Technology Troubleshooting Essentials
  1. IT Troubleshooting Methodology Fundamentals - In this module we're going to look at IT system troubleshooting methodologies, and these are the processes and even the thought processes that you work through in order to diagnose, troubleshoot, and ultimately repair problems with any IT system. So let's have a look at what's in this module. Well, we'll begin by looking at methodology fundamentals. We're looking at how we begin to understand the process of troubleshooting. What are the steps involved, what's needed in order to be able to be a good troubleshooter and to work effectively and quickly? Then we'll look at the connected IT ecosystem, how everything is connected to everything else, especially in this always-on world of the internet. We'll move on to looking at the basics of actually troubleshooting problems using flow logic and flow diagrams. And then, we'll look at checklists, and how these can be used and are used within any IT system's organization for IT support to aid troubleshooting and repair for staff all the way along the chain. And then we'll finish by looking at how we ask the right questions with remote users. These can be users that are on the phone or users that are quite literally remote. But the first place I want to start is with the troubleshooting methodology fundamentals. So, we'll begin to look now at how we troubleshoot problems, how we get started, how we get our minds into the right place to be a good troubleshooter for IT hardware, software, infrastructure, cloud services, peripherals, you name it. The first question to ask is what type of IT system are we troubleshooting? Is it a PC desktop, so is it an operating system or software? Is it a user training issue perhaps? Is it PC hardware, so is it the PC itself, is it a desktop, is it a laptop, or a tablet, or even a smartphone? Is it a peripheral? Now peripherals include everything from printers, and keyboards, and mouse, to the headphones, and many more types of devices. Is it a server or even a server connection, is it perhaps a problem with a data center connection, or a remote app? Is it a network problem? This network problem, is it local, is it something that affects a large group of computers in our office? Is it something that doesn't affect the local network, or does affect the internet connection? Or is it something else entirely? These are the different types of IT systems we could be troubleshooting. Remember, these are broken down into many more different categories, in PC desktop are you working with Windows, or are you working with OS X on the Mac or are you working with Ubuntu or another Linux variation? Now, I mention that we need to work through things methodically, and you begin to do this firstly by using checklists to eliminate problem causes. Why do we use checklists? Well, some of the problems that can afflict PCs and other IT equipment include things like our power, our cabling, the socket both on the machines itself and sockets in the building's infrastructure, human error and training, software and hardware considerations, and our peripherals as well. Now there's a great deal in here. We've got everything from the apps we're running on our computers to the power socket and the network socket on the wall, there's a huge amount here. If we then look at the quick tests that we can do to eliminate causes, and quick tests are a brilliant way of being able to say, okay it's definitely not that, it's definitely not that until we eliminate things quickly, these can be tests on things like the power systems, on things like cabling, just making sure the cables are seeded properly, on things like sockets, making sure a socket isn't loose for example, in the wall or in a PC. Again, human error and training, you can question someone to find out what experience they've got, software and hardware, and peripherals. And you'll see the list is identical because of the way we work through things. We're looking at things in a methodical way, we're going to work through things from the very beginning, and the questions you ask from the very beginning, the way you work through that, will determine everything else in the process, will determine your quick tests, will determine your troubleshooting methodology, and will determine how quickly or how effectively you're able to arrive at a solution.

  2. The Connected IT Ecosystem - Let's have a look then at the connected IT ecosystem, because long gone are the days when you would have a standalone computer on your desk and in order to get any files on or off of it you would need a floppy disk or other removable media. Nowadays, in the days of the internet, everything is connected to everything else. Your computer is, in a roundabout kind of way, connected to every other computer, and every server, and every data center on the planet. The facilities are there to be able to make these connections. So you might have your computer on your desk, but around it are all manner of other connections. We have remote offices, we have cloud services, a network storage drive, printers and other peripherals, VoIP telephony services, network hardware, data centers, tablets, smartphones, routers, Wi-Fi, and other computers connected to Wi-Fi. There really is a huge ecosystem. So let's have a look at what's connected inside the PC as well. Well, inside a PC, that is a huge connective ecosystem as well. It's not just a computer, you've got your processor, your memory, your motherboard, your hard disk, your graphics card, your expansion cards, external media drives like DVD and Blu-ray drives, and SD card readers, power supply, and case fans. Now power supply and case fans are a special point because they have moving parts. Power supplies are probably the most common failure component in a PC, with fans probably coming in a close second, although they are much more resilient than power supplies. You have your operating system, your software, your updates to both the operating system and to your software, sockets, cables, all of these things can be damaged. So let's have a look at some specific scenarios and see how interconnected our computers are. We'll begin with the workplace and here we have our desktop computer and this is connected either directly or indirectly with every other computer in the workplace, to the workplace server, to remote offices, to network hardware, and to peripherals. There's a huge amount in here, and this is how things like viruses spread through company networks from one PC to another because of the interconnectedness and the way things are set up. If you're a mobile worker and you're out on the road, you've got your Pro tablet or you've got your laptop that will be connected in some way to your smartphone, you'll be connected to the company's servers or virtualized servers, and via Wi-Fi you can be connected to all of the other computers around you. If you're in a coffee shop, for example, when you connect to Wi-Fi you'll probably be asked do you want to see other computers on that network? And if inadvertently, even once, you've clicked Yes to that, now that means the other computers on that network can also see your PC. Even in the home there's a huge interconnectedness, which includes things like cloud backup services and internet servers and company servers, so you're connected to the entire world really directly or indirectly from within your home, not to mention tablets, Pro tablets, Wi-Fi, hardware, smartphones, peripherals, and a lot more. The IT ecosystem when we're looking to troubleshoot it, means that we have to look outside of the main PC for possible causes for the problem. We need to understand how interconnected everything is and how big this IT ecosystem really is.

  3. Beginning with the Basics and Flow Logic - So let's look at how we begin with troubleshooting problems on IT systems and how we can then use flow logic to help us diagnose and repair problems quickly and easily. Now the first thing to remember is never to make assumptions about the users of computer systems. Now, these people are going to be contacting you with problems, and troubles, and errors, and all manner of issues that need troubleshooting and resolving. Now some of these people will be very good with technology, they'll have had lots of experience using technology, and others will not be very literate with technology, they'll not be very good at it. It's not their fault, it's just that their particular talents may lie in gardening, or poker, or anything else; technology just may not interest them that much. So you can never make assumptions about the level of experience that these people have. Equally you can never make any assumptions about the level of training that they have. Now a company may have laid on a training course on how to use their, the IT system or this particular piece of software. You don't know if the person who's phoning you up was off sick that day and missed it, or started at the company after that training course. So you need to carefully plan the questions you're going to ask. Now the best questions will always result in a simple yes or no answer, because if you ask open questions then people might not be able to describe, or might not know how to adequately describe what the problem is. A good example of this is, for some people if you ask them to point at a computer on a desktop, they'll point at the screen because that's their interface, that's what they think the computer is. Now this isn't always the case but it's a good example of how if you ask open questions people might not be able to provide answers that are clear and that are accurate. So, if you can, ask a simple yes or no. So what are the basics of questioning? Well we begin with what is the problem, then we ask when did it start, and has anything changed? Now with what is the problem, fairly obviously we want to know what the problem is. What is the issue they have encountered and how is it affecting them? Then when did it start? Now this is important, this is as important as the has anything changed question, because the answers to these two questions can, on some occasions, help you almost immediately diagnose what the problem might be. So for instance, if the problem started almost immediately and has something changed, yes the computer's been updated, or a new piece of software has been installed, or a printer has been swapped out for a different printer, then it will very quickly lead you in the right direction to be able to troubleshoot and diagnose problems. So this is where you want to begin. So let's have a look at how we can use flow logic with this in order to effectively ask questions and to troubleshoot systems, because IT support is just a process of elimination, it's detective work, and anyone who is familiar with the stories of Sherlock Holmes will probably recognize the quote, once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Well, it's the same for IT systems as it was for Sherlock Holmes. It is just detective work, it's process of elimination. So let's have a look at that. Here we've got just a simple flow logic diagram. Does this device have power, yes or no? And we're following this through in a yes or no way as much as possible. There's an extra answer here, are all cables connected, it's not applicable because this particular device could be a laptop or a tablet and there are no cables required for that or it's not plugged into the mains and running on batteries. So there are, it's nice and easy and simple if you can answer the yes or no questions. Now, you can have flow logic diagrams for pretty much any IT system or any IT problem, and they will vary depending on the hardware, software, peripherals, computer types that you personally use. Now, I wouldn't recommend trying to design a general purpose IT troubleshooting flow logic diagram because it would be the biggest thing on the planet and no pieces of paper exist that are that large. Honestly you start it and you would never finish. As an example, here is a flow logic diagram that I created for my own online PC and Windows troubleshooting survey. Now this is quite large, this is quite complicated. I split it into different categories, I colored coded them so I knew exactly what each category type was. Now this flow logic diagram is just getting information, it's gathering information from people about the types of problems they encounter. It's not going into too much detail about those problems, it's not asking what the solution to those problems were, it's just what are the general types of problems that they face. And you can see it's huge, it's very detailed and very complicated, and you'll see a link here so that you can actually go and visit this survey yourself so you can follow it through and you can see the logic and the way the flow diagram actually works when translated into a proper survey. So, use flow logic if you can, use simple questioning with yes or no answers, because it really will help you solve, diagnose, troubleshoot, and repair problems quickly and simply.

