Back to Basics: 5 tips for the IT worker in all of us

October 27, 2013

As I have worked in the IT industry, I have come across a few ideas that seem to appear over and over. These ideas are fundamentally simple, and are a good think to think of regardless of what level you work in IT. Take some time to meditate on these and become an IT superhero.

  1. Is it turned on

I know this sounds silly, but I can’t tell you how many times I have seen individuals checking routing tables, switch configurations, cables, moon phases and more just to find out that the equipment they were trying to access was powered off. This doesn’t just apply to networked computing. Not all consumer electronics have obvious power LEDs, and sometimes they are stuffed in cabinets where the LED is not visible.

4. Is it plugged in

So, you figured out it wasn’t turned on. Now you are flummoxed because the power button does not seem to do anything. Check to see that your device is actually receiving power. Yep, I know it is hard to imagine, but power strips do get turned off and sometimes power cables can be improperly seated. In the really annoying edge cases, a voltmeter may come in handy.

3. Check the cable

This goes hand in hand with the tip above, but is more related to all cables other than power. Wierd network issue? Change the cable. Screwy artifacts on your monitor? Change the cable. Crackle in your audio? Change the cable. The fact is, cables are so cheap that they really should be one of the first things you swap out. It just simply isn’t worth it to spend 3 hours troubleshooting only to figure out it was the cable.

2. Reboot

Growing up with linux, it was taught to me that rebooting a server was a sin that only those “Windows Guys” do. Real men after all can fix problems the “right way”. Ignore all that, if you are stuck, try a reboot. The number of data structures that get re-initialized on reboot is enormous and unless you wrote all the software on your machine, you may not be able to track them all down. Now, I am not suggesting this as a first step mind you, but I am suggesting that we get over this irrational fear that if we reboot the server we have done something wrong. The truth is, if your service is designed well, a reboot should have almost no effect on the service you are providing.

1. Backups

Are you changing something? Back it up. Are you thinking about changing something? Back it up. It is this author’s opinion that a machine or service isn’t truly “In Production” until it is backed up. Whats more, a backup isn’t a backup unless you have tested restoration. This principle applies to the complex and the mundane. Modifying the cluster config on your database server? Back it up. Modifying your .bashrc? Back it up. Filling out a paper form? Back it up.

Now that you are armed thus, go forth and conquer the IT world.