool, the NOC scrutinizes nearly every aspect of your network’s environment for up-to-date stats. In other words, the NOC is a quick view that answers “What’s going on?”
    • Our Ticketing System. This system houses your company’s contact information, project tickets, and history of your account. As soon as you start speaking with an RSE he can see your company’s IT profile, allowing him to customize the troubleshooting process to your unique position.
    • Your screen. With your knowledge and permission, the RSE can “take over” your machine remotely (and temporarily). We’re able to see the same screen you see in order to best resolve your issue, whether the problem involves a slow internet connection, or pop-ups that are out of control, or you just need help with that Excel formula that isn’t working the way it’s supposed to.


  • No physical phones: Ask most people to describe a helpdesk and you’re sure to hear “telephones” mentioned prominently. Not here, though!In order to reduce physical space requirements—Remember all of those monitors? They don’t leave much room!—we switched over to Cisco Jabber-utilizing softphones and Cisco’s Call Center agent to accept and handle inbound calls in our call center. (“Softphone” is a combination of “software” and telephone”—it’s a tool that allows users to make telephone calls over the Internet.) After going through many trials of USB headsets to find the perfect ratio of ambient noise cancelation and comfort, we settled on Logitech’s H390.


  • Mini-PCs: HP has developed a miniature, full-blown PC that meets or exceeds the capabilities of the full-size desktop or laptop that you’re using. The size of these things amazes everyone who sees them. They are seriously small. If you have a stapler and a tape dispenser on your desk, they take up more room than our little HPs—and the mini PCs can be mounted or attached to just about anything, including the back of one of the monitors, so they truly disappear from the surface of each RSE workstation.The RSEs have their own preferences on which is the best keyboard—we have a mix of standard and split-key layouts, and mechanical and membrane constructions—and computer mouse to complete the PC setup.


  • Coffee Cup: The mini PC with multiple monitors and a softphone headset pretty much covers the workstation equipment. It’s a clutter-free arrangement. Oh sure, you’ll find some picture frames with photos of husbands and wives and the next generation of tech wizards. And maybe a cup with pens and pencils, mostly for nostalgia. One thing is a constant, though: Because the Remote Services helpdesk runs 24×7, we’ve got to have a coffee cup to keep the midnight fuel burning.

Click here to take a tour of the NOC with me.

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