  4. Creating Troubleshooting Check Lists - So we've looked at how we can just ask simple yes or no questions to quickly get the information that we need about IT troubleshooting problems. So let's have look now at how we can put these together in checklists and why it's important to do so. Well, checklists are important for several reasons. Firstly, they make sure you don't miss anything. Secondly, they often ask very pertinent questions that you may not consider or that other people may not consider. And also, they can provide valuable information for everyone in the support chain. These are people working in first, second, third line support, on the phone, these can be people who are engineers on site. So let's have a look at an example checklist now. Now, we'll begin with the problem area, what is the main problem area here? It is the PC, is it the operating system, is it the software, is it an update, is it a usability desktop issue, is it a printer, another peripheral, is it a problem with a network or internet connection, is it a cloud service, or is it something else? This can provide valuable information about where the main general problem area is, and it's a crucial, very, very critical question to ask. You should never forget to ask this question, because if an engineer needs to turn up on site they need to know immediately what it is they're looking at, what the problem has been reported with. Then when did the problem occur? Has the problem just occurred, just before the user phoned in for support? That's really, really important to know. Has the problem been occurring for some time and they just haven't got around to phoning it in yet? Is it a recurrence of an old problem that they've had before, is it exactly the same occurrence, a similar one maybe? So when it occurred can provide extremely valuable information. Then what has the user done, if anything? Has the user tried restarting the device, have they checked all the cables and the power sockets. Are the cables and the power sockets actually okay? Have they tried replicating the problem on another PC, or seeing if somebody else has the same problem? Now, this replicating the problem on another PC question is again a very, very good point because, let's say the user is having a problem with the cloud service. If they try logging in to that same cloud service on another PC and have exactly the same problem, then you can immediately discount any possible causes on their own PC. That's not the reason clearly, it's not their PC, it's not their installed software, their operating system, or updates, the problem that they're encountering is lying somewhere else, maybe with their domain account. So again, really important, crucial questions. And then, what's changed? We keep coming back to what has changed. Maybe nothing has changed at all, maybe there's been an operating system, or software, or hardware driver update, maybe the user has changed something, they may not always want to admit to this, but users changing things can cause problems as we all know. Maybe something new has been installed. Now when it comes to something new being installed, it could be a case of their printer was faulty, someone has taken the printer away and they replaced it with an identical printer, the user might not think that that something has changed because the printer is exactly the same, but the printer might have different firmware on it, it might have different connectors on it, there may be a fault with that particular printer. So even though the user might not think anything has changed, something actually has.

  5. Creating Quick Tests Lists - We will all at some point in our lives have phoned a tech support phone line, and we will have all been asked the same questions; have you tried turning it off and on again, have you reset it, and so on, and these questions can be really inane and boring and you tried all these things, especially if you know about IT, but really, genuinely don't hate the support person, because these questions are all incredibly valuable and the things that they will ask you to do are also incredibly valuable. So let's have a look at some of what I will call here quick tests. Now there are tests that can be performed quickly and simply by the user to see if the problem will go away, or to test for the problem. And there are other questions that can be asked as a result of these tests. So has the PC or the device being restarted, does restarting it solve the problem? Sometimes it does. Is there a problem with the electricity supply, are they running the laptop on batteries for example and they can plug it into the mains and see if the problem goes away. Is there an error light or a power light on the device? The cables and the sockets, not only are they plugged in, but are they damaged, is there another cable they can try, for instance, if they're having a problem with the printer or another power lead for example. So, is there an issue with the battery again, try using a laptop or tablet from the mains. Is there a problem with installed hardware, is hardware even missing, has someone taken a cable is a good question to ask? Has the PC been recently moved, desktop PCs really don't like being moved, especially when they get older, because not only can it shake loose some components if it's not done carefully, but it generally can kill them because components are constantly expanding and contracting as they are used, as they heat up and then cool down, and over a period of time, especially when the PC is moved, then these things just stop working all together. How old is the device? How clean is the device? Is there loads of dust around the back of it? All sorts of quick tests and questions that you can ask that are genuinely useful. Again with software, has the software been installed by the user, were they not supposed to do so? Has it been recently installed or recently updated? Do they have any experience of using this software? Have they been trained in how to use it? Is there indeed a problem at all, maybe it can be they just don't know how to do something. This is much more common than you might believe it to be. Is the problem occurring on any other PCs, is it replicable on any other PCs? Can the user see other computers and file shares on their network? Can they access the internet? Now these two questions are sort of intertwined, they might for example not be able to see any computers on the network, but they can't access the internet. So, again it gives you valuable information. So, is there anything else installed on this PC that perhaps is unusual that the other PCs about them don't have? Are they logged into the PC using a local or a domain account? Now you might find that they're logged into the PC using completely the wrong account and that's what's causing the problem. Are they using a remote app system, are they using legacy, i.e. older software on their computer, and are there other problems with peripherals? And then we move on to other questions, again are there any other PCs encountering these problems? Where is the user, is the user in an office, is the user on a construction site out in the field, are they in their car or in a hotel, what? Has the location changed? So, let's say they've reported a problem, the problem occurred in the office, are they still having the problem when they changed locations or perhaps they have been out on the road regularly and they only have the problem when they're in the office. Again, it gives you valuable information. Are they using cloud services such as Microsoft Azure, or Office 365? Have they tried logging out and back into the computer? Have any other issues they know been reported similar to this, have any of their colleagues reported issues, or have they reported these issues prior to this particular call? Have they received an email or any other notification that any of their systems locally in their office are down for maintenance? Perhaps for an upgrade, maybe an email was sent out saying that a local server is going to be down for a couple hours for maintenance and they didn't get the email, maybe they were off that day, maybe they didn't read it, accidentally deleted it, and so on. Have they encountered this problem before? What's changed? We keep coming back to what's changed, it's such a critical question. Knock-on effects, this is an interesting one. Are there any knock-on effects for the problem that they're encountering? So, let's say that the particular problem they have with their IT system is causing a knock-on effect to another system, or another peripheral, or something like that. Now knock-on effects is useful because you might realize that the problem isn't on the system that they're reporting, the problem actually lies on this other IT system or peripheral, and that is the one with the problem that's affecting them. And then again we come down to have things been reset locally on the device, can things be reset on the network, and so on. These are all absolutely critical and crucial quick tests and questions that you can work though to help users.

  6. Asking the Right Questions of Remote Users - I've talked previously in this module about mobile users and remote users because they can face their own unique challenges when you're trying to troubleshoot, diagnose, and especially repair a problem. So, let's spend a little bit of time looking at how we ask the right questions of remote users, because sometimes we need to give them a little bit more leeway then we would for someone in a business or in a home environment. Now users can be anywhere in the world. They can speak any language, they can have any level of training, any level of experience with IT systems, again it's so important we never make any assumptions about the people that we work with, and the people who report problems, especially with remote users because they're going to have unique challenges. So let's have a look at what some of these challenges are. Well, they may not be able to get access to a stable internet connection. Now, with remote users you may not be able to get an engineer to them, so you might have to repair things using remote desktop or another system such as that. And, you might need to ask them, very politely, to get to a location for a specified time where there can be a stable internet connection. But this presents its own challenges, let's say for example that they're thinking, oh, okay, I'll head to the nearest data center for their company. Well the security and the firewall systems in that data center may prevent you from being able to establish any kind of remote desktop connection. So, you need to bear these things in mind about the internet connections that they might have access to. Are they able to get to mains power or will they just have battery power? If you are providing remote support to them, then how long have you got? Do you have to do something really quickly, should you perhaps wait until they have access to mains electricity? How clean are the devices? The devices in our offices might get a bit dusty, but we can soon Hoover those, we can soon vacuum them out. But, users in remote locations they might be on construction sites, they may be up a mountain, they could be at a ski resort, there could be all sorts of environmental factors that may present challenges, both to them and also to the equipment that they're using. For example construction sites are very dirty, dusty places. And then time and availability. People might be on the road, they might be in the car, they might have long journeys to make, they might have flights to catch, when are people available? How long are they available for? This can often be a negotiation between you and the user. Then there's bring your own device. Now bring your own device is where people can use their own hardware in the workplace. And this presents its own challenges as well because while you might need to troubleshoot and even manage data and apps on these devices, the user will have a much more personal connection to it, and therefore will be much more protective about their own tablet, their own laptop, their own IT device, and they're much more likely to be looking over your shoulder and asking pointed questions about what you're doing and why you're doing it. So here you've got to be diplomatic as well. And then there's the language that you use. Again we're not going to make any assumptions about the level of IT ability and technical knowledge for users. So let's have a look at some of the language that we're going to use and how we can translate it into a language that they understand. So, when we're talking about a PC, a desktop PC, we're not talking about the screen, we're talking about the box. This is more common than you might think it is. When we're talking about the cloud, users don't know what the cloud is a lot of the time, but if you tell them that it's the services or apps that they log into on the internet, they may understand you a lot more easily. You could want to talk to them about the domain connection. They might now know what a domain connection is, and you say well, when you log in to the company using your company email address and your company password, and they'll understand you more easily. If you talk about peripherals, well what's a peripheral? Well, just say it's a printer, a keyboard, a mouse, headphones, speakers, anything else that's plugged in to the PC that's not actually a part of it. What is a network? They may think that a network is a collection of people that they go to business events with. So, you need to be able to explain what a network is to them and even what the internet is. Some people if you're talking to them about an internet connection, then they may still have a different idea of what it means to what you actually mean. So, again you need to be careful with the language that you use. Again don't make any assumptions, ever, about the people that you're working with.

