I’ve recently read several articles that were disparaging
toward technical support departments. While some of the issues are indeed
valid, I must point out that it’s easy to blame someone else when computers
don’t work the way they should.

Technical support is failing on a number of levels, but it’s
not because of a lack of effort or ability. This field has changed drastically
since the emergence of the Internet, and some problems simply aren’t fixable.

Internet service providers are currently bearing the brunt
of technical support services, and the profit margins for most ISPs limit the
staffing of call centers. The rash of recent problems is no comfort to IT
departments that must support an entire enterprise either.

No matter how you look at it, supporting computer systems
when the Internet is involved has never been an easy job, and it’s becoming
increasingly difficult—especially when you’re dealing with a daily barrage of
viruses, worms, Trojans, and all sorts of spyware.

Technical support relies heavily on users’ abilities to
perform tasks, and we’re all more than familiar with the difficulty involved
with assisting inexperienced computer users. Most widespread worms and viruses
take hold and spread due to poorly maintained systems, commonly home systems
found on broadband networks.

Since I can’t help these users directly, I must rely on
their ISPs to help me fix the problem because it affects my network. I see
evidence of worms and viruses coming from other networks all the time, but I’m
powerless to fix the problem.

Technical support is failing on a much greater level than
most people know. It surprises many people when they find out there’s almost no
coordination among Internet service providers.

ISPs are on the front line of the Internet, but there’s no
central method for support pros to communicate and contact high-level technical
support in the event of a problem. I see tens of thousands of port scans
daily—mostly due to worms—coming from big companies, small companies,
universities, and cable and DSL networks. Sometimes I contact the people who
manage these networks and tell them there’s a problem, but most of the time I

So I move upstream and try their ISP. Still, I can’t help
fix the problem because many ISPs’ automated problem report systems reject my
e-mail since I’m not one of their customers. Or worse, when I call to report a
problem, I encounter arrogance and attitude.

My main complaint about technical support is that IT professionals
are simply not working together as a team in a worldwide manner. Regardless of
which ISP or corporation you work for, if you’re involved in high-level
technical support or you’re a person of authority with a major ISP, I’d like to
have your contact information. Who knows—maybe if enough of us agree to work
together as a team and respond to each other quickly when a problem emerges, we
can make a dent in the wasted bandwidth on the Internet due to wide-scale worm
and virus activity.

We are the ones that others depend on to fix their problems.
So how about working together and treating the entire Internet as our network
for a change? We could accomplish more by helping each other instead of
pointing the finger at someone else.

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Jonathan Yarden is the
senior UNIX system administrator, network security manager, and senior software
architect for a regional ISP.