Honey, there’s a bug in the system

Have a problem? Need it fixed? Learn to report it the right way!

Do you ever get calls telling you “It’s not working” leaving you totally perplexed about what exactly is not working. If it’s not a call it could be a cryptic SMSspeak message “Sir, its nt wrkg” or even worse an email with the entire message in the subject line and only the company disclaimer in the actual body! Part of my job does get me several of these calls, SMSs and emails and I have a really tough time keeping my cool in such situations. Biggest reason for my irritation is that the calls and messages are coming from the on-site engineer. These guys are trained in problem solving, one would expect at least reporting the problem accurately, but no it does not happen. Not only is the problem not reported accurately, absolutely no research is done. God forbid if they came on to a mailing list and asked a question in this manner, they would be electronically whacked till they went home crying to their mommies! We do have Google, Bing and a host of resources to check on before giving up, or taking the lazy way out. When I am in a somewhat kind mood I would just send the complainer to this most wonderful site – http://lmgtfy.com/

Coming back to the real issue, to illustrate let me walk you through a very simple problem. Let us assume for a moment that your Internet connection has gone down. How would you go about checking? I would start at the most obvious of places and first go and check if the router or incoming device is actually plugged in and has power. It really does work better when it’s plugged in. Often over the weekend an over enthusiastic housekeeping staff will come around and clean the rooms and sometimes even the server rooms and in the bargain a few cables may just get pulled a little more than they should and will be dislodged. Monday’s are bad days for SysAds primarily for this reason. Docking stations with no power cables or no network cables, monitors which are disconnected etc.

Good,so now that we have determined that we have power, the next thing to check would be the network cable. Is the network cable plugged in and more importantly if it is plugged in are there any activity and link lights are that glowing? If you cross this point successfully, you would like to do some basic network checks, can I PING my gateway, can I PING my ISP’s DNS, along with PING you may also want to do a TRACEROUTE, sometimes the issue is still within your network and these commands are essential in tracking down where the problem actually lies.

Now while you are doing all of this, please instead of calling me, call the ISPs help-desk and log a complaint. I already know you have a problem because my monitoring system tells me that. Your call of “It’s not working” is totally redundant for me.

Once you have logged a complaint with the service provider, do remember to ask how long it will take for resolution of the problem. Many times I get “Sir the net was not working and I called ‘put the name of your favourite isp here’ and logged a complaint”. Very good is my reply, however, my next question will always be, “How long will they take to fix it?” at which I normally get complete silence, a blank look or a sheepish “I did not ask…”. Not only is it important to get a fix on how long it will take to resolve the issue, but also a good idea to pull out that contract and check the terms on the SLA. And of course the escalation matrix, cause if you don’t get an answer or fix in the committed time, the next step would be to start climbing the complaint ladder.

Great, now that we have the Internet connection restored and the problem successfully resolved, what should we do next? NO you can’t sit easy it is time to document the issue so that if it ever occurs again you have a good starting point. Build a collection of problems into a little knowledge base. If possible run an internal wiki and maintain the issues there. It is of great value when you need to share with your colleagues or handover to another SysAd. While you are at it, write a blog post, tweet about or share on some of the social Q&A sites and earn some serious brownie points.

Seasons Greetings and all the best for the coming year!

Cheers…Kishore

2 thoughts on “Honey, there’s a bug in the system”

  1. Nice of you to write this up. Are the on-site folks encouraged (and, perhaps provided incentive) about writing up notes on these interactions so that they leave their training documented as they progress through the job or, acquire minions ?

    1. Well, I have timed it well. Conducting a training session tomorrow, interestingly enough one of the SysAds who has suffered my whip for about two years is the one who will conduct the whole session and he learnt the hard way but now can’t live without it ;-) To be seen how the others react.

      Cheers…Kishore

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