MY Hines

Groundhog Day – Tech Support Style

Posted on: February 2, 2010

It is February 2nd again and Punxsutawney Phil will probably predict 6 more weeks of winter and no early spring. I used to love watching the festivities up in Punxsutawney. I once begged my father to take me up there for the celebration. I think I even had plans of going up when I went away to college (I didn’t go away to college so that changed those plans).

However, anymore, I hear Groundhog Day and I think of the movie. I’m sure everyone knows exactly which movie I’m talking about – I can see Bill Murray saying the line “This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.”  The movie spun off a lot of other movies of people spending the same day over and over again – I vividly remember a Christmas movie like that which I saw too many times last year.

But when it comes to it, sometimes you get into a rut that is kind of like having your own personal Groundhog Day movie. Lately, when it comes to tech support, my Groundhog Day has been updates. I swear, if I see another update, I might cry. I’m sick of Microsoft Windows Updates, Internet Explorer Updates, Office Updates, Java Updates, Blackberry Updates, ActiveX Updates…. well, you get the point, right?  Updates have been my life of late and I still can’t seem to catch up with them.

I know – I could just accept the Automatic Updates. I am moving towards that, but it is only due to the sheer amount of updates and servers that need updated that I am going to even think about this. In a perfect world, I would rather watch and monitor updates than just expecting them to work right. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t feel the need to wait two weeks before applying patches to make sure that the patches didn’t break the thing they fix.

However, there are still some areas that I need with my servers just accepting the updates automatically. They are important ones!

  • SQL Database Servers, Payroll Servers, and VOIP-related servers – These are the ones that I’m the most afraid to just let updates occur on as they are perhaps the lifeblood of our network. Any of these go down, and there are huge problems. In fact, VOIP-related servers will never be allowed to just accept updates as I need to control when those servers reboot. Until I get a test environment, which will now require an upgrade in hardware, I might have to find a way to suck it up and try to trust Microsoft. (I said try!)
  • Controlling Reboot – I am lucky enough to have three servers identified as Domain Controllers. One can go down and we can still sign on. Two go down and we can still sign on. If, for some really strange reason, all three reboot at the same time – well, no one is going to logon. Also important to know is which one may block remote access if it goes down. If you can get on remote because that server is rebooting or didn’t restart, it may be a rude awakening one very early morning to get to the office to push a button back on.
  • Knowledge/Record of Updates/Reboots – With over 40 servers, I still need to know which ones were updates and which ones weren’t. Right now, we have a pretty calendar that splits the servers up on different schedules – some getting updated/rebooted every two weeks, others once a month, some every two months, and others only as needed/required. But I at least have a good idea of when the updates were last done. If I automate, I want something to reach out and touch me  – tell me that it is done. Without that, I’ll still have to check each server to find out when they were last updated. That doesn’t sound like a good timesaver to me.

This is just one example of how Tech Support can easily slip into Groundhog Day. I can think of others – usually when one person gets a virus, you can count on three to four more getting the same virus. If one person gets a Microsoft Works document, more than likely you will get at least two more of those documents to open up within the next week to then not been seen for another six months.

I wonder what Groundhog Days you have and if you are willing to share. I’d like to hear that I’m not the only one with Groundhog Day events with technology.

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