Something Stopped Working. Should I Call Someone, or Give It My Best Shot?

April 27, 2011 - 1 Comment

Guest Post by Contributing Author Ken Presti

It would be hard to believe that any user of technology has not faced this question at one time or another. Something stopped doing what it is supposed to do, and we’re wondering whether to raise the white flag or try to fix it. In many cases, the answer is a long way from clear-cut. Part of us wants to take a crack at it. That same part of us doesn’t want to come across as less than knowledgeable. Also, that same part of us might not want to wait for someone to come in and fix it. After all, we are very busy.

On the other hand, just as a horse can perceive a nervous rider, technology issues often have an uncanny ability to go from bad to worse when someone with just a little knowledge goes “under the hood.” But depending on your skill level, there are certain things you might be able to do in order to try to get things up and running again.

I don’t want to insult anybody’s intelligence by saying the first step is to reboot. You knew that, didn’t you? Similarly, the next step is to make your best effort to isolate the problem. Very often, this involves plugging in different devices, checking the efficacy of software running on the same system, and similar commonsense efforts to drill down on the glitch. Even if you’re not actually able to “right the ship,” your channel partner or tech support person will appreciate your diligence, as well as any information that you can provide to help them correct the matter more quickly.

Once you get past this point, things get a bit more dicey, and your actual technology expertise becomes more crucial. Because now we enter the realm of checking configurations, and perhaps even making changes to what you find. Do this correctly and you’re a winner. Do this incorrectly, and you might cause bigger problems than the one you started with. And if you make such changes on the network itself, you might impact a lot more people than just your self. So tread carefully. Always take copious notes on any changes that you make. Right down the configuration that was in place before you changed it, and also write down the changes that you made. Again, be sure to write it down. Don’t trust it to memory because once you start tinkering, it’s amazing how quickly those details will flee from your mind.

Anything beyond this level of response probably involves a screwdriver. Even if you really do know what you’re doing, looking up any corresponding warranties is a necessary first step. And with warranties or, in essence, insurance policies, it often doesn’t take a whole lot to invalidate them. So key things to consider here, aside from your own expertise, include the status of the warranty, (assuming it’s under warranty), the complexity of the device, the replacement cost of the device, and the mission criticality of the device. Though if the devices networking anyway, that mission criticality thing kind of slides down a notch.

All of these elements will help you select the point at which to engage help. But keep in mind that though tech-support people do appreciate those who can take care of themselves, they also tend to appreciate people who refrain from making more work for them. So be a responsible colleague, but don’t feel an overwhelming urge to be a hero, either!

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  1. I will say the best answer to this question would be determined by your level of competence with the subject problem. For instance, if I have a problem with my car then I have no choice but to consult the advice of a pro being that I know nothing about auto repair. On the other hand if I am having a technical problem with a device such as a laptop I am more willing to give fixing it myself a shot. Good advice on the making note of any changes, without noting you may often take steps in the wrong direction. On a few occasions I have had to resort to the trusty reset button if so lucky to have one on the problem device. These days a lot of information can be found online to walk you thru most any problems you may encounter,technology really is great. If you are lucky you may still be under warranty, in which case then why not call someone, there is no reason not too. If on the other hand you are not still covered then may as well give repair a try yourself, chances are if you make it worse in the end you may be able to buy something newer and cheaper than what you now need to
    replace. If no one will die, and I surely hope not, from the result of your actions then what’s the harm; after all you may learn something valuable. Hopefully you are never further are than a “reboot”, “reset” or loose cable away from proper function, Good luck.