Who do you call ?

Two nights ago our downstairs heater went out. It was not a good time. It has been very cold, in the 20° to low 30° Fahrenheit range all week. Last night got as low as 12° F , , , that’s  -11° Centigrade, , , very cold.

That’s our son, Eddie, , , waving “Hello” to you

What’s the first thing you do when one of your systems goes down, , , like your e-mail server or one of your mission critical business applications? Do you know what to do?

Well, if you are capable, you might try to troubleshoot the problem. That’s what we did, , , the blower wasn’t operating and we smelled something like burnt plastic around the vents. That’s the extent of our troubleshooting ability in this case.

I’m not very knowledgeable about heating furnaces and air conditioning units, , , in fact I would say I have zero knowledge about them other than basic operation of the unit.

So, the next thing you do is call someone for help – right?

That’s exactly what we thought, but we had a problem. It was already 10:00pm Wednesday evening and we weren’t going to get someone out this late. Fortunately we didn’t have an emergency, , , just a problem we needed to resolve in a reasonable time. Our upstairs heater is working fine and our fireplace keeps it warm enough in our main living area so we are good. We just need to keep the water running a little at night so the pipes won’t freeze, , , that would create a much bigger problem.

Our heat situation is just like what an IT manager faces when your e-mail server goes down or some other key component of your operation stops working.

To resolve the heater issue, we know exactly who to call even though we don’t make a call like this very often, , , only once before in the eight years we have lived here.

You have the same situation in finding support for your servers, network components, and other systems when something breaks. You don’t call for support that often but when something breaks and you need help, you really do need to know how to get hold of the support you need.

What used to really irritate me as a young IT manager was when we would have a problem like a down system. No one seemed to know who to call for help, , , so we had to scramble and figure it out in the midst of a crisis. That’s not when you need to identify who to call.

A quick and easy recommendation for you is to make a quick list of all your critical systems and operational components that you might need support for. Then identify the support vendor name, contact name, and phone number.

This will probably only take you ten to fifteen minutes to list the dozen or so mission critical vendors. Add additional support vendors that are less critical as you feel is needed.

You might even want to include a manager’s name and phone number in case you need to escalate an issue. I would even recommend going to lunch with this manager and get to know him or her, , , and allow them to get to know you. If you do need to escalate an issue, it always helps when they know you.

Personally, I like to put this information in a spreadsheet that I’ll always have close by. You may want to print a copy and put it in your manager notebook, , , give a copy to your managers and to your Help Desk, , , anyone who might need it in the future.

When a problem happens, , , and it will, , , you have a quick reference and know exactly who to call.

I promise you, it will take some of the stress out of the situation when you are able to identify and contact your support resources quickly in order to respond to a broken or inoperable system.

Another good lesson learned this week
Be sure to stay on top of your warranties. In our heating situation, we really got lucky. The heating units and motor have to be replaced, but it’s still in its 10-year warranty for two more months. We were actually  lucky the problem occurred when it did.

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