  7. Summary - So let's summarize now this module and what we've covered. I can never stress enough that you should not make any assumptions about the user, about their level of technical ability, about their experience, about anything, even about their level of understanding in English or whatever language it is that you speak. There may have been training within the company for this particular IT system or this particular piece of software, but they might have started at the company two days after that training took place, or they may have been off sick on the day that the training was done. Look for factors that might have contributed to the issue. Are there any other problems that are knock-on effects, or are there any other IT systems or PCs that are experiencing the same or a similar problem? Has something changed recently? We keep coming back to has something changed? Look for things that will give you clues as a good detective of what could possibly be the cause. Again, what has changed anything at all, has something been installed, has something been updated, has something been swapped out, a component inside the PC, even something as simple and as basic as a keyboard or a mouse being changed can give you clues as to what it is that's going on. What special circumstances are there? I mentioned a little earlier that somebody may have a problem with a laptop, but when they're out on the road they don't have the problem, they only have the problem when they're in a specific branch office or back at the main office. So what special circumstances are there? You never know what scenarios people may have found themselves in. And work through problems methodically. Try and limit your questions to ones that require a yes or no answer. Open questions can result in users not being able to give you the right and appropriate information. Work through things with checklists, with quick tests, and use these to not only gather information, but to eliminate many things. And this is the basics of how you can begin to troubleshoot IT systems.

  8. Understanding IT Systems and the Things That Can Affect Them - Introduction - In this module, we're going to look at the ecosystem of our IT hardware and how everything quite literally is connected to everything else. And then we'll look at some of the environmental and human factors that can affect those systems. So let's have a look at what we're going to cover in this module in more detail. We'll begin by looking at how our IT systems are structured, how things are interconnected, and what they're interconnected with. Then we'll look at human factors that can affect our IT systems and how we can use training to mitigate some of these problems. Then we'll look at peripherals--things like printers and other additional hardware and local hardware on our IT systems. And then we'll move on to remote hardware and remote services including cloud services. Lastly, we'll finish by looking at the environmental factors that can affect our IT systems as mother nature can be a cruel mistress.

  9. How Our IT Systems Are Structured - Let's begin then by looking at how our IT systems are structured in that how our hardware is connected to other pieces of hardware and other computers and peripherals and other cloud services and other computers in the cloud in ways that we may not think about. The idea behind this is to look at our PCs and our software and our peripherals in an holistic way so that we can see how interconnected everything is and how everything that we have can be affected by the connections that it has to other things. Now, the list here is by no means exhaustive. You'll have equipment such as biometric sensors that you may have in the workplace that aren't included here, but that's because the amount of hardware that's available in the PC ecosystem is just simply vast. So here we start with desktop PCs in the workplace, and we've got our desktop PC in the center, and it's connected to other desktop PCs and tablets and smartphones, printers, cloud services, the internet, virtual machines, data centers, network storage, and much more. And each one of these connections, any one of these connections, can create a bottleneck that can cause a problem, and it's so that you understand how these connections---what these connections are, how they come about, how they're made so that you can---if you have a problem, then it may be that the problem on that PC doesn't exist on that PC, that it's actually being caused by a connection to something else or perhaps even by another piece of hardware such as a router. If we then go into mobile working, well we have a laptop here, that's connected to a data center, to a smartphone, and to the smartphone's mobile signal, perhaps to a tablet, to a router in a coffee shop, a café, or a branch office, to the internet, and to cloud services as well, perhaps Office 365. If we then look at home working, well people will have a PC that they might use at home for work. It may even be their own device, a BYOD device. Well what is this going to be connected to? Well we've got the internet, we've got other PCs, tablets, smartphones, the home router and the broadband connection that comes with that, a printer, perhaps network storage, and perhaps other devices as well, such as digital cameras and games consoles. There's also cloud file storage here, which might be connected to home PCs as well. Taking things up a step now into server systems. Well what are our servers connected to? Well our servers are connected to the internet, and they're connected to other data centers and other servers, other servers within the same building, other servers within other buildings. They're connected to desktop PCs in other branch offices and other main offices. They're connected to mobile workers on the road, and they are connected to a whole host of virtual machines that now run within the service and data service to give us the technologies and the facilities that we need. Lastly, there are cloud systems. Now cloud systems--don't think of them in so far as something run by a major tech company from somewhere in America or somewhere else in the world. Think of them as your own company's data center. That's a cloud system. Although you will also be interacting with services such as those from Microsoft and Google and the like. Here we have data centers. We have tablets and smartphones. We have other computers that these cloud systems are connected to. We have cloud databases and cloud file storage. We have internet connections. So, the breadth of connections that our computers have really is enormous. Every computer is, theoretically anyway, connected to every other computer on the planet because connections between these can be made over the internet, and it's the same with data centers and with PCs in the office, maybe even on the local network. You're still connected to everything on the local network. And if you have a problem with a PC or with a device, then it is entirely possible that the problem on that PC is caused by one of these connections. So it's important to understand how these connections are made and what types of connections exist.

  10. Human Factors and Training - When it comes to providing good IT Support, we need to take into account the individual people who use our IT systems and what the challenges are that they face and what their level of experience and training is with those IT systems. Let's look at an example. Now, if you're viewing this course, then you're probably going to fall into the geek category as, indeed, I do. And I'm proud of it! You might be a digital technology expert as it says here in this dictionary definition. Or you could just have years and years and years of experience with IT systems. You could be an enthusiastic amateur who just loves tinkering with operating systems and software. And you will probably know a few people that you might describe as a noob, the slang term to describe a computer newbie or an IT and technology newbie, someone who doesn't have any experience with IT systems, doesn't really understand how they work or how they're going to get to---how they're going to get to know them. Now in truth, the reality is that the people that you're going to be supporting will fall anywhere between these two categories, anywhere between geek and noob. There will be all levels of IT experience in various different things as well. Some people will be great with PCs, some people will be great with tablets but not have any experience with printers. Some people will be okay with cloud services but not sure about other things and not sure about operating systems and so on. Everyone will have their own experience. And everyone will have received different levels of training as well. Now, companies will lay on training courses for individuals, but one individual may have started after that training was run or just been off on holiday that day, on vacation. So, when we're talking to people, look at some of these words, some of which are tech slang, some of which are product names, and so on, and ask yourself how many of these words the people that you know and that you hang around with, members of your family and your colleagues, how many of them will they actually understand? So if you were going to tell them what an SKU is, would they know what an SKU is? Would they know what a PSU is? Would they understand what SQL means or what GNU/Linux is? Would they know what USB-C port is or what the user folder is, and so on? So when you're talking to your customers, the people that you're supporting, you need to be very conscious of the language that you're using so that you're not intimidating them and so that you're helping them to understand. Now with them understanding, there's a very important point here because people love to learn. And it's why we watch documentaries so much on the television. People want to understand how and why things are, what they are, how they came about, how they work, where they're headed, how technology is going to help them and how it's going to change and evolve into the future. People always want to learn. It's a fascinating and really helpful part of the human condition. And with this, you are a teacher for these people. So you're helping people to diagnose a problem or to repair one remotely over the telephone, but you're helping them to understand now just how to fix it but why it occurred. If you can help somebody in an office environment, for example, to understand why a problem occurred, then they may be able to prevent it occurring on their colleagues' PCs, as well as on their own PC. They may be able to help fix it on their colleagues' PCs, therefore taking the pressure off the IT Support department for simpler to fix issues. And you're giving them a sense of satisfaction at the same time. And you're helping them to achieve something. You're improving their own knowledge. And you're going to get a buzz out of it as well because you've imparted some really valuable and useful information. So, helping the people that you're supporting, your customers, helping them to understand these problems from beginning to end is such a valuable skill.

