There is a big difference in supporting individual computer users and supporting small business systems. Sure, I see a lot of the same issues -- problems like slow systems, virus-infected machines and people just not knowing how to use their computers -- but when it comes to troubleshooting in the work environment, there is much more pressure.
You see, when someone calls me because their home computer is acting up, they usually aren't relying on their machine to make a living. When a small business calls me because their network is acting up, it can often mean that one or more people are not able to do their jobs until the problem is resolved. That can translate into massive amounts of pressure because what business wants to have a bunch of employees sitting around unable to work because the "computers are down?"
A while back I had a call from a small business that had a hard drive go bad on their server, and (as is common) they had no backup.
What was on this hard drive? Well, all of their accounting data, all of their inter-office memos, all of their Word and Excel documents, etc. Boy, were they upset!
Now, one of the first questions that pops into your head may be "Well, why wasn't there a backup?" and although that is a good question, it's one of those things that is best left unasked until after the problem is resolved. Asking the business owner why he didn't have a backup just puts him on the defensive and doesn't help at all in the task at hand, which is recovering the data.
In this particular case, they thought they had a backup system in place, but no one had checked on it since it was set up, and it wasn't working. Sure, it was set up to run, but every night it failed, and no one had thought to check. But again, dwelling on that fact doesn't get us anywhere closer to our goal and just makes a tense situation even tenser.
Just a few seconds into the call I knew that this was not going to be a "typical" service call. I could hear it in the voice that it was a bad situation. And since this was a hardware issue, I knew I wasn't going to be able to log in and fix it remotely - I was going to have to go on site, and I really had no idea what I was walking into (or whether I was going to be successful or not). And to add to the pressure, pretty much as soon as I walked in the door, everyone wanted to know what went wrong and how long it is going to take to fix. Both are legitimate questions, but it does take time to assess the situation before I can answer anything.
After an hour or so of troubleshooting and running different tests, I was able to determine that the drive was still intact (it wasn't making that horrible "click" that hard drives often make when they die), and all of the data was still visible on the drive; but I wasn't promising anything yet! Sure, it was a good sign that I could see the data on the drive, but actually getting to the data was proving to be tricky. And it doesn't help when someone comes in and reminds me every 20 minutes or so how urgent the situation is.
But after a while and throwing everything I had at the problem, I was finally able to recover the data off the bad drive and re-image it onto a new one. Mission accomplished!
So, what is the moral of the story? Well, the lesson I learned and was able to convey this to the business owner after the data was recovered was to never assume that your backup scheme is working properly. Check it every now and again just to make sure, and have some type of disaster recovery plan in place ahead of time. Hard drives don't last forever, and a good plan can eliminate a lot of anxiety when disaster does happen.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (888) 752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).