Project Management

Support Diary: Alex Champness (Thursday)

It seems as if everyone wants a piece of Alex. From vendors to suppliers to end-users, the calls for support never end. Find out how one tech balances end-user support with other IT duties.


This week, Support Republic will feature the daily diary of Alex Champness, an IT manager from Colchester, Essex, UK. Alex runs the IT department for Nicholas Anthony, a company that designs kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom interiors. He supports its offices in Colchester, London, and Chelmsford. Alex recently appeared in a TechRepublic Featured Member Profile. Click here to read the interview and learn more about Alex.
Get caught up on Alex’s diary.Monday: Juggling multiple responsibilities as a one-man IT departmentTuesday: Dealing with Mother NatureWednesday: Surviving a hectic day without losing your cool
8:30 A.M.
I arrive at work as usual, except it’s not raining. With much of the UK suffering from several weeks of a nonstop downpour, a little dry weather is very welcome. I check our server backups only to find they have failed a “cyclic redundancy check.” This error seems to indicate a hardware problem. I clean the drive and check for any obvious problems. I find nothing and will check it again later. More pressing matters require my attention.

A problem has arisen with a new business system my company will be purchasing. During my Wednesday meeting with the vendor, it was discovered that electronic versions of all our supplier price lists would be needed for the system to function. Unfortunately, few suppliers are willing to provide electronic price lists. To make things worse, some of our main suppliers are based in Germany and have catalogues so large and complex that they are reluctant to provide anything but paper files.

I contact the UK directors of our two main suppliers. One says they will look into it, and the other wants to schedule a meeting to discuss the new system as well as how images of their furniture are used on our Web site.

10:00 A.M.
I decide to spend some time on our intranet. I want to add FrontPage server extensions to our intranet server so they will correctly run our existing Web site. I have no desire to rewrite our entire site—I just want to run it internally. Wanting to ensure I do things correctly, I refer back to the ever-faithful Microsoft Knowledge Base. I download the necessary files and begin installing them on the server.

Halfway through the installation, however, I am interrupted by one of our accountants. Accounting needs another printer configured to work with the accounting software. The process is a little more complicated than normal due to the fact that the application is DOS-based, but even so, the printer is up and running in no time. No sooner do I return to my office than another support call comes in. It’s the accountants again. This time, they want another fax machine.

12:00 P.M.
Our installation department calls, requesting their software be reconfigured. We recently moved our warehouse away from the head office and contracted the work to an outside company. This would be a simple job on modern software, but unfortunately, this system is a very old DOS-based application that does not like change. The system is very awkward, and I try to have as little contact with it as possible. It takes me a while to make the changes, and in the process, I’m given a list of other changes they need completed. This keeps me busy for quite a while.

2:00 P.M.
I bought three laptops last year, and they have never worked properly. The laptops will be working perfectly and, when you least expect it, the keyboard and mouse will freeze. I returned one of them to be repaired. Three weeks later, it came back with the same annoying problem. I called Iridium and all they suggested was reformatting the hard drive.

I reformatted the drive, but the problem persists. Meanwhile, the designers who use these machines keep complaining that their laptops are rubbish. I call again and upon quizzing one of the Iridium support techs, I find out that this is a very common problem with this particular model of laptop. I write a very strong letter and hope that it will do the trick.

3:00 P.M.
Our installation department calls again. They need several shared Exchange calendar folders created and forgot to ask me about it when I was working on their other problems earlier this afternoon.

4:00 P.M.
I send an e-mail to Veritas support about my backup problems. The drive will not respond properly, and I can’t see what’s causing the problem. I’m beginning to worry, as a proper backup has not been run for three days. I have been making other arrangements, but the problem has gone on for far too long.

4:30 P.M.
Our company’s new letterhead arrives, and I ask whether we have an electronic copy for e-mails and other electronic requirements. I get blank looks. I take a sheet of the letterhead and in a few minutes, I have an exact, electronic copy. The page didn’t scan well, so I re-created it with logos I already had in electronic form. It seems strange to me that our company pays for our logo to be printed on letterhead. I can do the same in five minutes for free. Oh well, it’s not my decision.

The rest of the day seems to fly by as the calls and small jobs keeping pouring in. Nevertheless, it looks like I’ll get to leave on time today.
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This diary recounts Alex’s week from March 26 to March 30, 2001.

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