Information Systems

PHD IT WRITTEN INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

PhD candidates should provide an authentic personal statement reflecting on their own personal interest. In the event that any outside resources are used, those should be cited in APA format. Submissions should be a maximum of 500 words or 125 words per question/prompt. Applicants must answer each of the four prompts.

  1. What are your research interests in the area of Information Technology? Why are you inspired to research in this area, and why do you think it is important to research in this area?
  2. Why did you select PhD in Information Technology? Why did you select University of the Cumberlands?
  3. As an individual, what are your strengths and weaknesses and how will they impact you as a PhD IT student?
  4. Where do you see the future of Information Technology going and where do you see yourself in this mix after obtaining PhD in Information Technology from UC?

CHAPTER 12 Managing Systems Support and Security

 

Chapter 12 describes systems support and security tasks that continue throughout the useful life of the system. In addition to user support, this chapter discusses maintenance, security, backup and disaster recovery, performance measurement, and system obsolescence.

· Explain the systems support and security phase

· Describe user support activities, including user training and service desks

· Define the four types of maintenance

· Explain various techniques for managing systems maintenance and support

· Describe techniques for measuring, managing, and planning system performance

· Explain risk management concepts

· Assess system security at six levels: physical security, network security, application security, file security, user security, and procedural security

· Describe backup and disaster recovery

· List factors indicating that a system has reached the end of its useful life

· Assess future challenges and opportunities for IT professionals

· Develop a strategic plan for career advancement and strong IT credentials

INTRODUCTION

OBJECTIVES

When you finish this chapter, you will be able to:

Managing systems support and security involves three main concerns: user expectations, system performance, and security requirements.

A systems analyst is like an internal consultant who provides guidance, support, and training. Successful systems often need the most support because users want to learn the features, try all the capabilities, and discover how the system can help them perform their tasks. In most organizations, more than half of all IT department effort goes into supporting existing systems.

This chapter begins with a discussion of systems support, including user training and service desks. You will study the four main types of maintenance: corrective, adaptive, perfective, and preventive. You also will learn how the IT group uses maintenance teams, configuration management, and maintenance releases, and you will examine system performance issues and maintenance tools. You will analyze the security system at each of the six security levels: physical security, network security, application security, file security, user security, and procedural security. You will also learn about data backup and recovery issues. Finally, you will learn how to recognize system obsolescence, and about some of the challenges and opportunities you are likely to face as an IT professional.

PREVIEW CASE: Mountain View College Bookstore

Background: Wendy Lee, manager of college services at Mountain View College, wants a new information system that will improve efficiency and customer service at the three college bookstores.

In this part of the case, Tina Allen (systems analyst) and David Conroe (student intern) are talking about operation, support, and security issues for the new system.

Participants: Tina and David
Location: Tina’s office, Friday afternoon, March 28, 2014
Project status: Tina and David successfully implemented the bookstore information system. Now they will discuss strategies for supporting, maintaining, and securing the new system.
Discussion topics: Support activities, training, maintenance, techniques for managing systems operation, enhancing system performance and security, and detecting system obsolescence

 

Tina: Well, we finally made it The system is up and running and the users seem satisfied. Now we focus on supporting the system and ensuring that it delivers its full potential, and is properly secured and protected.
David: How do we do that?
Tina: First, we need to set up specific procedures for handling system support and maintenance. We’ll set up a service desk that will offer user training, answer technical questions, and enhance user productivity.
David: Sounds good. I’ll set up a training package for new users who missed the initial training sessions.
Tina: That’s fine. You also should learn about the four types of maintenance. Users typically ask for help that requires corrective maintenance to fix problems or adaptive maintenance to add new features. As IT staff, we will be responsible for perfective maintenance, which makes the system more efficient, and preventive maintenance to avoid problems.
David: Anything else for us to do?
Tina: Yes, we’ll need a system for managing maintenance requests from users. Also, we’ll need to handle configuration management, maintenance releases, and version control. These tools will help us keep the system current and reduce unnecessary maintenance costs.
David: What about keeping tabs on system performance issues?
Tina: That’s important, along with capacity planning to be sure the system can handle future growth.
David: What about system security?
Tina: Good question. We’ll look at physical security, network security, application security, file security, user security, and procedural security. We’ll also look at backup and disaster recovery issues.
David: Sounds like we’ll be busy for quite a while.
Tina: Well, that depends on the system itself and user expectations. Every system has a useful life, including this one. We’ll try to get a good return on our investment, but we’ll also watch for signs of obsolescence. Here are some tasks we can work on:

FIGURE 12-1 Typical systems support and security task list.

© Cengage Learning 2014

OVERVIEW

The systems support and security phase begins when a system becomes operational and continues until the system reaches the end of its useful life. Throughout the development process, the objective has been to create an information system that is efficient, easy to use, and affordable. After delivering the system, the IT team focuses on support and maintenance tasks.

