In my time at Network Center, Inc. I have had the benefit of being exposed to a large and unique client base. And while they all have common themes and similarities, including hardware and software, each has their own unique uses, programs, and methods for dealing with their day-to-day operations which affects our relationship with them in terms of how we support them. There are two primary groups that I like to divide clients into: those that have an environment we have implemented and control and those that we are taking over but someone else previously implemented. Each presents their own challenges and have to be approached with care.
I’ll touch first on clients who have a network that we have had a hand in implementing. That may be from the planning stages through to completion, upgrades or replacements of existing infrastructure, or hosted solutions that we help administer. These are usually, though not always, easier for us as a company to support and troubleshoot when things go awry. This stems primarily from being more familiar with the system, and being able to document issues as we have encountered them during implementation and the steps we took to resolve them. This also usually indicates that there is a primary technician who is responsible for the setup and installation, giving others who may be called on to support the customer a valuable resource who has knowledge that may otherwise not be readily available. While these clients generally benefit from the knowledge our technicians have from the extensive time they spend on the system during setup and installation, we also have a number of clients who primarily handle IT issues internally, or who are coming to us from another support provider. These clients present their own set of challenges to address.
For those networks we didn't implement, it can take slightly longer to become familiar with the ins and outs of certain systems. While many pieces of software see use for both categories of clients, they can be utilized in vastly different ways. Certain comforts exists in working with a particular brand of software, however, there can still be unique situations per client which require additional runtime to become capable of supporting it in an efficient manner. There are a myriad of things we can do, however, to make supporting both environments as easy as possible for both the end users and those helping them out.
First and foremost is communication. Whether it’s between an end user and a technician, between a designated contact and a service engineer, a salesperson, or communication between technical resources, quick and accurate information between those working on issues or those affected by said issues can go a long way in mitigating problems that stem from a technical issue. Communication can minimize downtime by getting the right information to the right people, or correctly identifying the root cause and quickly addressing it.
The other side of the coin is having proper documentation. The obvious ones might be passwords, a list of programs, maybe hardware and software inventory, but there is much more that can be and sometimes isn’t kept, which could help in the event support is needed. This can include updated contact information for both users and third party vendors, proper escalation procedures for incidents, configurations for specialized equipment, troubleshooting workflows for common issues, and changes requested by either end users or technicians to address ongoing issues. Knowing what was done and why goes a long way toward being able to identify any future problems, roll back changes if necessary, and minimize their impact should they resurface. And while we have an internal program to document issues that we work on, there is more that can be discussed and found to record that will make supporting a network easier for all parties involved.
In short, network support in a timely and efficient manner boils down to communication and documentation. With either one missing, time is spent filling in blanks and can result in additional work and costs. This is also not solely the responsibility of one party or the other, but a joint effort to make support easier for all involved. For questions about network support, please contact Network Center, Inc.