Wish for stakes to have MLS remote access

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
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ffrsqpilot
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Wish for stakes to have MLS remote access

Postby ffrsqpilot » Tue Dec 23, 2008 6:01 am

I'm not sure what is up with the November reconciliations but our stake seems to be having multiple problems with units being able to reconcile this month. Since the notice from Salt Lake that they do not have the time to work with individual units on reconciliation problems due to year end issues I have been gettin calls almost every night asking for help. I try as best I can but some of the problems require sitting down at the unit computer to look at the statements and the computer to figure out where the problem lies and how to rectify it. Not a big problem if you live in one of the Salt Lake stakes where the whole stake resides within a four block area, but out here in the "wilderness" our stake is a mite bigger than that - 85 miles to one unit, 65 to another, and 56 to yet another one. Makes for a bit of travel if you know what I mean.

Thus the wish

Salt Lake has the capability to call up a unit MLS and help work through the problem over the phone. I can sort of do that at home with MLS loaded on my home computer with the "test" ward and can work through most membership problems by looking at screens and figuring out where a correction may be made. However that just isn't possible with complex finance problems that some units have with monthly reconciliations. Right now all I have is the ability to listen on the phone, try in my mind to picture what the problem is the clerk is trying to describe and see if I can figure it out. If it is a simple issue I can normally help but some of the issues require sitting down at their computer and looking at the units finance statement and going back a month or two and working through one or more reconciliations to find the problem.

So

It would be nice (at least for stakes where the units are miles apart) to have a feature where at the stake computer a clerk could sit down, and be able like Salt Lake to call up the individual units MLS and help them work through the problem rather than having to travel all over the stake to help. Probably never happen, but if I were king for a day, it is something that would sure be helpful. Seeing as I am not that computer savvy, I have no idea how you would make this work, but apparently the capability exists as Salt Lake can do it from their computers.

Just wishful thinking, but since you all asked for inputs on how to make MLS better, I thought I would add my "wish". For now I will continue to travel to the units and help but if anyone has an extra set of tire chains feel free to send them along with your condolences! :D

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Postby aebrown » Tue Dec 23, 2008 7:35 am

Pilotfly wrote:Salt Lake has the capability to call up a unit MLS and help work through the problem over the phone.


Is this true? I have never thought that CHQ can look at a unit's MLS. I thought that they could only see the Church side of the financial transactions, MLS messages that have been sent, etc.

Pilotfly wrote:It would be nice (at least for stakes where the units are miles apart) to have a feature where at the stake computer a clerk could sit down, and be able like Salt Lake to call up the individual units MLS and help them work through the problem rather than having to travel all over the stake to help.


However, I completely agree with you as to the benefits of doing remote support. I am fortunate to live in a stake where it is easy to travel to any building and sit down at the computer with the clerk. For complex issues, that is far more effective than trying to diagnose problems over the phone.

The [url=http://www.lds.org/Static%20Files/PDF/STS/Troubleshooting%20PDFs/00262_000_Mar05_notice[2].pdf]Policy and Guidelines for Computers Used by Clerks for Church Record Keeping[/url] says: "In the past, some stakes have used PC Anywhere to access ward computers from a remote site for diagnostic purposes. If stake leaders want to continue to do this, they will be responsible to purchase their own software. As always, care should be taken to ensure security is not compromised."

The term "diagnostic purposes" could seem to encompass diagnosing accounting problems as well as technical problems. You might want to counsel with your priesthood leaders and consider this option. That might well be helpful much sooner than you could hope for the Church to implement any capability along the lines you proposed.

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Postby cottrells » Tue Dec 23, 2008 7:49 am

Alan_Brown wrote:The [url=http://www.lds.org/Static%20Files/PDF/STS/Troubleshooting%20PDFs/00262_000_Mar05_notice[2].pdf]Policy and Guidelines for Computers Used by Clerks for Church Record Keeping[/url] says: "In the past, some stakes have used PC Anywhere to access ward computers from a remote site for diagnostic purposes. If stake leaders want to continue to do this, they will be responsible to purchase their own software. As always, care should be taken to ensure security is not compromised."


Two of the units within the Poole England Stake are overseas. They are located in the Channel Islands some 100 miles from the British mainland. To help support the unit leaders and clerks we use a free service from LogMeIn to remotely access the MLS PCs via their broadband connections and help them with whatever problem they have. It has proved to be invaluable.

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Postby ffrsqpilot » Tue Dec 23, 2008 9:19 am

Alan_Brown wrote:Is this true? I have never thought that CHQ can look at a unit's MLS. I thought that they could only see the Church side of the financial transactions, MLS messages that have been sent, etc.


