The State of Support

An exploratory review of the state of and pager support in



This document is not meant to be relied upon as a “be all” of the state of AH/in Australia. The study undertaken was an exploratory venture with only 93 respondents sourced from a mailing sent out across the ’s () distribution list.

Interest has already been garnered for an expanded study to be conducted and aimed at the Australian at large.

If you are interested in becoming involved with such a study, please contact me or join to express your interest.


Technical Support Hours

In recent years, and companies have extended their coverage by several hours a day, most to a full 24*7 coverage (seven days a week, 24 hours a day) model. These extended hours reflect the fact that many businesses need to provide services to a market … which by definition implies the provision of support outside of regular office hours.

So far, this ever increasing extension of support hours and duties has been a seemingly haphazard process. If you were to go and seek any level of reliable data on “standard” after-hours support structures, the use of basic technology for offsite coverage, or other related material, you’d find pretty much close to naught.

Compensation information is practically impossible to find. A definitive source of industry standards for the way companies handle or pay for these services simply does not exist. , and may record and super figures – but everything else is considered too much of a variable.
So decisions about extended coverage are too often made on the basis of gut feelings and skimpy anecdotal data or, seemingly, in most cases, whatever the employer feels they can get away with.

To help answer some of the basic tenements about extended coverage, to gather some data and create the beginnings of some form of standardised grid that can be utilised by technical staff to argue figures with and officers, an e-mail survey of support coverage and related business practices was released via the mailing lists of the System Administrators Guild of Australia.

A total of fifteen questions were presented to members of the guild. These questions were focussed on the structure, form, practices and of course compensation. The survey received 93 usable responses and I have summarised the results in this report.

1. Are out of hours support handled directly by you/your staff or via an intermediary (e.g. round-the-clock team such as /, Automated systems, etc)?

By far, the majority of respondents (54%) handled all support calls directly with (29%) and escalated call systems (17%) trailing behind.

2. How are your after hours duties metered? Do you have a , are you always on or is it by arrangement?

One of the significant differentiators among respondents was the format that after hours support was metered or expected by the host company. The vast majority (64%) were on a rostered system requiring a week of support at a time. Shockingly, sixteen percent of respondents were expected to be “always on”. Fourteen percent of those surveyed were rostered by prior arrangement, with only 6% rostered on a monthly schedule.

3. When on support, what are the hours of required?

A shockingly high amount of survey respondents (57%) stated that when on support, they were expected to be contactable . This was closely followed by 34% requiring out-of-business hours (generally defined as 5pm – 9am weekdays and 6pm Friday – 9am Monday. Only nine percent of those surveyed were expected to be on eight-hour “” based

4. How are escalations delivered? e.g. , , ?

It seems that respondents are reasonably split with pagers and SMS systems making up 46% of initial , while mobile or direct to home number phone calls making up 54% of all initial support calls.

5. What is the average number of calls received per week while on support?

6. What conditions (if any) are imposed on staff while on support?

Remain Sober & Reachable 100%
Fixed SLA Timings 10m 30%
Fixed SLA Timings 30m 27%
Fixed SLA Timings 60m 22%
Fixed SLA Timings > 60m 13%
Return on-site 8%

7. Are you provided with tools to provide support? e.g. laptop, mobile, VPN access, Internet connection, broadband, cab charge vouchers, etc.?

In-house Bank 24
Access 44
Internet Connection – 28
Connection – 12
Phone 32
Re-Imbursed Services (e.g. Vouchers, home phone, own equipment, etc) 28
Other Tools and Services (e.g. , Pager, Proprietary Tools) 16
No tools or Services 2
** Some respondents indicated receiving more than one item and this is reflected in the scoring
8. If you are unreachable, what is the escalation path?
Escalated to Other Team Member 34%
Escalated to Senior Team Member 18%
Escalated to Supervisor/Manager 41%
Escalated to Vendor Support or External Help Desk 9%
Escalated to Other Support Centre (e.g. Interstate/International Data Centre, Outsourcer, etc) 11%
No escalation Path – “Work it or wait till the morning” 3%
** Some respondents indicated receiving more than one form of escalation method and this is reflected in the scoring
9a. Do you cover support for areas not within your realm of expertise?
YES 39%
NO 61%

If yes, how are these issues handled? e.g. against a blue book, escalated to other team member, escalated to vendor/outsourcer?

Escalated to Other Team Member – Rostered On Support 31%
Escalated to Other Team Member – Not Rostered On Support 11%
“Blue Book” (i.e. Documented issues and resolutions for standard calls) 17%
Escalated to Vendor Support or External Help Desk 8%
Escalated to Other Support Centre (e.g. Interstate/International Data Centre, Outsourcer, etc) 12%
No escalation Path – “Work it or wait till the morning” 21%

9b. How is support utilisation is tracked? e.g. Is there a trouble ticket system? Once the call has been escalated, is it logged and do you have to close the call at the completion of the engagement? Or do you simply scribble the information down somewhere and tell your manager, fill in a word doc/excel sheet in the morning?

Ticket Tracking System 22%
Service Monitor System (e.g. Products like , Outsourcer Provided Monitoring, etc) 8%
Standard Help Desk Tracking System (e.g. , , etc) 26%
Manual Process (e.g. Standardised Form, or Document, hand scribbled notes, report to manager in the morning, etc) 21%
Time Sheet System 15%
No Tracking Performed 9%

10. Is support compensated, or is it considered “part of the job”?

Compensated – 79%
– Non Cash 15%
Not Compensated 6%

10a. If compensation is offered what method is utilised? (e.g. Hourly rates, shift premiums, standby rates, flexible hours or Time in Lieu, gifts …)

Retainer/Standby Rates/Loading 41%
Hourly Rates 38%
Minimum Call-Out Rate 4%
Premium/Penalty Rates/Salary Loading 12%
Flexible Hours/Time in Lieu 28%
Flat Rate Allowance 6%
** Some respondents indicated receiving more than one form of compensation method and this is reflected in the scoring

10b. What rates are provided as part of this scheme?

Unfortunately, the range of answers were to diverse to compile into any form of usable table or graph. So, for the sake of indication only, I have compiled a close enough is good enough averages table for a basic reference.

Retainer/Standby Rates/Loading $A 50 – 200
Hourly Rates $A 1 to 30
Minimum Call-Out Rate $A 25 – 95
Premium/Penalty Rates/Salary Loading 10 – 20%
Flat Rate Allowance $A 200 – 500/ week


10c. If remote access is required and tools are not provided, are costs (e.g. mobile calls, Internet account charges, etc) reimbursed?

N/A 9%
YES 57%
NO 34%

10d. If remote support is not an option or commuting back on-site is required, are costs (e.g. taxi fares, car allowance, parking, etc) reimbursed or covered?

N/A 26%
YES 42%
NO 32%


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