  11. Peripherals and Local Hardware - The peripherals that we use with our IT systems can be the cause of many a problem, and you might find a large portion of your time is given over to supporting problems with the peripherals that we use. So let's spend a little bit of time now looking at what some of these problems are with peripherals and how they come about. So what factors are there that affect the peripherals that we use? Well drivers is an obvious one. The software that we load into our PCs in order to be able to get peripherals to work. The problems that can affect drivers are many and varied. Is the driver the very latest one? If it is the very latest one, is it actually stable? Was it written for the operating system that you're actually using? Are there conflicts with other drivers, and so on? Consumables are also an issue. If you have a peripheral that requires replacement parts, then how long do they last? And how good are they? And do they tend to cause problems on their own? And we'll deal a little bit more with consumables shortly when we talk about printers. Then there's the age of the peripherals. We do tend to keep these things for a long time and give them a lot of abuse as well. Look at keyboards and mice. We can keep keyboards and mice for years and years and years because we're extremely comfortable with them. They're like the old shoe of the computer world. But keyboards and mice get more punishment than anything else that is part of our IT systems. And we may have other hardware that we're just really, really fond of that's older and maybe doesn't have brilliant or any driver support these days. Maybe it's an old printer. And for as long as you can keep buying ink for it or toner for it, then there's no reason to get rid of the printer even though the printer manufacturer may not want to release current drivers for it because they want to try to force you to buy new printers. Sockets on both the device, the PC, and structural in the building can affect peripherals as well. Sockets can become damaged or worn over time. They can become loose as cables are pulled in them or PCs are moved around. Cables themselves can become worn and damaged. They can be chewed by the dog. All manner of things can happen to cables. You can trip over them. You can pull them and damage them that way. Wireless peripherals can present problems as well such as routers. We'll deal a little bit more about wireless devices later on in this module because I want to talk about some of the environmental factors that affect them. But wireless devices themselves can have problems, especially if it's, for example, a Wi-Fi aerial that doesn't---it's only got a single aerial. It's perhaps an older and less compatible device. Then there's mobility. Again we'll talk about this in more detail later on, but suffice it to say for now that PCs and IT systems do not like being moved around. There are real, real problems related to simple physics that mean that our electronics don't like being moved. And, again, more on that later on. And then there's the location of the peripherals and where they're actually used. Now we might think, Oh, we're going to use them in our home or in a nice clean office. Well in your home, you've got dogs and cats. You might have a laptop that you need to use out and about. It might be on a construction site with lots of dust and dirt. You might be on a farm. There---our hardware in our peripherals might go absolutely everywhere. If you have a printer that needs to be taken out by a sales executive to out into the countryside or out into dusty roads or other peripherals that are used out in the city center, then all sorts of environmental factors based on the location can affect them. And we'll look at those in more detail later on as well.

  12. Why Are Printers Problematic? - So, I mentioned that printers are problematic, and why? Well there are three main factors affecting printers. Human factors such as people printing a job to the wrong printer and then wondering why it doesn't appear. People not turning the printer on. You'd be surprised how often that actually happens. Or letting the printer run out of paper. There are issues that can affect people such as IT departments putting restrictions on the printing that people can do. For instance, only allowing the printer to be used between certain hours of the day or only allowing the user to print a certain number of pages or only in black and white when they really want to print in color. Then, there are human factors associated with wireless and wired printers. Is a user connecting to the printer in the right way? Then there are simple IT problems such as driver installation. I've already mentioned that some printers are older, and the manufacturers want us to buy new printers. There are issues, again, with the default printer set in a PC. Is the printer that the person is actually sending their print job to the default one? Should it be set as the default one? You can, in Windows, at least, you can set default printers for different locations, and this is definitely something you want to look into if workers are working out and about. There are cabling issues. As I mentioned, cables can become damaged, and power cables can become damaged as well. And there are simple IT permissions and setup problems that can be resolved by canny IT departments. Then, lastly, there are issues with consumables. Are the correct consumables being used or just cheap, compatible ones? Is the ink or toner being used correctly. What other consumables are there, and what is the life of those consumables? How many paper trays does a printer have? And are they correctly set up within the printer? And, lastly, we come to the biggest printer problem of jamming. Printers have lots of moving parts, and paper gets jammed all the time.

  13. Let's Talk Physics! - Earlier in this module, I mentioned that physics plays a part in troubleshooting and diagnosing problems with IT systems. And it does! I had a fascinating conversation with a physicist once about this and about the effects that long-term usage has on our electronics. When we use an electronic device, it heats up as it's used and as the electricity runs through it. And obviously this is a very simplified explanation as I even understand the concept. And then when we stop using these devices, then they cool down again. And when they are used, the components expand, and when they are not used, the components contract. And then over a long period of time, this expansion and contraction will cause wear and tear on these devices so that eventually they will break, which does rather bring us on to IT systems with moving parts because in addition to this constant heating up and cooling down of our IT systems, which means that older PCs really don't like being moved, there are plenty of moving parts in our IT systems as well. PC cases have got fans in them. The motherboards have got fans on. Processors have fans on. Graphics cards will commonly have fans on. And printers have so many moving parts that I couldn't even list them all here. There are a huge number of moving parts in what we generally consider to be static devices. Even your laptop or tablet will likely have a fan in it. And when these moving parts fail, as inevitably they will over a period of time, then that can cause problems itself.

  14. Remote Hardware and Services - Because everything in our IT systems is connected to everything else, we can't rule out the possibility that remote hardware servers and cloud services can be a potential cause of problems. So we'll spend a little bit of time going through these. So, if somebody's having a problem accessing a remote server or any kind of server or a cloud system, then there are some questions that you might want to ask them right at the beginning. Can anybody else access the server or the cloud service, or is the problem isolated just to that one user? If it's isolated to that one user, then it's probably not a problem with the server or the data center or the services. It's probably a local problem with their own PC or their own software configuration. Is there a status website for the cloud service or the server? So, is there a website that you can visit yourself to see if there is an outage? Has an email been sent to the user informing them of scheduled maintenance? These things are very easily overlooked. People might have received an email a week ago and then completely forgotten that they have received it. And it may just say that the server's going to be out of use for an hour or two, and they needn't worry. Have they waited for a little while and tried again? So have they said, Ok, right, I'll go and make myself a cup of coffee, and then I'll come back, and I'll give it another go. And has it happened before? Is it a recurrence of an existing problem? So, these are the questions that you might want to ask in order to ascertain where the problem may lay. Lastly, do they have a problem with their account permissions? If they're logged into a domain or, say, an Office 365 account, do they actually have the account permissions that have been allocated to them that they need in order to be able to perform the actions that they are trying to undertake? So, they may be trying to do a file operation or a user operation on the server, and they simply haven't got permission to do so. So this is, again, something useful to check.

  15. What Sits Between the PC and the Cloud - If people are having a problem with a network or internet connection or with a cloud service, then you might think, Okay, well I've got the PC, and we've got the cloud service or the server. And these are the things there could be a problem with. Well, let's just have a look for a minute at some of the things that sit between the PC and the cloud. Now, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it's still quite a long one. You've got software in there. You've got network drivers. you've got sockets. You've got cabling. You've got routers. You've got your local ISP's actual cabling under the road. You've got your phone exchange. You might even have a satellite in orbit that's part of this connection between your PC and a data center. So, there are many aspects of networking and of cloud systems that are really complicated. You may find, for example, that you need to look at the current status page for your internet service provider to see if they're having any kind of outage at all or if other people in the neighborhood are also reporting issues. Again, if people are out on the road, they will have their own variety of ways to connect to the cloud. It could be a dial-up internet connection. It could be shared Wi-Fi in a coffee shop or at a client's premises. It could be a virtual private network. Or they may even be in a country such as China with some restrictions on what you can access online.

