Last Known Issue, Volume I Issue 10
Don’t Jinx IT! On Friday I had a call from Christian at about 2:30pm. For those who haven’t met Christian he’s our resident genius Solutions Architect and Senior System Engineer. The call was to give me an update on the weeks projects and he mentioned the fact that it had been a pretty quiet week. I half jokingly (but in a somewhat fearful tone) reminded him that most IT ‘dramas’ occur around about 4:55 on Friday’s usually resulting in some unwelcome weekend hours for the team. I suggested he call me back when the day was truly done.
Fortunately, Christian was right though – it had been pretty quiet last week and well.. a little boring in our circle, and it caused me to reflect on why.
“There’s a script for that” Like Apple’s current slogan ‘there’s an app for that’ which is a way that Apple describes how there are so many problem solving applications or ‘apps’ for the iPhone and iPad you might be surprised to know that there’s a script for just about any IT problem that occurs in the office.
What’s a script? By no means related to Hollywood scripts, for the purposes of this article a script is a short piece of code or set of instructions that run on computers such as servers or desktops. They can run automatically or be initiated by someone. Just like ‘apps’ have been around since the birth of computing – so have scripts which are written for millions of different reasons.
Proactive IT support companies can use scripts to save clients time, IT frustrations and lost productivity. But more importantly, using tested and repeatable scripts reduces the level of human error that occurs when IT people approach problems often with their own unique way of doing things and sometimes with undesirable outcomes.
A couple of examples.. Say you’ve had a niggling printer problem – everyday when you come into work you try to print but the printer has decided for whatever reason to tell you it is offline. You call your IT support but instead of hearing “well that’s just an annoying glitch” the consultant locates or even writes a short script to automatically fix that issue for you. Taking it a step further, the consultant schedules the script to run automatically each day on your PC before you arrive at work so you don’t experience the problem again.
Other uses include routine tasks that often might only be conducted monthly or even less regularly by IT personnel – for example, despite companies spending thousands of dollars on backup equipment many don’t realise that 10% or more of those backups can and do fail each week. An IT consultant might use a script to flag those failures immediately so that an engineer can fix the problem before more failed backups occur. It’s called automation and despite it not being a new concept, IT companies who want to manage risk for their clients should be directing more of their energy toward scripts and a preventative attitude rather than just fixing isolated problems which in reality probably aren’t isolated at all. In other words, lots of small problems might actually be ignored by staff who put up with daily glitches even though it reduces their productivity and has an insidious way of affecting the company’s bottom line.
Magic Bullet – not yet The very nature of technology and software in particular is that they don’t always play nicely. You’d be right in thinking that Microsoft didn’t have a conference call with HP to make sure their latest printer would work 100% in your network, and you can bet that Telstra didn’t spend months researching every possible use for one of their Turbo Cards, workshopping each possible scenario to prevent an IT problem for you. What we do know is that if problems are measured then they can be managed. In this instance, the most effective way being to have your IT support company respond to an issue with a strategy rather than a quick fix.
Using scripting they can not only automate a fix for new problems but also address known problems before their clients experience them. It helps if IT support firms have a combination of systems engineers with development skills on hand and that they’ve made an appropriate investment in RMM tools (remote management modules) though I won’t cover this type of technology in full, suffice to say it ensures your provider is kept informed of happenings on your network at all times.
Your IT should be boring I hope I haven’t been too technical in this article – I realise IT can be incredibly boring for those outside our industry. I do try to keep these writings business oriented.
Perhaps I’m concious of this because I read recently that successful companies are boring. It’s not that their products or services are boring per se but rather their key operations such as IT, Finance, HR and management processes are running so well that there’s really not a lot of headache or drama… for many of us this represents a utopia where business owners can get on with new problems and challenges, perhaps even new business ideas because functions such as IT are running as they should.
Just because your IT is boring, it doesn’t mean you and your team can’t leverage it to do more exciting things – especially once you know you won’t be thwarted with constant problems.
So in hindsight, whilst I can’t claim that we always have boring weeks at I Know IT, I’m glad Christian proved me wrong on Friday and that the team had the weekend off – this is somewhat of a rarity in the IT world and it was made possible by taking a more proactive look at the problems we encounter.
In the spirit of a successful company, I truly hope you have a boring IT week!