The first part of this chapter covers four main topics. You will learn how to provide user support, maintain the system, manage the maintenance process, and handle system performance issues.

USER SUPPORT

Companies provide user support in many forms, including user training and a service desk to provide technical support and assistance.

User Training

In Chapter 11, you learned about initial training that is performed when a new system is introduced. Additionally, new employees must be trained on the company’s information systems. For example, a firm that produces electronic assemblies must train its new employees, as shown in Figure 12-2.

If significant changes take place in the existing system or if a new version is released, the IT department might develop a user training package . Depending on the nature of the changes, the package could include online support via e-mail, a special Web site, a revision to the user guide, a training manual supplement, or formal training sessions. Training users about system changes is similar to initial training. The main objective is to show users how the system can help them perform their jobs.

Service Desks

As systems and data structures become more complex, users need constant support and guidance. To make data more accessible and to empower users, many IT departments create service desks. A service desk , also called a help desk or information center (IC) , is a centralized resource staffed by IT professionals who provide users with the support they need to do their jobs. A service desk has three main objectives: (1) Show people how to use system resources more effectively, (2) provide answers to technical or operational questions, and (3) make users more productive by teaching them how to meet their own information needs. A service desk is the first place users turn when they need information or assistance.

A service desk does not replace traditional IT maintenance and support activities. Instead, service desks enhance productivity and improve utilization of a company’s information resources.

FIGURE 12-2 Whether a company is training manufacturing technicians, data entry personnel, or customer service representatives, employees need high-quality instruction to perform their jobs efficiently.

© iStockPhoto/fatihhoca

Service desk representatives need strong interpersonal and technical skills plus a solid understanding of the business because they interact with users in many departments. A service desk should document carefully all inquiries, support tasks, and activity levels. The information can identify trends and common problems and can help build a technical support knowledge base.

A service desk can boost its productivity by using remote control software , which allows IT staff to take over a user’s workstation and provide support and troubleshooting. Popular examples of remote control software include GoToMyPC by Citrix, LogMeln Pro by LogMeln, and PC Now by WebEx, among many others.

FIGURE 12-3 A service desk, also called a help desk or an information center, provides support to system users, so that users hopefully will not have the experience shown in the Dilbert© example on page 503.

© Shutterstock/Konstantin Chagin

During a typical day, the service desk staff members shown in Figure 12-3 might have to perform the following tasks:

· Show a user how to create a data query or report that displays specific business information

· Resolve network access or password problems

· Demonstrate an advanced feature of a system or a commercial package

· Help a user recover damaged data

· Offer tips for better operation

· Explain an undocumented software feature

· Show a user how to use Web conferencing

· Explain how to access the company’s intranet or the Internet

· Assist a user in developing a simple database to track time spent on various projects

· Answer questions about software licensing and upgrades

· Provide information about system specifications and the cost of new hardware or software

· Recommend a system solution that integrates data from different locations to solve a business problem

· Provide hardware support by installing or reconfiguring devices such as scanners, printers, network cards, wireless devices, optical drives, backup devices, and multimedia systems

· Show users how to maintain data consistency and integrity among a desktop computer, a notebook computer, and a handheld computer or smartphone

· Trouble shoot software issues via remote control utilities

In addition to functioning as a valuable link between IT staff and users, the service desk is a central contact point for all IT maintenance activities. The service desk is where users report system problems, ask for maintenance, or submit new systems requests. A service desk can utilize many types of automated support, just as outside vendors do, including e-mail responses, on-demand fax capability, an online knowledge base, frequently asked questions (FAQs), discussion groups, bulletin boards, and automated voice mail. Many vendors now provide a live chat feature for online visitors.

Outsourcing Issues

As you learned in Chapter 7, many firms outsource various aspects of application development. This trend also includes outsourcing IT support and service desks. As with most business decisions, outsourcing has pros and cons. Typically, the main reason for outsourcing is cost reduction. Offshore call centers can trim expenses and free up valuable human resources for product development.

However, firms have learned that if tech support quality goes down, customers are likely to notice and might shop elsewhere. Critical factors might include phone wait times, support staff performance, and online support tools. The real question is whether a company can achieve the desired savings without endangering its reputation and customer base. Risks can be limited, but only if a firm takes an active role in managing and monitoring support quality and consistency.

MAINTENANCE TASKS

The systems support and security phase is an important component of TCO (total cost of ownership) because ongoing maintenance expenses can determine the economic life of a system.

TOOLKIT TIME

The Financial Analysis tools in Part C of the Systems Analyst’s Toolkit can help you analyze and manage maintenance costs, and determine when a system is reaching the end of its useful life. To learn more about these tools, turn to Part C of the four-part Toolkit that follows Chapter 12

Figure 12-4 shows a typical pattern of operational and maintenance expenses during the useful life of a system. Operational costs include items such as supplies, equipment rental, and software leases. Notice that the lower area shown in Figure 12-4 represents fixed operational expenses, while the upper area represents maintenance expenses.

