Diagnosing IT problems

How to approach an IT problem

0. Customer Service

1. Gather information

2. Find the source of the problem

3. Verify problem is resolved

4. Follow up with client

5. Document fix

0. Customer Service

  • The #1 thing a client needs from you is patience.

  • If they’re asking for help, they’re probably already having a bad day.

  • Open a ticket so that their problem doesn’t fall through the cracks.

1. Gather information

  • From the client 

    • Name/contact info.

    • Begin with open-ended questions, end with yes/no questions.

    • Get a description of the problem/symptoms from the client.

      • Environmental, when did it start

    • Get a description of the expected behavior.

      • “What are you trying to achieve/What’s your goal?” 

    • Trust but verify. Clients typically won’t try to deceive you.

    • It’s better to ask too many questions then work on assumptions.

    • Paraphrase issue back to confirm actual problem.

  • It is in scope?

    • Company property, out of support, cost of repair

  • Duplicate the problem

  • Check various logs

2. Find the source of the problem

  • Research the problem

    • Local documentation (wiki, Google docs)

    • Specialized websites

      • Eventid.net 

      • GSX

      • iFixIt

    • General Googling

      • Specific error messages

      • “Solved”/”Resolved”

      • site:stackexchange.com

    • Coworkers

    • Escalation

  • Try the most likely things/quick fixes first

    • Software updates

  • Process of elimination/divide and conquer/isolate issue

    • Software?

      • Different program

      • Different user account

    • Hardware?

      • Different computer

      • Different network

      • Peripherals


3. Verify problem is resolved

  • Try more than one case/combination of things

    • Try to break it (yes, really!)

  • Have the client do it themselves

4. Follow up with client

  • Did I fix your original problem?

  • Do you have any followup questions or additional problems?

5. Document fix

  • Complete the ticket with a detailed description

  • Enter information into documentation

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