Because we do it all the time, we sometimes take for granted that troubleshooting and resolution can be challenging, to say the least for anyone who does not do it all the time. Seemed worthwhile to write a little troubleshooting guide for anyone who might be stumped with a problem.
Defining the Problem – The first step has to always be clearly defining the problem. I had a sixth grade teacher who taught us the “Scientific Method” and that was his first step. Until you have clearly defined the problem, you are not ready to get started with identifying the source of that problem. Be as specific as you can.
It can be pretty easy to identify the problem if you are dealing with a complete failure of one kind or another. The internet does not work. None of the phones have dial tone. Nobody can dial out.
It can be harder if the problem is not universal – Sally cannot get to this particular website. John cannot be dialed by a particular customer- it only seems to happen when he is on another call.
Be Specific – Being as specific as possible with the definition of the trouble will oftentimes take you right to the problem root cause, and therefore the resolution. If the phones get a dial tone but cannot dial outside of the business and the internet won’t work for anyone but everything internal works, there is a pretty fair chance the problem is a cut cable feeding both those services into the building. If none of the lights are on for a large group of phones, and some computers cannot connect to the internet, a data switch is probably out of service. (By the way, if you had our remote monitoring and management service, we would probably be calling you to let you know about any of these problems with a plan for restoration before you noticed them.)
Coinciding Events – The next step is to try to identify anything else that coincides with the occurrence of the problem. None of the lights are on. None of the lights are flashing like they usually do. These coinciding events/clues are often the keys to identifying the root cause.
Root Cause Identification – If you haven’s noticed it yet. Just the process of clearly defining your problem and looking for coinciding events will often be enough to help you identify with a pretty high degree of accuracy, the root cause. If you don’t have enough experience with all the components of your network/phone system/device to visualize the problem, providing this well-developed information to the vendor will help them to more quickly identify the root cause.
Resolution- Once the root cause has been well identified, you are usually well on your way to resolving the problem. Sometimes you will be able to effect that resolution, and sometimes you will not. If something got unplugged, you could probably plug it back in faster than you can dial a vendor. If a data switch or firewall has crashed, you will probably need vendor support to resolve it.
While this seems like a very basic process, when systems are not working and people are excited about it, it takes some discipline to do that little bit of homework. Doing it will result in quicker resolutions to your problems, though.