Problem solving is an inevitable part of any IT technician’s job. From time to time you will encounter a computer or network problem that will, simply put, just leave you stumped. When this happens it can be an extremely nerve-wracking experience, and your first instinct might be to panic.
Don’t do this. You need to believe that you can solve the problem. Undoubtedly you have solved computer performance or network troubles in the past, either on your job or during your training and education. So, if you come across a humdinger that, at first glance at least, you just can’t seem to see a way out of, instead of panicking, try to focus and get into the ‘zone’. Visualize the biggest problem that you’ve managed to solve in the past, and remember the triumph and elation that you felt when you finally overcame it. Tell yourself, “I will beat this computer,” get in the zone, and prepare for battle.
Top 3 Computer & Network Issues You’re Likely To Experience
Network staff and IT security personnel are forever tasked with identifying and solving all manner of difficulties, especially on large networks. Thankfully there are, generally speaking, three main categories that the causes of these issues will fall into. These are: Performance Degradation; Host Identification; and Security.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these categories.
1. Performance Degradation
Performance degradation is when speed and data integrity starts to lapse, due, normally, to poor quality transmissions. All networks, no matter their size, are susceptible to performance issues, however the larger the network, the more problems there are likely to be. This is due in the main to the larger distance, and additional equipment, endpoints and midpoints.
Furthermore, networks that aren’t properly equipped with an adequate amount of switches, routers, domain controllers etc. will inevitably put the whole system under severe strain, and performance will thereby suffer.
So, having an adequate amount of quality hardware is of course the start of the mission to reduce the risk of any problems that you may encounter. But hardware alone is not enough without proper configuration – so you need to get this right too.
2. Host Identification
Proper configuration is also key to maintaining proper host identification. Computer networking hardware cannot deliver all of the messages to the right places without correct addressing. Manual addressing can often be configured for small networks, but this is somewhat impractical in larger organizations. Domain controllers and DHCP servers and their addressing protocols and software are absolutely essential when creating and maintaining a large, scalable network.
Host identification and performance issues will not make any difference to a network that finds itself breached by hackers. And so, security is also of utmost importance.
Network security means preventing unauthorized users from infiltrating a system and stealing sensitive information, maintaining network integrity, and protecting network denial of service attacks. Again, these issues all magnify in line with the size of the network, simply because there are more vulnerable points at which hackers may try to gain access. On top of this, more users mean more passwords, more hardware, and more potential entry points for hackers.
Your defenses against these types of threats will of course be firewalls, proxies, antivirus software, network analysis software, stringent password policies, and invoking procedures that adequately compartmentalize large networks within in internal boundaries – plenty of areas, then, which may encounter problems.
Troubleshooting the Problems
Ok, so those are the potential difficulties that you are most likely to encounter. Identifying the source of any given problem out of all of these things can of course cause a lot of stress for the practitioner tasked with solving it. So, once you’ve got into the ‘zone’, follow these next 5 simple problem solving strategies and you’ll get to the bottom of the snag in no time. Just believe.
1. Collect Every Piece of Information You Can
This means writing down precisely what is wrong with the computer or network. Just by doing this very simple act starts to trigger your brain into searching for potential solutions. Draw a diagram to sketch out the problem as well. It will help you visualize your task at hand.
Next you need to ask around the office to find out if anything has changed recently. Any new hardware for instance, or any new programs that have been added. If it turns out that there has, you need to try the simple step first of reversing the engines. Revert everything back to how it was before and see if that fixes things.
One of the best troubleshooting skills that you can have is pattern recognition. So, look for patterns in scripts, check for anything out of the ordinary. Is there a spelling mistake somewhere? A file date that is newer than all the rest?
2. Narrow the Search Area
Firstly you need to figure out if the problem is to do with hardware or software. This will cut your search down by half immediately.
If its software, then try and work out the scale of the problem – which programs are still running and which are not? Try uninstalling and then reinstalling the suspected program.
If it’s hardware, then try swapping the suspect component in question with something similar from a working machine.
3. Develop a Theory
Make a detailed list of all the possible causes of the problem at hand, and then ask yourself very seriously, using all of your experience, which one is it most likely to be? Trust your instincts, and also turn to the internet. The likelihood is that someone somewhere will have encountered just this very thing before, and may well have posted about it in a blog or forum. If you have an error number, then that will improve your chances of finding a reference. From here, you are in the perfect position to start the process of trial and error.
4. Test Your Theories Methodically
The best troubleshooters test one factor at a time. This can actually be quite a discipline, but it is essential in order to be thorough. Write down every single change that you make, and keep listing potential causes as they occur to you, as well as possible solutions, and keep drawing diagrams to help you visualize the task.
5. Ask For Help!
Seriously, there is no shame in it, so don’t start getting precious. Try and figure out who the best person would be to solve the problem and get in touch with them. Send out emails, post to forums, call an expert or contact the manufacturer. Do whatever it takes. It’s all part of the troubleshooting process, and you need to know when you require assistance.
***How do you go about troubleshooting computer performance or network problems? Let us know in the comments below.