  16. Environmental Factors - I mentioned earlier in this module that nature itself can be quite unkind to our IT equipment. So let's spend a little bit of time looking at what some of these environmental factors are, how they affect our IT equipment, and quite what we can do about it. So let's begin with dust. It really is the great enemy of IT. If you've ever had a desktop PC that's been sat on a desk or worse sat on a carpet for a long period of time, then you will probably have seen that the vents all around it, especially around the back of it, will be thick with dust. And it could cause PCs to overheat. And when the dust gets in the components, it can just shorten the lifespan of things greatly. Worse, vacuum cleaners suck! They suck big time! Vacuum cleaners actually throw a lot of dust around, as well as suck it up. So, dust is a great enemy, and it's something that needs to be taken into consideration, especially when you're cleaning a home or a home office. Dusty locations, as I say, can destroy IT. Now, previously in this module, I'd mentioned construction sites, roadsides, farms, and more, and if you're in locations where there's not just dust but there's dirt, there's sand, there's pollen, there's large amounts of pollen anyway, there's all manner of things that are particles and that can get into the vents on a laptop or a tablet, then they can destroy your system. Sand is a particular killer. Then there's water. Now, I don't need to tell you that you shouldn't put your IT systems in water because water is very bad for anything electrical. But direct water contact isn't always necessary to destroy IT systems. If you're in an environment where there's a lot of moisture or humidity in the air, then that itself can kill devices because you have water vapor creeping into those devices through the vents. Then there's brick--brick walls and stone. If you're living in a country such as the United State of America where houses tend to be made from wood and ply structures, then you probably don't have any Wi-Fi problems. But you go to Europe and places where there are buildings hundreds, maybe even a couple of thousands of years old that are made of heavy brick and stone, these walls can block Wi-Fi signals very effectively. So if you have---if you're in a stone or a thick, heavy-built brick building, and you're having Wi-Fi problems, then that could be the cause. Then last but not least, there're our lovable friends, our pets, our cats and dogs. Because just as dust can clog up the fans and vents on your PC, so can pet hair. And just like dust, pet hair is attracted by the electromagnetic fields on our computer equipment and will be naturally drawn to your PC in exactly the same way that you don't want it to be. So these are some of the environmental factors that we need to consider when troubleshooting and diagnosing problems with IT systems.

  17. Summary - So let's summarize now by looking back through our IT systems and the---some of the things and some of the factors that can affect them. It's true that IT systems are massive networks of connected devices. You are in theory connected to every computer on the planet. You just have to have connections that are actually open to your non-firewalled. People's experience with using IT and technology again varies greatly. There'll be people probably such as yourself who are very experienced using IT. But you'll probably know people who have very little idea of using IT. Their skills will lie elsewhere, or there'll be people with abilities anywhere between these two. People love to learn things though. So teach them. Help them understand not just how to fix a problem but why the problem occurred in the first place. People really do enjoying learning things. When it comes to peripherals causing problems, though, printers are very often the most problematic. They tend to have the most problems associated with them. Also, remote workers and cloud connections can have issues themselves. So it's good to understand what these issues are. And, lastly, there are a huge number of environmental factors that can affect IT--everything from solid walls to dust, sand, and the dog.

  18. Documenting Problems & Solutions for Support Personnel & Engineers - Introduction - Correctly documenting IT problems and issues is absolutely crucial, especially where there are several people involved in the support chain of different levels of IT Support and engineers. And also where problems are complex. So that's what we're going to look at in this module. We're going to look at best practice for documenting problems and solutions. So let's have a look at what we're going to cover. We'll begin by looking at why reporting and why documentation is so important. We'll go through this in some depth. Then we'll look at the reporting and documentation process for first-line technical supports--the first people that the customer will call. Then we'll look at the changes for second-line tech support and how they need to document and report on problems. And then we'll have a look at the documentation required by engineers who are actually repairing PCs in the field.

  19. Documentation and Reporting - Nobody likes filling in paperwork especially when there is seemingly endless amounts of it. But reporting and documentation paperwork in IT Support is not just there for managers and auditors. It's essential for all of the people in the support chain. So let's spend a little bit of time looking at who these people are why they need all this paperwork, documentation, and reporting. Well, the main people in the chain are the first-line support, second-line support, and engineer personnel. Now, we'll look in more depth at each of these different types of people, but as you progress up the chain, as an IT Support problem progresses up the chain, you don't want to keep rehashing everything that's happened before and asking the customer the same question over and over again. So, if everything is documented at every stage of what's been asked and what's been done, then you can resolve problems quickly, simply, and efficiently. So let's begin by looking at the first-line support personnel. These are the customer's first point of contact. They are the very first person the customer is going to talk to about their IT problem. And many of the common problems can be dealt with directly by this first-line support person, especially if the questions they ask are good ones and narrow down the cause of the problem, especially with simple yes or no answer questions that customers cannot misunderstand or misinterpret. It's crucial for the first-line support person to be friendly and customer focused because you need to reassure the customer and help them relax and not worry too much about the problem. The questions that you ask at this stage are extremely important because as I've already mentioned, a lot of simple, basic, common support issues can be resolved by the first-line support person. And also tracking of previous cases by using customer references or asset tag references can provide valuable insight into many IT Support problems. Then we have the second-line support person. Now the second-line support person comes into play if first-line support can't resolve the problem. Now, they'll contact the customer back directly, and they'll want to make sure that they have all of the information that they need that was asked or done at the first-line support stage. They have more technical expertise than the people who work in first-line support. And they can assign engineers to call on a customer if needs be. But, remember, the second-line support staff will want to try and resolve issues themselves because sending engineers to site can be very expensive. Then there are the engineers. Now the engineers will call directly at the customer's premises, and they'll be a personal point of call. They have a wide knowledge of the devices that they service. And they need to be very customer focused and very efficient because they are the company, the support company, on site. But there's another person here, and that's the third-line support. Now third-line support personnel are the most qualified and experienced staff. They're usually qualified to a Microsoft or other certification standard. They will provide support both to second-line staff to fill in some knowledge gaps and also to engineers on site if engineers encounter a problem where they're not sure of the solution. And the most complex and the most complicated IT Support and repair jobs will be escalated to third-line support personnel.

  20. 1st Line Support Reporting - So let's have a look at the documentation and reporting for first-line support personnel, and any questions that are asked at this stage are absolutely crucial and can help fix common problems very quickly and very simply. The fundamentals as I've mentioned before in this course of providing support are the questions What? When? and What's changed? What's the problem? When did that problem occur? And what has changed recently in order for that problem to come about? So, obviously you want to know what the problem is. You want to know if the problem has only just started or if it's been going on for some time or if it's a recurrence of an old problem. And also what's changed? Is the customer a mobile worker who has changed location? Have they recently got a new PC or a new peripheral or printer? Has something else in the workplace changed such as a new software or update has been provided? So getting the answers to these questions can really help solve a lot of problems very quickly indeed.

  21. 1st Line Support Reporting - Paperwork, Part 1 - The reporting and documentation for first-line support personnel will begin with obvious information such as the customer name, their address, and their phone number. Now these are really important because the first-line support person can look up in the records and see previous support tickets that have been submitted by this customer or from this address. Now why is this important? Well you may find that the customer has submitted many support tickets or similar support tickets. Or you might find that similar support tickets have been provided from the same premises. Now if similar support tickets have been provided from the same premises, then the solution may be documented there and then. Also, you want a customer's phone number in case the first-line support person cannot resolve the issue, and it needs to be escalated to the second-line technical support. Next up is the main problem area. So, what is it that the customer is having a problem with? Now, this list will change and vary depending on the specific support you provide. But what I've done here is I've given a general list. So we've got everything from the PC operating system and desktop to cloud services, printers, and networking. Now, if the problem area isn't included, you're going to want an Other (Please specify) box so that the first-line support person can document there and then what it is the customer is having a problem with. Next, we want to be able to identify the device, the software that the customer is using, or the cloud service that they're using. Now you may have an asset tag if it's a piece of hardware or a serial number again if it's a piece of hardware. And there will be obviously the name of software or a cloud service. And also on software, you may want to get the version number for that software as well. And then we want to know when did the problem occur? Has it occurred today or just now? Has it occurred more than a week ago? Is it a recurrence of an existing problem?

