Notes from the Field: tips for Technology Troubleshooting

Posted by Mike Welling on June 16, 2016

When I’m not training to stay ahead of the latest trends in technology, I’m out in the field problem solving. As a consulting engineer on a lot of projects, I’m seen as the expert, but somedays I don't know what problem I'll be addressing next. One day I’m working on a backup solution and the next I’m working on switches, routers and wireless connection.

Along the way, I’ve developed some methods for troubleshooting problems and bottlenecks in a client’s network that have worked pretty well for me. I put these down as “lessons learned” and I thought it might benefit you if I pass them on...

technology_troubleshooting.png1. Measure Twice

It’s an old carpenter’s saying, “measure twice, cut once,” and when you run into technology issues, it’s easy to rush to a diagnosis. But that doesn’t always give you the best results. For example, we had a project to help a school with its' network. Part of my job involves walking through the halls and checking all the closets where the switches are kept. I did that, but nothing made sense. So I did another walk-through, checking each closet again ...

2. don't give up on finding the solution

... It was after my "measure twice" and checking the switch closets again that I discovered the network engineer from their previous supplier had done some creative cabling, daisy-chaining the switches together rather than putting them in a hub-and-spoke configuration. That was why they were having performance issues with their network.

Sometimes you go in to help them solve one problem only to discover a deeper problem they didn’t know they had. In one company, we were going to upgrade their software, but it was going to take a couple of steps to get them up to the current server software. When I dug into their servers, however, I found a bunch of unlicensed servers and software. In other words, their network was out of compliance to the tune of about $67,000 of missing Microsoft licenses.

This is not an easy conversation to have - to tell a client they are $67,000 in the hole before anything has even started. Fortunately, I came up with a solution using data center licensing.

3. understand the hats your i.t. department wears

Often, the troubleshooting I do comes from networks set up by someone else. In some cases, it’s the company’s IT folks who may be responsible for the situation - but we can't pass blame to them. IT departments deserve all the credit and all the patience I can muster, because I know the demands on their time and their skills. Since I work with the latest technology and on cutting edge projects all the time, it’s easy for me to stay current on the solutions available. Most in-house IT professionals, however, do PC support, application support, server support and they rarely get to work on any projects using the latest technology. I understand that; they wear a lot of hats, and sometimes the technology issues are simply something they haven't seen before.

4. never stop learning

Staying current on computer technology, as you might guess, is a big part of my job. Not everyone can make room in their schedule for extensive training, so I recommend reading everything you can get your hands on - trade magazines, blogs, online articles and information from multiple vendors. All of these can help you keep learning, which is key to troubleshooting future technology issues.

For example, I am currently reading and learning all I can about hyper converged networks. If you are like me, the constantly changing landscape of network technologies is a challenge, but it’s a good and exciting challenge. It keeps me on my toes and it keeps delivering new solutions to real problems. I can then go out into the field to make those solutions work for my clients.

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Topics: Cloud, Practice, Hyperconnectivity, Technology, Business IT