Maintenance expenses vary significantly during the system’s operational life and include spending to support maintenance activities. Maintenance activities include changing programs, procedures, or documentation to ensure correct system performance; adapting the system to changing requirements; and making the system operate more efficiently. Those needs are met by corrective, adaptive, perfective, and preventive maintenance.

FIGURE 12-4 The total cost of operating an information system includes operational and maintenance costs. Operational costs (green) are relatively constant, while maintenance costs (purple) vary over time.

© Cengage Learning 2014

Although some overlap exists, four types of maintenance tasks can be identified, as shown by the examples in Figure 12-5Corrective maintenance is performed to fix errors, adaptive maintenance adds new capability and enhancements, perfective maintenance improves efficiency, and preventive maintenance reduces the possibility of future system failure. Some analysts use the term maintenance to describe only corrective maintenance that fixes problems. It is helpful, however, to view the maintenance concept more broadly and identify the different types of tasks.

FIGURE 12-5 Corrective maintenance fixes errors and problems. Adaptive maintenance provides enhancements to a system. Perfective maintenance improves a system’s efficiency, reliability, or maintainability. Preventive maintenance avoids future problems.

© Cengage Learning 2014

Maintenance expenses usually are high when a system is implemented because problems must be detected, investigated, and resolved by corrective maintenance. Once the system becomes stable, costs usually remain low and involve minor adaptive maintenance. Eventually, both adaptive and perfective maintenance activities increase in a dynamic business environment.

Near the end of a system’s useful life, adaptive and corrective maintenance expenses increase rapidly, but perfective maintenance typically decreases when it becomes clear that the company plans to replace the system. Figure 12-6 on the next page shows the typical patterns for each of the four classifications of maintenance activities over a system’s life span.

Corrective Maintenance

Corrective maintenance diagnoses and corrects errors in an operational system. To avoid introducing new problems, all maintenance work requires careful analysis before making changes. The best maintenance approach is a scaled-down version of the SDLC itself, where investigation, analysis, design, and testing are performed before implementing any solution. Recall that in Chapter 11 you learned about the difference between a test environment and an operational environment. Any maintenance work that could affect the system must be performed first in the test environment, and then migrated to the operational system.

FIGURE 12-6 Information systems maintenance depends on the type of maintenance and the age of the system.

© Cengage Learning 2014

IT support staff respond to errors in various ways, depending on the nature and severity of the problem. Most organizations have standard procedures for minor errors, such as an incorrect report title or an improper format for a data element. In a typical procedure, a user submits a systems request that is evaluated, prioritized, and scheduled by the system administrator or the systems review committee. If the request is approved, the maintenance team designs, tests, documents, and implements a solution.

As you learned in Chapter 2, many organizations use a standard online form for systems requests. In smaller firms, the process might be an informal e-mail message. For more serious situations, such as incorrect report totals or inconsistent data, a user submits a systems request with supporting evidence. Those requests receive a high priority and a maintenance team begins work on the problem immediately.

The worst-case situation is a system failure. If an emergency occurs, the maintenance team bypasses the initial steps and tries to correct the problem immediately. This often requires a patch , which is a specially written software module that provides temporary repairs so operations can resume. Meanwhile, a written systems request is prepared by a user or a member of the IT department and added to the maintenance log. When the system is operational again, the maintenance team determines the cause, analyzes the problem, and designs a permanent solution. The IT response team updates the test data files, thoroughly tests the system, and prepares full documentation. Regardless of how the priorities are set, a standard ranking method can be helpful. For example, Figure 12-7 shows a three-level framework for IT support potential impact.

FIGURE 12-7 This three-level ranking framework for IT support considers potential impact and response urgency.

© Cengage Learning 2014

The process of managing system support is described in more detail starting on page 512, including an overview of maintenance tasks and a procedural flowchart, which is shown in Figure 12-10 on page 515.

Adaptive Maintenance

Adaptive maintenance adds enhancements to an operational system and makes the system easier to use. An enhancement is a new feature or capability. The need for adaptive maintenance usually arises from business environment changes such as new products or services, new manufacturing technology, or support for a new Web-based operation.

The procedure for minor adaptive maintenance is similar to routine corrective maintenance. A user submits a systems request that is evaluated and prioritized by the systems review committee. A maintenance team then analyzes, designs, tests, and implements the enhancement. Although the procedures for the two types of maintenance are alike, adaptive maintenance requires more IT department resources than minor corrective maintenance.

A major adaptive maintenance project is like a small-scale SDLC project because the development procedure is similar. Adaptive maintenance can be more difficult than new systems development because the enhancements must work within the constraints of an existing system.

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