  22. 1st Line Support Reporting - Paperwork, Part 2 - Once the first-line support person has obtained all of the most pertinent and relevant information about the customer, the hardware, the software, and when the problem has occurred, they can start querying the customer on more technical issues to see if they can resolve it themselves. Now the first of these is has an update or maintenance been announced? Now the customer may have received an email saying that server maintenance was taking place, for example, and the main server would be down for an hour or two. And because people in business get so many emails, they may have not read it or discounted it, or they could have received it over a week or so ago and completely forgotten about it. So, this is the first question. So has maintenance or an update been announced? Then we come to what I think, anyway, is the most critical question--the what's changed? Because if something has changed, there's a good chance it's going to be the cause of the problem. So, has the operating system or the software been updated? Has the user changed something themselves? Perhaps something that they weren't technically supposed to change? Has new software been installed? Has new hardware been installed? Or has hardware been swapped? For example, they may have had their printer swapped for an identical model. They don't think it's a problem, but there are slight differences between the old printer and the new printer. It's a slightly different version, perhaps has different drivers. That could cause issues for them. Has the PC been moved to a different location? For example, is the user now working at home where they were in the office before and everything was perfectly fine? Next up is what the user has tried. And, again, this list will change and vary depending on the specific support you're offering. But here is a general list. So, obviously the first question, the core of all good IT Support is have they tried turning it off and on again? So have they restarted the PC or device? Are there any power lights? Are there any error lights? Is the electricity supply okay? If they're not getting power to a device, can they plug it into a different socket? Are the cables damaged? Has somebody tripped over a network cable and pulled it? Are the sockets damaged? If it's a portable device such as a laptop, is the battery actually plugged in? And if they're trying to run it off the battery, what happens if they run it off the main electricity instead? Have any components come loose? If it's a peripheral such as a printer, then do the consumables need replacing or are the consumables actually damaged? If they're encountering a problem with a network or domain issue, are they actually logged into the PC with the correct username and password so they can log out and log back in with the correct username? Is everything else working? Can they see other PCs on the network? Can they see the internet? Can they see---do they have access to the domain, and so on? And, also, we have on this list if it's a device such as a smartphone or a tablet, say, can they reset the device and see if that fixes the problem as well?

  23. 1st Line Support Reporting - Paperwork, Part 3 - Next up is to ask if anybody else is experiencing the same problem? For this, you can ask the customer if anybody at their location is experiencing the same problem, for instance, in their office or a similar problem? And you can look through your own records and speak to your own colleagues to see if any similar problems have been reported to IT Support recently from that location or perhaps even from another location because this can help you eliminate what certainly isn't the cause of the problem and can help you narrow down what the actual cause is. Remember, this is all a process of elimination. If the customer tries to replicate the problem, does it recur? For example, if the problem is with a printer that's plugged into a PC locally via USB, and they plug that printer into a different PC with the same USB cable, does the problem go away? Indeed, can they change the cables for ones that they know are good cables and replicate the problem still? If it's with a piece of software in an office, then are other people having the same problem with the same software on other PCs? Or if it's a cloud service, is the cloud service working on other PCs? Then we go to more questions. So, this is where we need to---the customer to begin providing information that will be passed to second-line support and to the engineers and to also help diagnose the problem. So, if it's something that's happening on the screen or on the desk, can the customer provide a screenshot of what's happening on their screen? Or if it's a peripheral, for example, can they send in a photograph of the problem? If you have the option as first-line support to log in to the PC remotely using a remote desktop solution, can you do that? If the customer has access to a piece of software, such as the Problem Steps Recorder, the PSR app in Windows, can they reproduce the problem and send you a report on it? And is the customer able to follow diagnostic instructions bearing in mind that everybody is different and everybody has different levels of IT ability? Then, once you've gone through this, you're going to need more information. So you need to write up everything that you know and the conversations that you've had with the customer because you're now going to need to pass this job to second-line support, and the more information and detail that you can give to them and the more verbose you can be, the better everything will be, and the more quickly and efficiently the problem will be able to be resolved.

  24. 2nd Line Support Reporting - Paperwork, Part 1 - Okay, so a job's been passed to second-line tech support. So let's have a look now at the reporting and paperwork and documentation here. Now, second-line support examine IT problems in a lot more detail. And they're given a lot more freedoms. And you're going to want to make sure that the first-line support documentation is complete so that the second-line support person hasn't got to go through all of those processes again. Now they're going to want to begin to see if any common steps can solve the problem. And this list here will change and vary depending on the specific support that you're offering and the hardware and software that you are supporting. But if the user provides a screenshot or a photo, can the second-line support person see what the problem is? If they talk the user through a diagnosis and a solution, does that fix the problem? Are they able to do a remote desktop connection or use---get the user to use something like a Problem Steps Recorder, PSR, tool that's found in Windows. If hardware or cables are swapped or if different sockets are used, does the problem go away? Does the problem go away if it's tried on a different PC and so on? And you'll want another Please Specify box for more information as well. Then what has the second-line support person also asked the user to try? Now, as I've mentioned, the second-line support personnel have much more freedom than first-line support. And they'll use their own knowledge and their own experience to talk the user through specific solutions that may work for them. So let's have a look at some of these. Now here we can see there are five steps that have been done. The user has changed all the cabling with one from a working PC, and there's no improvement. In step 2, the user has opened the device and checked all the consumables by resetting them. In step 3, the user is reporting the consumables are indicating needing replacement, so an engineer---no consumables are indicating needing replacement, so an engineer should probably check that if an engineer is going to site. The user reporting is that software update recently took place, but they're not sure if a hardware driver for this device was included. And some hardware was swapped in the office when the user was on vacation. But they're not sure if it was their device that was swapped, and so on. So here is where you can provide more information and more steps, and these will be very useful when an engineer goes on site.

  25. 2nd Line Support Reporting - Paperwork, Part 2 - Having worked through their own steps, the second-line support person is still not able to resolve the problem themselves remotely, so they're going to need to book an engineer visit. Now, they'll want to make sure that the engineer has all of the information they need because they're going to have to do a lot of visits each day, time is crucial, and also the customer needs the problem resolved as quickly as possible. They don't, for example, need the engineer taking hardware away in order to diagnose and repair it later on. They need to fix it here. So, we have a Notes for Engineer sheet, and here we have the second-line support person's diagnosis. Now they may be right, they may be wrong, but it will be their professional diagnosis of what the problem is. They'll be instructing the engineer of the sorts of things that they should look for and letting them know if they're going to need any replacement hardware or if there are any software licenses required. Now previously, we've been looking at a printer, so let's carry on with that, and we'll look at one of these forms filled in. Now the diagnosis--the user has a problem with their printer. They say they've changed all the cables with one from a working PC across the office. The printer is not shared with any other user, and the user isn't able to swap the printer with another on their PC to test as it's too heavy. No consumables are reporting end of life. So what do they want the engineer to look for? Well, check the consumables, check the cabling, and check the sockets, not just in the printer and the PC, but the network sockets on the wall. And then we've got the driver and software configuration just to see if the printer is correctly installed on the PC. And also see if there's a hardware fault with the printer. So, the engineer might need to take a good USB type A to a type B cable to connect the PC to the printer, a known good cable and a known good power lead. Now here they've specified the model number for the printer so the engineer can check they have the correct power lead to take. All of this is extremely useful and important, dare I say crucial information for an engineer to have before they can go out and visit the customer on site.

  26. Engineer Reporting - So we've reached the point now where an engineer is on site. And when they're there, they'll get much better information about the IT problem, and they'll have their own method by which they can report either a solution or that further investigation or work needs to be undertaken. So let's have a look at this paperwork here. Here we have our engineer Final Site Report. There is a box here to fill in details of what the problem is or to provide detail if they have not been able to find a problem. What were the steps taken to resolve this issue? And has any hardware been used or any software licenses been required? So, again I've got one of these that's been filled in, so let's have a look. Now we're going back to the printer problem we had earlier. Now, the engineer here has found the cause of the problem. It says all cables are fine between the PC and the printer and the USB ports are okay on the PC. The problem was found to be the network socket the printer was also plugged into. A wiring or signaling problem was confusing the printer. When the network CAT5 cable was unplugged from that socket and plugged into a different socket, the problem immediately went away. So, what steps did the engineer take to resolve this issue? Well, the printer has been unplugged from the network socket, and the network CAT5 cable has been left on the desk with the customer--important here because if the customer then calls back and says, Okay, I haven't got a network cable, then the first-line support people will be able to look back through for the asset tag for this printer and say, Right, okay, well the network cable was left with you. The engineer has then informed the office manager and the building's maintenance department that this specific network socket, and you'll see they've labelled it here socket E354 in this case, on the third floor will need to be replaced presumably because there was a wiring problem with it. And the user is now printing okay from USB. So what hardware and licenses were required? Well this is a hardware, so there won't be any software licenses? There's a new network socket going to be required, but that's being provided by the building's maintenance and not by the engineer himself or herself. And nothing, you'll see it's documented, nothing has been provided by the engineer. Now, you may find yourself in a situation if you are an engineer that you get to the site and you fill in your report and you're filling it in and you can't find a solution. And you need to resolve it, you're there. You want to resolve it while you're still there. What can you do? Well, this is the next step. This is where the third-line support department comes in handy. These people are experts in their fields, and they're ready to help engineers on site with difficult problems. Even second-line support people will speak to engineers on site and help them work through steps to diagnose and repair and resolve issues. So, even when engineers are on site, they still have additional support available to them. But it's crucial that they make sure that the documentation is correct especially if there's going to be a potential recurrence of a problem.

