Preventive maintenance on equipment minimizes equipment failure and can lead to early detection of potential problems. This includes minor maintenance such as cleaning peripheral equipment as well as more extensive maintenance provided by the manufacturer, vendor, or maintenance contractor. Preventive maintenance also includes general housekeeping to keep the operations center clean and orderly.
Unless specifically authorized by management, computer operators should not repair equipment or perform other than the most routine maintenance. Even if they have the requisite knowledge and experience, many hardware and software warranties disclaim liability for unauthorized maintenance or alteration. Maintenance by computer operators should be performed according to manufacturers' recommendations. As a general rule, these duties include:
- Cleaning tape heads each shift;
- Cleaning printers daily;
- Checking and cleaning the magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) reader/sorter at the end of each shift; and
- Periodically checking and cleaning the area under raised flooring.
Maintenance schedules may vary considerably depending on the number and variety of technology systems and the volume of work processed. All maintenance should follow a predetermined schedule. Employees should document maintenance in logs or other records. Management review of these records will aid in monitoring employee and vendor performance.
The manufacturer or vendor will usually perform maintenance under contract. For leased equipment, maintenance may be part of the lease arrangement. When equipment is owned or leased from a third party, management should obtain a separate maintenance or service agreement between the operations center and the equipment manufacturer. The service or maintenance agreement should provide repair services, detail the preventive maintenance, and include a schedule for both. When an operations center uses hardware from more than one manufacturer, it may be desirable to enter into an arrangement whereby one vendor takes responsibility for all repair maintenance. Under this arrangement, the operations center would contact the designated vendor to determine the source of the problem and to make all the necessary repairs. In any event, management should ensure maintenance contracts guarantee timely performance.
Management should schedule time and resources for preventive maintenance and coordinate that schedule with production. During scheduled maintenance, the computer operators should dismount all program and data files and work packs, leaving only the minimum software required for the specific maintenance task on the system. If this is impractical, management should review system activity logs to monitor access to programs or data during maintenance. Also, at least one computer operator should be present at all times when the service representative is in the computer room.
Some vendors can perform computer maintenance online. Operators should be aware of the online maintenance schedule so that it does not interfere with normal operations and processing. Operators and information security personnel should adhere to established security procedures to ensure they grant remote access only to authorized maintenance personnel at predetermined times to perform specific tasks.
Operators should maintain a written log of all hardware problems and downtime encountered between maintenance sessions. A periodic report on the nature and frequency of those problems is a necessary management tool, and can be valuable for vendor selection, equipment benchmarking, replacement decisions, or planning increased equipment capacity.