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An Administrator’s Guide To Popularity

By Tim Charlton Do you remember the good times of high school? The praise from an seemingly endless stream of friends? The parties? The clubs The feeling of being treated like royalty over your little fiefdom. You’re not alone. My experiences are more like mine. You’re likely to have endured a constant stream of wedgies and awkward interactions with the opposite sexual partner.
There is still hope. Listen up if you missed the opportunity. I’m going to tell you how YOU, the administrator can be the most popular person in your company. Are you ready?
It’s easy: Break something.
That’s it. The more important the system is, the more popular it will be. Go ahead, try it. Force the e-mail server’s crash. Unplug the switch that acts as the network’s backbone. You’ll see a line coming at your door so fast, it will make your head spin.
No one is coming to gossip about you-know who or to see your latest fashion choices or accessories (as amazing as they may be). They’re here to tell you that something is broken, and more importantly, to inquire how long it will take to fix it.
Thomas Chipman, my colleague, posted on my Facebook page once in a moment when I was experiencing my own surge popularity: “No pressure.”
This kind of popularity is bad, I don’t think you need me to say. The company’s ability and ability to function properly has been put on hold. Despite Thomas’ ironic comment, the pressure is on. What can you do? Here’s some advice.
1. Assure everyone that you are on the case and, if possible, give an ETA for a solution. Don’t overpromise. If you feel that your users are anxious, don’t wait until you miss your target for resolution. Over-promising can lead to failure and more snarky comments by Thomas-err, your coworkers. If you aren’t sure what the problem is, tell your coworkers. They will be able to see that you’re trying to fix it. Keep your coworkers updated on your progress.
2. Assess the situation. Start with the basics. Is the device on? Has anyone changed the configuration of the device? Did an update have recently been applied? Many new administrators make the mistake of looking first for complex causes. Sometimes the problem is much more simple. As necessary, you should gradually move from the basic to the more complicated troubleshooting steps.
3. Once you have identified the problem, it is time to get to the bottom of the matter: correction. If the problem can be resolved quickly, do it. If completion is not imminent it is a good idea to keep your coworkers updated.
4. Once the repair is completed, you will need to communicate this information to your coworkers. After a few high-fives, and possibly a parade in your honour, you can return to your former life of relative anonymity. Being popular can be so boring.
Administrators must be ready for sudden surges in popularity. Systems can fail without warning. John Oden, my boss, once said to me that IT is about being prepared for anything that might happen… until it does. Don’t be surprised. Things will break. It’s only a matter time.
Here are some tips to help you be prepared.
1. Backup, backup, backup. Always have current backups of all your data. This cannot be stressed enough. But, having backups alone is not enough. To ensure that your backups are complete and ready to use, you need to test them regularly. Untested backups are better than none at all. However, you don’t want your backups to be invalidated if something happens. Hope is not a strategy.
2. You should practice drills for any repairs and restores you can see. Is it possible to restore an e-mail server in case of a catastrophic failure. You can test it yourself by setting up a test environment. Document the steps taken to accomplish the task.