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Researching Technical Issues (IT) - Bruce: Suggested Tips

Todd Henderson, GRC IT Help Desk - Customer Support

Suggested Tips:

  • Check device event logs, if possible (for example: Windows 10 'perfmon' or Apple event logs) for a "snapshot" of the current state of the device -- this log can provide additional context.
    Performance Monitor app on Windows 10

  • Look for an error # or code - useful for tracking down an official support document.
    Microsoft Edge error code example

  • Try to go directly to the vendor / software provider's support documentation whenever possible. 
    • You will likely develop a sense of "reliable" or "credible" support sources as you deal with common issues, but this takes time and experience.
  • When working with a user or client -- don't guess! Only suggest known solutions.
  • Be patient with clients
    • Keep in mind that people rely on their computer for many key tasks at work and in their day-to-day lives. Anxiety/stress when something isn't working with a computer or device is normal.

What search tools do you use?

  • Microsoft Knowledge Base
  • Wikipedia  - for definitions & terminology checks
  • Google - to look up issues / error codes
    • Be aware there is a lot of amateur information out on the web.

Jessica Chan, GRC IT Help Desk - Customer Support

Suggested Tips:

  • If possible, have the client send you / locate yourself any screenshots of issues, error messages, or other diagnostic information.
    • The more specific, the better. System or device logs are helpful.
    • If possible, obtain specific descriptions of when the issue happened (time/date) and for how long.
  • Pay attention to context -- including OUTSIDE context.
    • For example: Does the device have power? Is Amazon AWS experiencing a service outage and you are trying to access a cloud service? (AWS provided cloud storage for roughly 47% of the US market in 2018.)
      TechCrunch: "AWS outage is breaking things for a lot of websites and apps"

  • Notice patterns -- both in issues and reported solutions. 
  • Listen for the SCOPE of the question and CONTEXT CLUES -- does it include more than you might first realize?
    • Keep in mindClients or less-technical-savvy users may lack vocabulary. You can listen for what can be described, and ask for more details"You are seeing a blue screen-- OK. Does it have any text on it? What does it look like?" 
Two examples of "blue screen":
Windows "blue screen of death" blue Windows logo (four squares)
  • When working with clients -- Be aware you may want to adjust your language; not all clients will be comfortable with technical terms. Staying calm can also be very helpful!
  • Know when to escalate / reach out for outside help.
    • Especially when working in a Help Desk type of position, spending too long an issue can keep other clients waiting-- know who you can reach out to for support and/or what your other resources are and use them.