IT Policies

10 common-sense rules for end users and those who support them

Some things never change in the workplace. Users make mistakes and support has to fix them. Revisit these common-sense rules to reduce the headaches.

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Whether it's opening unsafe files, experimenting with settings, or otherwise wreaking havoc on their desktops, end users are their own worst enemy on a PC.

It doesn't have to be that way. With a little education, those same end users can stop the destructive behavior they unleash on their machines. Before that education can happen, they have to know exactly what they're doing wrong. After much thought, I have devised a list of ten common sense “rules” end users should follow in order to keep support staff from spending all of their time cleaning up avoidable problems.

1. Use strong passwords

It never fails to amaze me how many times I see password as a password. Some users will opt for their first name as a password, or their birth date. Either way, it's bad practice. When possible set up password policies that can be enforced on the server level. If you don't have the ability to control this on a software level, make sure your end users know all the tips and tricks for creating strong passwords that they can remember.

2. Selectively reboot Windows

There are times when it's best to just reboot windows. If a printer magically stopped working, or if a network connection to a user PC is down, there are certain instances when a reboot could prevent a support call. A reboot is your friend. That reboot must, of course, always be done properly to avoid further issues (save and close open applications). A reboot won't always solve the problems at hand, but in some cases it will, and your end user will be happily working again in moments.

3. Don't play “Whack a mole” with your keyboard

Here's the thing, we all get frustrated. Some times there's an issue we just can't fix. When that happens, it's easy to get a head of steam and take it out on the keyboard (or the desk even). Don't. Next thing you know, you're spending your budget replacing keyboards, mice...or worse. If you get into one of these situations, step away from the computer and give yourself a moment to calm down. Go back to the job when you can look at it without blood surging through the veins in your eyes.

4. Don't leave applications open

There are certain applications (such as QuickBook) that can suffer numerous issues when left open for long periods of time. I like to tell end users when they leave at the end of the day to have all applications closed. Part of the reason for this is due to network connections. When some PCs go into hibernate, their network connections are shut off. That being the case, a network-dependent application will have issues once the network connection is disabled. Other, more poorly crafted applications, can wind up with memory leaks, should they remain open for extended periods of time. It is imperative that you inform your end users how best to manage their applications. The last thing you need is a department of end users coming to you claiming they've lost an entire days work in QuickBooks because they left it open over night.

5. When in doubt, don't

If an end user is staring at a PC with an issue, and they have the slightest bit of doubt about taking an action – they shouldn't take that action. Although not common, taking the wrong action could have catastrophic consequences. Rather than create additional problems, users should always call IT when they don't know what to do. By default, they may not know this. Make sure users feel comfortable contacting support when they need it.

6. Regularly scan for viruses / malware

When you're deploying machines, you'll be adding antivirus and anti-malware. What good are those solutions if you're not setting them up to do either real-time scanning or regular, nightly, scanning? You can't rely (nor should you) on the end user to handle this. It's not their job to protect their machines, it's yours. You will probably be handed anti-virus/malware solutions by those that make the purchasing decisions. Make sure you know how to set it up to run automatically and make the necessary exclusions so that end users can do their jobs properly. Do not skimp on this job or you will wind up with more headaches than ibuprofen can handle.

7. Never insult end users

It's really easy to rush to your office and complain about how horrible the end users are in your company. Most IT support pros don't understand that it is equally as easy to insult those same users, right to their faces, without knowing you have. Sure, those end users aren't keyboard ninjas like you; but can you do their job with the same competency? We all have our skills, don't let one of yours be insulting fellow employee or clients.

8. You don't make the rules, you enforce them

Unless you have a title like COO, most likely you are just the messenger when it comes to computer usage policies for end users. It is not your job to make the rules or to argue about them. Your job is to make sure the policies are being enforced. Your job is also to deploy the hardware to the specifications of those that make the rules.

9. Liquids and electricity do not mix

It never fails to astound me how many people do not comprehend the fact that electricity and water are not good bedfellows. Water spilled on laptops is a recipe for disaster. Coffee and wine? Even worse. End users need to learn to keep their drinks either in secure containers or away from their devices. Period. And if you think it's important to keep those liquids from desktops? Consider the consequences of spilling your morning coffee over a rack of blade servers. This is a rule you not only must enforce, you have to follow. Set a good example – give all hardware a wide berth when you have a cup of liquid in your hands.

10. Computers do not have an infinite lifespan

How often do you hear, “But this computer is only five years old!”? End users need to fully understand that computers have a limited lifespan and that moving parts and that hard drives, wear out. Once they comprehend that idea, they understand the importance of, say, backups and keeping their data carefully filed away.

End users aren't all created equally. Each of them has different needs and skill levels, when it comes to the technology they use. But if everyone follows these rules, both users and those that support them will be happier.



About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

8 comments
rraattbbooyy
rraattbbooyy

#4  "I like to tell end users when they leave at the end of the day to have all applications closed."

You just ask them to close their apps?  Forget that.  I make my users shut down completely at the end of the day. 

Uncle Red Dog
Uncle Red Dog

How do I get a job at that company where they spill wine on their keyboards?

RMSx32767
RMSx32767

Here's another suggestion. When answering the "security question" such as "what is your mother's maiden name" DON'T use her real name. Use gibberish or a legitimate word that makes no sense for the question. 

e.g. What is your mother's maiden name? FrenchToast

RMSx32767
RMSx32767

"Use strong passwords" is a great idea but occasionally the upper echelon implements, or suggests, a completely stupid password policy. Here are two examples:


1. CIO/CTO/CSO suggested using the same password for each and every system employees used during the course of a day.


2. Different place implemented a security policy that passwords would be exactly 8 characters, no more and no less. The first would be a number, the remainder could be only alphabetic and case was irrelevant.

rraattbbooyy
rraattbbooyy

I had a user who answered all of his security questions with the word "assh*le" 

What city were you born in?  Assh*le.

What was the name of your elementary school?  Assh*le.

Hey, as long as he knew the answer, it was a-ok to reset his passwords. :-)

rraattbbooyy
rraattbbooyy

Often password length and character requirements are limitations of the software/system being used, not set by the people using it. 

slam5
slam5

@RMSx32767 Just like my bank!  I still can't believe they only allow 8 characters rule.  Every time I ask them why is that so, they just give me the standard line that my account is fully protected if it is compromised!  I said to them, yeah but how long will it be before I get my $ back and they can't give me an answer!

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