Support Diary: Alex Champness (Tuesday)

Sometimes we forget that not all IT problems are caused by a system or user error. In this diary entry, find out how Mother Nature lengthens one tech's day.

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 department
8:30 A.M.
As usual, I travel to work through the rain. When I arrive, there are already messages for me. One of our London users has knocked her computer over. The sewage flood last week had necessitated placing the computer on pieces of wood to keep it out of the water.

Apparently, the machine is now “unusable,” and the user is working on another machine, which, unfortunately, does not have all the software she needs. Looks like I’ll be going to London tomorrow. A quick check on my e-mails reveals no other problems.

9:00 A.M.
An Epson technician arrives to take away the printer that was malfunctioning over the weekend. I had already fixed the printer on Monday. I explain that I had only phoned their support center because the printer’s manual was no help in diagnosing the problem. I did not want the printer taken away, as Epson would have kept it for a minimum of five days. This was too long to be without it, and it is working fine now.

I make a quick call to the local recruitment agency. They have no new employment leads for me. I have been with my current employer for two years, and, although I enjoy the work, I’m ready for a new change in management.

10:00 A.M.
I receive another call from the user with the knocked-over machine. She is desperate to use her computer, as she needs to process purchase orders today. Looks like I’m off to London sooner than I expected.

I send a quick e-mail to everyone explaining that I’ll be out of the office for the rest of the day. The trip to London will take about 90 minutes, half an hour’s drive to my hometown of Chelmsford, 35 minutes on the train into London, 15 minutes on the tube (subway for those not from London), and then a 10 minute walk to the office.

11:40 A.M.
I arrive at the London office and get straight to work. Upon removing the damaged PC’s cover, I can see it’s not as bad as I had feared. The graphics card has come loose, and one of the clips holding the CPU in place has sprung off. After getting it up and running, I set to work on the other tasks I have been saving up to do when in London.

1:00 P.M.
I have written a simple Microsoft Access contact database and need to make sure all London users have a shortcut to it on their desktop and know how to use it. This proves to be a more difficult task than I had anticipated. One of the users has a bug with their Access installation that has to be repaired.

With the database finished, I focus my attention on our intranet. I check each machine to make sure it has access to the intranet and has the intranet set as the homepage on its Internet browser.

I also examine the London server’s modem and faxing application problems. The modem is only used for faxing; the e-mail and WAN connection run through a router and ISDN line. I decide that the only sure way to test the modem is to take it out of the server and test it in another machine.

To cause the least disturbance to my users, I make sure everyone is logged off before taking the modem out. Looking at the modem’s jumpers yesterday told me its IRQ setting was incorrect. I put the modem into another Windows machine, and after a little fiddling about, it is ready to go back in the server. With everyone gone but the cleaners, it is an easy job. Next, I configure the Zetafax software. Although it works well on the server, the clients all have routing problems.

8:30 P.M.
After finishing the final installation and checking every client, it is nearly 8:30 P.M. I still have a long trip home but am happy that everything is now working in the London office.
Support techs worth their salt should know about the damage that lightning can cause to computer equipment. But what about wind, rain, or snow? If you’ve had a unique experience where the weather has crashed your network, we want to hear about it. Post a comment below or send us an e-mail.

This diary recounts Alex’s week from March 26-30, 2001.

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