Well, you may have caught me there. I am going on what the previous stake clerk related to me. He related that in cases where the MLS finances are so messed up that CHQ can look at a units MLS (essentially mirroring ?) the entire unit MLS from a remote site and work with the unit clerk to find solutions. I guess I don't know this for a fact, but I do believe they have the capability.

The previous stake clerk (now a bishop) wouldn't kid me about a thing like that would he! ;)

But as mentioned, the capability would be a nice feature where units are so far apart within the stake.

Channel Islands - how on earth do they make it to stake conference! :D

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Postby russellhltn » Tue Dec 23, 2008 10:34 am

Alan_Brown wrote:Is this true? I have never thought that CHQ can look at a unit's MLS. I thought that they could only see the Church side of the financial transactions, MLS messages that have been sent, etc.


Well, I don't know for sure that they can. But from past messages I do know they can set a flag that will send a backup to them on the next send/receive, look at the problem, and send a fix back. I also think they can pull up the last monthly backup and look at that.

So I think they can - but with some limitations.

I should also point out that Desktop 5.5 comes with LANDesk which is capable of remote support. I don't know as it's practical to use on dial-up. I don't think I've heard of a case of clerk support using LANDesk. But the technology is there.
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Postby aebrown » Tue Dec 23, 2008 10:52 am

RussellHltn wrote:Well, I don't know for sure that they can. But from past messages I do know they can set a flag that will send a backup to them on the next send/receive, look at the problem, and send a fix back. I also think they can pull up the last monthly backup and look at that.

So I think they can - but with some limitations.


Thanks for the clarification. I am aware of the ability CHQ has for setting the flag and uploading a copy of the MLS database. I thought that what was being described was a much more interactive access to an MLS installation, so I responded to that. But it could be that the original post was simply describing these ways that CHQ can access MLS backups.

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Postby ffrsqpilot » Tue Dec 23, 2008 11:05 am

Even having the capability to upload a copy of the database would be helpful. However, (and I probably misunderstood what the previous stake clerk was describing) I thought CHQ could on a real time basis call up a unit's data base and work through problems with the clerk. However, with dial up I suppose that wouldn't work would it? We have broadband set up for the stake computer but most of the units are still on dial up so it would be difficult to do it "real time". But as ya'll have described, even having the ability to upload a unit's database and copies of the statements would enable you without traveling all over creation to try and resolve a complex problem with a reconciliation.

Just being wishful I guess. Thanks for the moral support though.

And I guess I really shouldn't complain. I used to live in Abilene, Texas where the stake center was located in Midland/Odessa. Now that was a drive to go to stake meetings!

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Postby russellhltn » Tue Dec 23, 2008 12:39 pm

I have not used it myself, but a Stake Technology Specialist can set up an account and use LANDesk to remote into a FHC computer. It does require someone to be sitting in front of it to do that, but it can be done.

Alan also pointed out that the policy specifically lists PC Anywhere as being allowed for "diagnostic purposes". That software is designed for use over dial-up.
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Postby lajackson » Tue Dec 23, 2008 7:45 pm

Alan_Brown wrote:Is this true? I have never thought that CHQ can look at a unit's MLS. I thought that they could only see the Church side of the financial transactions, MLS messages that have been sent, etc.


Higher levels of support at CHQ will sometimes load the latest backup of a unit onto a machine running MLS so that they can help resolve a particularly perplexing or serious problem. As you know, they take a regular backup about once a month. They can restore it to one of their computers running MLS just as we would restore a backup if necessary. When they are finished working with it, they delete it from the desktop.

In one case where it had been nearly four weeks, they set the flag and I actually sent them a backup so they could load it and see what was happening.

This is not the normal way of doing things. Most often I have seen them do it for serious database problems during the troubleshooting phase when I was working with one of the developers.

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Postby skiptaylor » Sat Jan 24, 2009 8:07 pm

RussellHltn wrote:I have not used it myself, but a Stake Technology Specialist can set up an account and use LANDesk to remote into a FHC computer. It does require someone to be sitting in front of it to do that, but it can be done.

Alan also pointed out that the policy specifically lists PC Anywhere as being allowed for "diagnostic purposes". That software is designed for use over dial-up.

Will PC Anywhere work through the Church firewalls or will they (firewalls) require special setups?

I'm also curious how I could set up an account and use LANDesk to remote into FHC as well as clerk computers. Some of these machines are a 2 hour drive one way for things I could help with via remote support via LANDesk. Does LANDesk require you to be on the Church Net when using it? Is there policy on this anywhere? The STS page came up blank when I had it search for LANDesk.
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