  27. Summary - So now we've looked at how you can correctly report and document an IT problem, let's summarize and go through what we covered in this module. Now the questions asked by first-line support are absolutely crucial. You want to know who the user is and what the hardware or software or services because you first want to be able to check whether or not a problem has occurred before or whether there is a simple solution or whether it's something that other people have been reporting. Also, first-line support are able to resolve a great many issues without them having to be escalated further. And escalating even to second-line support involves more costs, and sending out an engineer can be very expensive as well. Being polite and customer focused is very essential. The customer needs to be working. They need to be working as quickly as possible. And helping them through a problem in a polite way is by far the best way to do it. When they're on site, if engineers get stuck or stumped, they still have further support to call. There are third-line tech support people who are qualified in their field. And, lastly, as you'll have seen, accuracy and clarity are absolutely essential when reporting and documenting IT problems. Both so that people further up the chain can see what the situation is, what has been tried, what questions have been asked, but also so that if another problem is reported by the same user or in the same department, then it's quick and easy to look back and find the solution because of what's been done previously.

  28. Remotely Supporting Users and Replicating Problems - Introduction - In the last module, we looked at correctly documenting and reporting IT problems, not only so that everyone in the chain has the information they need but also so that engineers when they're actually on site not only have correct information but are reporting correctly the solutions that they have implemented to repair a problem. However, it's not always possible or even most appropriate to send an engineer out to support a user. And in this module, we'll look at how you can support them remotely. So let's look at what we're going to cover. Well we'll begin by looking at how in Microsoft Windows we can set up a Remote Desktop Connection using the utility already provided with the operating system. Then we'll look at how we can get system information about a Windows operating system and its hardware and how we can use the Reliability Monitor to quickly and effectively get information about problem areas. Next up, we'll look at the Windows Event Viewer, and we'll see how useful it can be in diagnosing and effectively repairing problems on PCs and with hardware. And then we'll look at how we can attach an error alert to the Task Scheduler so that when a problem occurs on a PC, it's able to alert the user or even alert IT Support automatically. If a user can replicate a problem, we'll then look at the Problem Steps Recorder, which is a wonderful tool that a user can use not just to replicate a problem but to report on it and provide screenshots for IT Support. And then we'll finish up by looking at how we talk users through problem resolution in the best way because people do want to learn. They want to learn how to fix things, and they also want to learn how they occurred in the first place.

  29. Setting up a Remote Desktop Connection - If you're providing IT Support in the workplace, then one of the simplest and most straightforward ways to diagnose and repair problems is to log into the PC experiencing those problems remotely. In Microsoft Windows, you can do this using a utility called Remote Desktop. So let's spend a little time now looking at what Remote Desktop is and how you can get started with it. So here we are at the Windows desktop, and I've launched Remote Desktop Connection by searching for it in the Start menu. Now, there are various different ways to connect to a PC. Here I'm in Hyper-V, and I'm connecting to another PC in Hyper-V, another virtual machine, so I'm just typing the name of the PC. If you're connecting to a PC on a domain, you'd need to type the full domain address of the PC, and if you're connecting to a PC remotely over the internet, you would need its IP address. You'll see here in the bottom left-hand corner, there is a Show Options button, and this gives you more options, such as being able to save the connection setting and save usernames and passwords for that PC. So, we'll look at the other tabs here. There is a Display tab so that you can determine how large the window is for that particular Remote Desktop Connection, the color depth. Local Resources, so whether audio is going to play and record and what happens with Alt + Tab presses on the keyboard. And, here, Local devices and resources is interesting. You can share printers and the clipboard, but also there is a Drives option. And if you check Drives that I plug in later, then you can also share USB drives as well. Under the Programs tab, you can start any program you want on the remote PC. And then we have the Experience tab. Now here, if you're connecting to a PC over an internet connection, then you may want to dial this down a little bit in order to get the best connection speed. If you're in an office with Gigabit Ethernet, then you'll be fine most likely with the best quality options. But it's set by default to Detect connection quality automatically. Lastly, there is an Advanced tab with a security authentication dialog option there. And there are Remote Desktop Gateway server settings should your company be set up to use those settings indeed.

  30. Connecting to a PC Using Remote Desktop - When you're ready to connect to the virtual machine, just click the Connect button. And if I hide the options, you'll still see the Connect button here. Now, first you'll be asked, Do you want to trust this computer. It's saying that connections to a remote computer could harm your computer through things like the transfer of viruses. If you're happy, then you can check the Don't ask me again, and you can show details as well, and you can choose again what it is that's allowed access to the---from the remote PC. When you click Connect, you'll be asked for your username and password. Now I know in this case, the username is Hyper-V, so we'll type that in, and then there is a Remember my credentials checkbox if you want to check that. Then when you click OK, the next step is you'll be presented with a security certificate. And here you can view the security certificate details for the remote PC. You'll again be warned of what can happen to your PC if viruses are transferred over a remote connection. If you're happy, there is a Don't ask me again for connections to this computer checkbox, or you can click Yes to proceed. And now the Remote Desktop Connection is made, and we have access to the Windows 7 PC in this case. Now we have a bar here at the top. You'll see there's a pin to unpin the bar. There are close, maximize/minimize buttons, so we can access the remote PC. We can run it in a window on our own desktop if we want to. And that is how you get started with Remote Desktop in Microsoft Windows.

  31. Getting Windows System Information - When you're troubleshooting and repairing problems with a PC system and its connected peripherals, it can be very useful to be able to get detailed information about that system and about any problems that have occurred. Now, here's where Microsoft Windows System Information and the Reliability Monitor can come in extremely useful. So, let's spend some time having a look at them. Windows System Information is an administrative tool, so you'll access it by opening the Control Panel and then clicking the Administrative Tools link. In the window that appears, you'll see System Information listed. And you can double-click this to open it on your desktop. The System Information panel itself is neatly organized with an overview of the PC, as you'll see here, and various collapsible panels for hardware resources including memory, any known conflicts, the components for the PC including network adapters and ports and storage, printers, and so on. And the software as well, including installed drivers, print jobs, the loaded and running services, and more besides. There is a huge amount of information available here. In the File menu, as well, you can export this, and you can save it as a text file and give it a name, and then that can be sent to a support person by the person whose PC they're having the problem with. And you can talk them through that, and more besides. There're also various other options here you can see, including being able to connect to a remote computer using these to get system information about that as well.

  32. Using the Windows Reliability Monitor - The Windows Reliability Monitor can be found in the Action Center under the Maintenance tab, but you can also search for reliability in the Start menu to find it. And you'll see a link here to view the PC's reliability history. Now if you click this, then you'll be given a chart showing dates and incidents where things have happened. Now, here we can see that there is a warning triangle and an information circle, and we have, if we make this window slightly larger, information about what's happened. Failed windows Updates on this occasion, including lots of app failed updates as well. You can view technical details about a specific incident, and that will give you, if there is one, an error code as you'll see I've highlighted here. Furthermore, down the bottom, you can save the reliability history. So, for example, a user can be asked to save the reliability history remotely, you can view all the problem reports that have---Windows has collected, and that can be useful for seeing where problems have occurred. And you can check for solutions to all problems. Now, you can ask the user to---the customer to check for solutions to problem themselves because occasionally you may find that it helps. And you'll see there're a great deal of successful updates here, and then we have the failed updates. If there is a critical error, then that will appear as a red circle with a white cross in it just to warn you that a critical error has occurred. And the reliability of the PC was given a general score of 1 to 10 to indicate how well the PC is actually running.

  33. The Windows Event Viewer - While the Windows Reliability Monitor can give you information on problems that have occurred on a PC and with its peripherals, nothing compares to the Windows Event Viewer and the information and detail you can get from that. So, let's have a look at it. The Event Viewer is found in the Administrative Tools, which you access through the Control Panel, and you'll see it listed here. When you open it, it's standard management console fare. You have broad category views here in the left-hand panel. In the right-hand panel, you have commands that you can use. And in the center, you have the bulk of the information here with collapsible panels. Now in the main section, you have a summary of administrative events, and they're categorized into critical, error, warning, information, and audit successes. You can open any of them. If we open an error here, and we have an error that occurred, a kernel-event tracing error, and we can double-click on it to get information about it. Of course, you can move the panels around so that you can see more information. We have the date and time that these occurred, and there's more information down here at the bottom of the window including, you'll see here that I've just highlighted, a Windows stop error code. You can click the Details tab to get more information in a friendlier way. And you will see various different---if we go back to the main view and click on another, there's a PrintService error, you'll see we have more information and different errors here. Installing a printer driver--there is an error here, Installing a printer driver requires enhanced print compatibility driver failed, another error that you can search for online and more details still.

