Understanding the Art of Troubleshooting

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Research shows that workers lose an average of more than 20 minutes per day as a result of IT issues. This adds up to over two weeks per year! Those numbers are likely much higher with individuals and organizations without access to proper IT support, and small organizations are affected the most. This statistic alone makes a pretty solid case for organizations’ need for a proper, effective, comprehensive IT support solution, and that’s not even considering security issues, which can damage reputation and cost money in lost business.

A solid issue prevention solution involving proper backup, virus protection and system administration, which I’ll be talking about in a future blog, is the best way to avoid issues. However, issues will come up with all IT systems no matter how well managed. For this reason one of the key responsibilities of IT support is, indeed, troubleshooting issues or problems that occur with our computers or the devices that we all connect to them.

When choosing IT support services, you need to ensure the provider you choose follows sound, effective troubleshooting practices. Understanding what is involved in this process is key to choosing the right support solution for you or your organization. Let’s take a look at what good troubleshooting involves.

Effective IT support troubleshooting requires a team effort, it requires dedication and it requires a logical and effective troubleshooting theory with processes to employ that theory. All IT professionals strive for smoothly running systems, without any issues, but an often unspoken truth is that they also find troubleshooting to be a fascinating and challenging exercise in problem solving, one that they immensely enjoy. It's sometimes something akin to solving a mystery or a crime, as a police detective does, and in fact often plays out in a very similar manner. 

For example, imagine a detective being notified that a crime has been reported, that a new Mac Pro has gone missing, and he or she goes out to evaluate the alleged crime scene. The law must be upheld and justice served as soon as possible, before another crime is committed by the perpetrator, and another beloved Mac is pilfered. The detective interviews the victim and any possible witnesses. The police gather any available physical evidence like fingerprints, footprints and tire tracks. Based upon what is learned from all of this, a list of suspects is developed, and individuals on the list are questioned and investigated. 

Let’s compare that to a desktop support tech who receives notification that a support request has been made by a user who is not able to login into their Macbook Pro. The issue now must be resolved, and a system righted as soon as possible. The tech looks at the information and starts to evaluate the situation. The user is contacted to determine the exact nature of the issue and or clarify what it is, and then determine its root cause. The issue is researched, discussed and, if possible, reproduced to gain further insight.

Meanwhile, the detective isolates the most likely suspect and with the prosecutor, builds a case against her or him. That suspect is then arrested and charged with the crime, is brought before a judge and jury and is judged to be guilty or not guilty. If judged to be guilty, incarceration and hopefully reform of the thief ultimately follow.

On the other hand, to isolate the IT issue, through documentation research and comparison / complexity reduction, the support tech develops a list of possible causes from which a most likely cause is found, and an action plan is developed, tested and finally implemented to resolve the issue. Then the tech verifies the resolution, and finally, if possible, preventative measures are implemented. 

By identifying which one of the three root causes of IT issues was the culprit: Software, Usage or Hardware, and then employing the three main troubleshooting steps: Evaluate, Isolate and Resolve, the tech was able to successfully fix the issue.

Computers and computer systems all have glitches. Again, the number of problems that arise can be greatly reduced by maintaining a sound issue-prevention solution and following best practice administration policies, but there will still be glitches. When they do occur, a good troubleshooting theory put into practice by experienced, dedicated techs, will minimize their impact on your productivity.

These days comprehensive desktop support, provided by knowledgeable, professional and friendly technicians, is one of the keys to keeping any organization or individual productive and satisfied with their IT environment. When choosing an IT support service provider choose one with a straightforward support troubleshooting model based upon and developed from sound, standardized troubleshooting techniques. 

By Duane Cavalier


  1. Thank you for the useful information. It's not only informative but also an interesting read.


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