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10 frights that often haunt IT support pros

It's one thing to run into a ghost or zombie here and there. But lost admin passwords, deadbeat clients, and failed backups... now THAT'S scary.

The spookiest month of the year is about to wind up, so I thought it would be an interesting exorcism, er, exercise to list some issues that can bring about terror and nightmares for support pros. Oh sure, the minions of darkness could, at any time, slip into your network or your client's network and bring it down. But you're prepared for that eventuality. Right?

Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/RapidEye

Wrong! You can never be prepared for everything. But certain horrors are sure bets. Let's brave a look under the bed and see what may be lurking.

1: Viruses infecting the same machine over and over

This isn't one of those frights that will have you losing sleep. But it will have you cursing the day you took on the client with the employee who insists on opening every attachment that graces his inbox and going to random sites all day. When that same employee reports yet another virus, it's time to make a sweeping change to keep this from continually popping up. Otherwise, you will go to the grave with more gray hair than you would like.

2: Reoccurring issues thought to be fixed

You spent hours last month working on that Adtran router to get RDP reaching the internal network. For some odd reason it just stopped working. It took you long enough, but you managed the big win and it started working again. But then, out of nowhere (yet again), it stopped working. Back to the drawing board, only this time all the settings you fixed last time are still good. This is going to end bad. Not only are you going to have a client angry that you're having to solve a problem you reported fixed, you might well have to tell them they are going to have to purchase new hardware.

3: Clients refusing to pay

Your livelihood depends upon your clients' willingness to pay. They don't pay, you don't play. That is a nightmare no one wants to have to live, but it seems to be a recurring theme for nearly all support specialists I know. How do you avoid this nightmare? Other than bringing in the local strong arm, this is one of those nightmares that can be a really challenge to avoid.

4: The call in the middle of the night

It's the witching hour and your special Batphone rings to let you know the network is down. Hard down. You can't remote in to check it out, you can't do anything other than pull on a pair of pants, get in your car, and head to the job site to reboot  whatever piece of equipment is giving you fits. If you're lucky, maybe a call to the provider will reveal that there is a serious issue going on with your pipe. That would be somewhat good news, in that you wouldn't have to relocate from your bed to your job.

5: Server down... no backup

That's right...the nightmare of nightmares for IT. Your server has tanked and there is no backup to restore from. What does that mean? You are officially at the mercy of a broken drive or RAID array and will have to pray that the data on those drives can be recovered. The lesson for this nightmare? Back up your servers and convince your clients of the importance of backing up their servers!

6: Budget cuts

In this economy, companies are downsizing everything, including IT. Many companies are migrating from internal IT to outsourced IT. If you work as internal IT and you see the writing on the wall, this is a nightmare you may not be able to avoid. Budget cuts are a certainty, with companies facing an economy that bounces up and down. If there is anything you can do to avoid this time of nightmare it would be to work efficiently and ensure that everything you do and every decision you make is sound.

7: The hacked network

It's an inevitability. At some point, your company network is going to get hacked. What this means depends on a lot of variables. But the most important thing is that you are prepared for it. Have a disaster plan that includes security breaches -- not just hardware failure. But even a disaster recovery plan can't keep this harbinger of doom from haunting your nightmares. Instead of just relying on a recovery plan, make sure your protection is as strong as it can be. Make sure updates are applied, make sure all security rules are checked, and make sure all security hardware is up to par with today's attacks.

8: Lost admin passwords

My memory is not what it once was. And like the Actor's Nightmare (forgetting your lines during a production), one nightmare is forgetting the administrator passwords for various systems. Yes, even problems like this can be circumvented, but sometimes not easily. You forget that domain admin password and there could be problems. Forget that router admin password or Cisco admin password and you're going to have to jump through hoops of flame forged in Hell. Keep those passwords safe and available (to your eyes only).

9: The death of VPN

If a client has a number of employees who work remotely through a VPN and that tunnel goes down, havoc ensues. And when this happens, who do they hold responsible? That's right: You! When that VPN goes down, lots of people can't work. That could mean a great deal of lost productivity -- all on your shoulders. This is one reason why it's crucial to make sure that VPN is solid and isn't prone to drops or configuration issues.

10: A damaged QuickBooks data file

Because I'm a certified QuickBooks engineer, I see this a lot. When something goes awry with a QuickBooks data file, if there aren't backups to turn to, things can get very dicey. What makes this one especially hellish is that you have the company's finances in your hands. When money is at stake, the DEFCON level rises to a point of panic that other issues don't touch. Remember, we are talking about the client's money, and nothing is as scary as messing with someone's ability to pay or get paid.

Other frights?

Did you find yourself wanting to curl up under your covers and hold your breath, lest the boogeyman rip you from your sleep and shake the soul from you? Being an IT pro can sometimes feel like it's one nightmare after another. Have you had those days/weeks/months? Share your worst horror story with your fellow TechRepublic readers.

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
bart.bdx
bart.bdx

Power outage on a grid, just what happened yesterday at Schiphol for Euronet, over 5 companies were severely hit... and well, no back-up power systems

Old-Timer
Old-Timer

The LAN being down is a pain; BUT when the WAN is dead all hell breaks loose! There is a Fiber seeking backhoe in Los Vegas. ALL of the fiber from many providers run down the same conduit. That damn backhoe found that conduit many times. Oh, and the same happened when New Orleans went underwater!

Suresh Mukhi
Suresh Mukhi

...when you upgrade to a higher version. Excel macros that were working perfectly in Excel 2003 don't work in Excel 2007. Same with Visual tools ( Foxpro, Basic ) etc. Queries that worked well when compiled in the older version suddenly don't in the later versions. That's spooky!

ozchorlton
ozchorlton

Clients not paying, is one reason why I no longer work for myself. The locals on Harleys could possibly solve most issues :-)

FloppyDock
FloppyDock

It's recurring, not reoccurring,

OurITLady
OurITLady

It's not just the viruses infecting the same machine over and over, it's the user who makes the same mistake over and over. There is always one (or more than one) who regardless of how much you explain why they shouldn't do whatever it is, they just don't seem to get it. They keep on doing it and having the same problem again and again. There are two or three issues around here I've lost track of the number of times I've fixed and a week later they tell me the same thing broke again............

JimWillette
JimWillette

I wasn't IT on this one, but the company had backups for their server, but on the same spindle as the original. It took all hands a long weekend (4th of July fortunately) to reconstruct what we could. We had to refund a lot of payments we couldn't prove. Backups are more considered now! Good list, Jack! Not comprehensive but highly representative.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

one of the last large retailers I worked for had built a new store. Seemed almost every day for the first 2 months after opening, come time to start the business day the computer systems would all be down. I had traced everything I could, usually just resorted to restarting the Linux server, then the A/S 400, finally the Windows clients. I'd placed repair ticket after repair ticket, trying to explain the problem that something was shutting down the computers nightly. Finally, they sent the electricians that had wired the building back out, did a reverse trace, and found the problem...the computer systems had been wired into the automatic lighting systems that would turn off every morning around sunrise. The computers would run while on battery, then shut down. The worst part...I was not really in the IT department any longer! But when people remember you having been in the field, and you are accessible, you get the call! Sure was glad that phantom was exorcised!