Every single day, millions of people with many different occupations wake up, log on and go to work. They show up at the office, they work from home, or they connect to the company network from somewhere on the road. What do they all have in common? Each of them is going to use a computer.
The word that we most often use as a catch-all term for workplace computers — whether they actually sit on a desk, or are laptops, or tablets, or some other device — is “desktop.” Hence, we call the individual technologists who support workplace computing “desktop support analysts.”
So what does a desktop support analyst actually do? In short, a good DSA handles the BAU (or Business As Usual) hardware/software upgrade and maintenance issues that many (if not most) people either don’t want to deal with, or don’t understand. They work directly with the end-user, managing whatever device is assigned to that user.
Desktop support analysts are trained IT support professionals who resolve technical issues relating to an organization's computer system, telecommunications network, LANs and WANs, and desktop computers. It seems simple, but the amount of diverse knowledge that is needed can be immense.
DSAs help to resolve technical problems on desktop hardware and applications for all users of technology. Sometimes, they participate in the design, testing, and implementation of new products or services. Who better to understand the user’s point of view than the person who works to support their equipment?
DSAs also perform routine inspections, troubleshoot encountered errors, and maintain inventories on all physical tools and software applications. Additionally, they develop strategies and systems to improve and coordinate desktop support efforts.
One of the most amazing stats I ran across is that between 2018 and 2028, demand for qualified desktop support analysts is expected to grow 10 percent, with 83,100 new job opportunities popping up across the United States.
A good DSA (or support team) is essential to most business operations and demand is widespread. There are equipment and software issues across most work organizations on a daily basis, and a DSA is on-call whenever something goes wrong.
DSAs should expect to have a hand in all aspects of desktop support, including:
— Assembly and configuration of hardware
— Installation and configuration of software
— Hardware/software maintenance
— Hardware/software upgrades
— Hardware/software troubleshooting
— Hardware/software repairs and/or replacements
A good desktop support analyst, whether individually or as part of a team. Other job responsibilities may include setting up and managing user accounts and permissions, and updating and testing security tools.
It is not uncommon for desktop support analysts to become security engineers. They get a taste for cybersecurity during their time in support and are often tapped by security personnel to help out with common cybersecurity tasks.
DSA will also develop maintenance plans to prevent unexpected failures. This often includes monitoring equipment and systems and deploying needed patches and upgrades. An IT organization may have specific business goals that require monitoring computer performance from day to day.
A DSA will also often update and maintain the company inventory of computer hardware, software, and other equipment. The company will need to know what they have loaned out to users.
A DSA will sometimes coordinate with vendors to resolve technical problems with desktop computing equipment and software. They will assess functional needs to regulate system purchase specifications and resolve hardware and network connectivity issues.
In a nutshell, knowing what computer hardware and software a company has and having the skills to maintain and repair or upgrade those assets is fundamentals to a good DSA’s performance.
Training and certification
You can see why the DSA role is of continuing interest in the technology realm. There isn’t going to be a shortage of workers or the devices they use anytime soon.
For those looking to become a skilled DSA, I recommend a knack for troubleshooting. This can be hard to train, so you are likely to flourish in a support role if you have an innate ability to find and solve problems.
For certifications, I think that a general technology certification is a great place to start, like the A+ or Network+ certifications offered by tech industry association CompTIA.
From CompTIA’s web site: “CompTIA A+ certified professionals are proven problem solvers. They support today’s core technologies from security to networking to virtualization and more. CompTIA A+ is the industry standard for launching IT careers into today’s digital world.”
A+, in particular, has evolved to focus on training related to increased reliance on SaaS applications for remote work. You will also learn troubleshooting and how to remotely diagnose and correct common software, hardware, and connectivity problems.
Changing core technologies from cloud virtualization and IoT device security to data management and scripting will require you to stay up to date. You will need to become familiar with multiple operating systems, including the major systems, their use cases, and how to keep them running properly.
I don’t think there is another certification that fits the desktop support analyst role better than the A+. To get it, I recommend studying for at least one month, taking your exam on a Friday, and rolling into the weekend a freshly minted, A+ certified desktop support analyst.
I also always recommend soft skills training. We all have to deal with other people. If you want to improve those interactions, then take soft skills training. Most online course providers offer a variety of soft skills courses. Take as many as you can and revisit them often. Working on your soft skill will pay dividends.
If you are interested in computers or networking and you have an affinity for helping people, then perhaps a desktop support analyst job is right for you.