  34. Extracting Information from the Event Viewer - When you're using the Windows Event Viewer, you want to be able to get specific information from it. And sometimes you want to be able to talk the customer through how to provide that information for you. So once you're in the Event Viewer or once you've instructed the customer on how to get there, you can click the Create Custom View link in the top right corner of the window. Now here we can decide what we want to view. Let's say we only want critical stops and errors. And there are various other options available to you. Do we want them from anytime in the last day, in the last seven days? Let's say we want any critical stops and errors in the last seven days. And there are other categories that we have that we can choose so we can say we only want operating system errors, and then more options will appear so that you can narrow it down even further. So we'll click OK to create this new view, which we'll call Customer1 in this case. And we'll save that under Custom Views. So now we've got this custom view, we want to export it so that it can be sent to a support person. And you'll see Customer1 is appearing here in Custom Views in the left-hand panel. And in the right-hand panel, we have an Export Custom View link. And if we click this, we'll be able to save this as an XML file, so we'll call it Customer1 there. We'll save it to our documents, and that can then be emailed to a support person. When the support person receives the XML file back in the main view, they can click here on the right-hand side you'll see Import Custom View, and then they can just open the file. And they'll be able to view all the details from the event log contained within that XML document.

  35. Adding an Error Alert to the Task Scheduler - One of the most useful things you can do with the Windows Event Viewer is to have it automatically schedule tasks when an error occurs and perform various actions. So here we are back in the Windows Event Viewer, and we're looking at a print driver PrintService error. Now, we want to be able to alert the user or even alert IT Support when this error occurs because you can see it's happened quite a few times in quick succession here. When you're looking at the error in the bottom right of the window, there is an attached task to this event link, and if you click this, a wizard will pop up allowing you to perform various actions the next time and for all future times until you disable the task that this error occurs. So, when an event is logged, we have here this particular error, and what's the action? Do we want to start a program? Well, probably not. We want to alert someone. Do we want to send an email, or do we want to display a message? So let's have a look at a couple of these options. The first option we'll look at is to display a message on the user's screen alerting them that the error has occurred. And we'll call it Printer Error. That's the name of the task. And what's the message we want to display? So we'll say, The printer error has recurred, please stop whatever you're doing and call Mike at IT Support. And we'll click Next. And now we have our confirmation of what is happening, of what we've set up. And when we click Finish, the next time that printer error occurs, a message, the message that we specified, that call Mike at IT Support, will flash up on the user's screen. So here we are back in the custom view that we created earlier. And we want to attach a task to this custom view. So here in the right-hand pane, you'll see a link Attach Task To This Custom View. We'll give it a name, and this time we want to send an email to IT Support. And so we'll select that option and click Next. Now we can select a From address, so we can say it's from Mike at IT Support or whichever address we choose. We can select a To address, a Subject. Let's say the To address can be the same. Subject is going to be Penny in Accounts had the problem again. And then you can have a text description and an attachment. Now, an attachment, you can browse---you can actually attach the custom view to it if you so choose. Then you have an SMTP server address box, and this will be the outgoing mail server address that you would use in order for Windows Event Viewer to be able to automatically send this email. So it's very simple and straightforward, and that's how you can have a task in the Event Viewer automatically email you when a user encounters a problem with their PC.

  36. Using the Problem Steps Recorder - As I've mentioned previously in this course, it's not always easy for users to be able to explain to you what it is they're seeing or doing on the computer and what the problem is. If somebody isn't a technically minded person, they may not be able to explain things in a way that you understand. However, there is a way for the user to be able to show you directly what is going on, and it's a really simple-to-use tool called the Problem Steps Recorder. You find the Problem Steps Recorder in Windows by searching for PSR at the Start menu, so it's nice and easy for users and customers to find. And you'll see it's here. It's just a simple toolbar with a few buttons on it. When the user is ready to recreate the problem, all they have to do is click the Start Record button. And now everything that they do on the PC is recorded and annotated. So, let's go and have a look at an example. We're in Windows 8.1 here, so I'm going to go to the Start screen and try to run an app. Now here we're getting an error message, This app cannot open. The screen resolution is too low for this app to run. But let's say the user doesn't know what to change their resolution too. So they go back to the desktop. They right-click, they go to screen resolution, and now they're unsure. So, they can add a comment here by clicking the Add Comment button, and they can ask a question or send a message to the IT Support person. So they'll say, When I changed my resolution before, everything went fuzzy, how can I prevent this? And they can click OK when they're done. And that will be saved. Now, when they're finished with recreating the problem, all they have to do is click the Stop Record button, and the Problem Steps Recorder results will appear.

  37. Viewing Problem Steps Recorder Results - Let's have a look now at the Problem Steps Recorder results, and you'll see it's taken a series of screenshots. Each one is annotated with the time and date that the event occurred. And there is a highlight onscreen showing what it was that was clicked or used on the user's screen. So here we can see they've clicked the Start button. They've gone into the Windows 8.1 Start screen. And then you can see that we have an app cannot open highlight here. So we can see they go on, back to the Start screen, back to the desktop, and now we have a highlight and annotated menu here showing that they clicked Screen resolution on a right-click on the desktop. And now we have the user comment, When I changed my resolution before, everything went fuzzy, how can I prevent this? And this is highlighted because a screenshot is taken that is grayed out so that we can see at a glance that the user had a question to ask. So, below this we have additional information with verbose logging of exactly what it is the user did, what the program was, what the version number for that program was. All manner of really useful in-depth detailed information is available. Now all the user has to do with this is click the Save button if they're happy with it. If they're not happy, they can click New Recording and redo it. But if they click the Save button, it'll save it as a zip file, so we'll call it PSR ZIP, and we'll save this to the desktop. And that zip file can then be emailed to yourself in tech support, and all you need to do is open it, and you'll see it on your PC exactly as it appears here. The Problem Steps Recorder really is a very, very useful tool for helping users to recreate problems so that you, yourself, can see exactly what it is that they have done, exactly what has happened, and what the results of those have been.

  38. Talking Users Through Problem Resolution - Let's finish this module by looking again at how and why we talk users through problem resolution because this really is extremely important. If you're working in first- or second-line tech support, then the odds are you'll be providing this support over the phone. And if you can help the user fix a problem there and then, there are major benefits to be had all around. So let's look at what these benefits are. Well the first one is it reduces the IT Support costs significantly. If you're not having to send engineers out, you haven't got their staffing costs, you haven't got the fuel, the travel, the time, it really does reduce the costs. You're also helping to keep the customer working and being productive. Rather than taking a day or two to resolve a problem, you're resolving a problem in maybe just 15, 20 minutes or an hour. And it can also reduce the volume of calls that you as an It Support department will receive if you're helping people to understand the problems and how they come about and how they can fix them, then perhaps they can fix them themselves in the future or perhaps they can prevent the problem from recurring in the first place. Now people love to learn. This is why as human beings we watch documentaries. We love learning new things. It's a trait of our species. So talking a user through the steps involved in repairing a problem can do three important things. It can teach them how to fix it. People want to learn more about their computer systems and their IT systems. If they feel that they are a non-technical person and you've taught them how to fix something with their PC or with their printer or another peripheral, they're going to feel brilliant about this. They're going to feel empowered. You've taught them how it happened. You're giving them more information about how things work. Again, you're going to leave these people feeling empowered and as though they've learned something very valuable. And you are helping to prevent it happening again, not just for you but also primarily for that customer because a customer doesn't want to have constant problems with their peripherals or with their PC or with their network. They want to have a smooth and productive time and a good workflow. And if you can help prevent it happening again, if you can show and teach the customer how to keep things working smoothly, then that will benefit everybody all around as well.

  39. Summary - So let's summarize everything we've gone through. And the---probably the most important thing to remind you at this point is that peripheral problems are probably the most common support request that you will get. Printers--very common indeed. Problems with other peripherals, keyboards and mice, next up on the list. And all the way down the list the PC problems--that's your software, operating system, and hardware PC problems--are very low down, probably even below networking and cloud services problems as well. Within Windows, there are a great many tools and utilities existing to help you troubleshoot, diagnose, and repair problems including fantastic little hidden gems like the Problem Steps Recorder, which is well worth spending some time getting to know. There are tools that can help users replicate problems. The Problem Steps Recorder, as I've mentioned, and we have utilities such as being able to attach alerts and emails to errors in the Task Scheduler in order to be able to alert IT Support when there are issues. And talking users through problems can be hugely beneficial. It can help prevent problems. It can reduce your workload. It can increase their productivity and make everybody happier all around.