Troubleshooting, in its simplest definition, is the process of diagnosing the source of a problem you identified. If, for example, you realize the software you just developed does not function as you expected, you must identify the source of the problem, so you can fix it. In theory, troubleshooting starts with the most obvious and general potential problems, and progressively proceeds toward greater specification.
We’ve all troubleshooted at one point or another. Whenever we buy a new gadget for our home, we see a Troubleshooting section in its manual. This is a list of potential problems and easy solutions that should help us overcome the issue. If, for example, the fridge is not cooling enough, we’ll start from the most general and continue with more specific potential problems:
- Is the fridge plugged in and getting power?
- Is the thermostat set in a proper position to cool?
- Is there enough space for ventilation behind the fridge?
- Are the coils clogged?
You get the point. When we troubleshoot, we’re trying to identify and fix the source of an obvious problem.
Troubleshooting as a Career in IT
In IT, troubleshooting is becoming an interesting career option. People encounter problems with the devices or software they use all the time. All big IT companies have a support system, whose representatives troubleshoot and solve problems for the customers.
Troubleshooting has become a great way of applying creative skills! If you’re interested in a career in IT and you want to use your creative skills, this is a good option for you to consider.
The Structural Approach to Troubleshooting
If you ask someone from an IT help desk to share some of their experiences, you better be prepared for some funny, unbelievable, and even ridiculous support stories. Troubleshooting can be challenging sometimes, and that’s a huge understatement. End users will constantly submit problems and complaints, and you’ll have to deal with unexpected issues all the time.
The good news is that there’s a specific process that will help you troubleshoot in most situations. This is the structural approach that IT help desks usually follow:
1. What’s the Problem?
In an ideal situation, the user would quickly describe the exact problem and you’d easily understand what the issue was. When you’re dealing with end users, however, things are not that simple. Many don’t know how to describe the problem. Many don’t know what the problem is, so they will come to you with a statement such as, “It doesn’t work.”
Identification of the problem is always the first step in the troubleshooting process.
Allow the users to express themselves and don’t interrupt. If communicating by phone or live chat, listen very carefully and take notes as you do. When the user is done explaining the issue, you can ask some questions to clarify it.
Here are some important questions you’ll usually need to ask:
- How many times did this happen? Is it a recurrent issue?
- What were you doing when this happened?
- Did you notice something unusual with the network or the computer?
When you think you understand the issue, repeat it with your own words, so you make sure that you and the user are talking about the same thing.
2. What Variables Can You Eliminate?
This is the step when you start moving from general issues toward specific ones. The most effective way to come to the bottom of a problem is by eliminating variables. To do that, you’ll have to answer questions and get more details about the problem.
- Did the user notice events logs and error messages? What did they say? Can they provide any screenshots?
- Did they try to diagnose the issue and troubleshoot with the tools they have available? What outcomes occurred?
3. Recreate the Issue and Determine the Cause
Once you gather all information you can, you’ll get to the hard part: reproducing the issue. If you can recreate the error that the user complained about, it means you can identify its cause. When you have a hypothesis of the cause, you can come up with a solution.
4. Implement the Fix
Once you narrow down the issue, you’ll be in a position to implement a potential fix. This part may involve a lot of creativity. The issues are not always as straightforward as you’d expect them to be. You might need to change settings, swap out faulty parts, think of different updates to the software, or deal with corrupted files.
Troubleshooting may take a lot of work before you can restore the gadget or software to a functional point.
5. Include the Issue in Troubleshooting Manuals
Whenever you face a problem that hasn’t been tackled before, you’ll have to inform the developers about it. Explain all that happened, all possible causes, and all potential issues. In some cases, you’ll be asked to provide this feedback in the form of technical content that could be included in the troubleshooting section of the product’s manual moving forward.
At this point, you might need to rely on the professional writers and editors, like those from services such as from AustralianEssays. Professional writers will help you to document the issue in a readable format, so you and the other members of the support team can refer to the instructions whenever a similar problem occurs.
The Process Involves Creativity
When most people try to imagine a typical day of someone who works in IT support, they assume this person is dealing with the same issues over and over again.
That’s not quite how it happens. You’ll face various IT issues and need to offer high-quality assistance at a very fast pace. You might need to perform really complex tasks, which will demand full implementation of your knowledge, skills, and creativity.
A tech support role can take you on the path you’d like to take in the IT industry. If, for example, you plan to be a network manager or system analyst, this is a good place to start.
So, are you interested?