Never Underestimate the Value of a Good Reference Library

Fifth in a Series: Technology in the SOHO

Sadik Antwi-Boampong recently established the first library in a poor town in Ghana.
Sadik Antwi-Boampong recently established the first library in a poor town in Ghana.

How many of you don’t have a reference library? You know books that support your computer technology after you finish NOT reading the manuals that came with your hardware and software. You realize that there is an industry designed around showing you how useless the manuals that came with your computer are. And you need to do your part to keep that industry thriving. Not for the industry’s sake, but for your own. Manuals just don’t tell you enough. They were never designed to give you more than rudimentary skills in using the hardware and software you purchased. You need supplementary publications and a lot of that information is available on the Internet. However, the best of these books will always cost something. Remember our earlier post: you get what you pay for…

You should keep a library of information regarding your hardware, software, network technology and other assets. Download and keep the PDF manuals and enhance them with books that may increase your understanding. I know you are not a computer person. You are <insert occupation here>. The days of the singularly dedicated IT person standing by waiting for you to call them are gone.

Okay, that is not quite true. IT people are still out there. But corporations are reducing the number of them at every turn. There are fewer and fewer of them while the number of things they are responsible for continues to grow in number and complexity. You may have to wait a while if you are working someplace that has managed to keep IT on staff. If you are a small business, you are not likely to have an IT person at all. You will have to find someone, hopefully someone good, recommended and vetted by someone you trust, or you will have to go to the phone directory and hope for the best.

When I was in the Navy, everyone onboard the ship was trained at boot camp and again at later training schools with the basics and practical skills for firefighting techniques. We were taught how to put out fires, wear breathing apparatus, use fire hoses and perform CPR.

Why you ask? Because when you are a thousand miles out to sea, you cannot call for the fire department. You are responsible to know enough to get you through the day, until you can call for help and while you wait for help to arrive. This is just as true with your computer, especially if your business revolves or is highly dependent on your computer.

Having access to a reference library will, over time, give you the basic skills to handle simple problems with your technology. 75% of all computer difficulties can be corrected by the user without serious technical support by first checking the technical guides that can be found online or with the service disks that shipped with your hardware.

Creating a directory of information about your hardware does not mean you need to do a lot of work, just copy the Adobe Portable Document files about your hardware created by the vendor of your equipment onto your computer (and a flash drive as a backup). These files are usually found on the disks that ship with your equipment. You can also usually find them on the vendor website that you bought your computer from.

If you got a computer without the original disks you may have to do a bit of work using Google to find those files. You can search by the name or model number of your computer, found on a tag in the back. Dell, Gateway and other large manufacturers have databases of PDF files on each model of their equipment. If you cannot find a specification file, you can get general guidelines from the advertising brochures that companies use on their vendor websites.

These files are often called User Guides, Technical Specifications, and Customer Brochures. User guides are what used to be printed as the User Manual. In order to save printing costs, the PDF is all some vendors are giving out now. You don’t usually need to print them for them to be useful, but it would be good to keep a copy outside of your computer just in case. Technical Specs are the hardware specifications, gear inside your particular computer, your motherboard, your hard drives, your CD-DVD drives and any other attendant information to help define your hardware. Your technical person would want this document the most. A Customer Brochure will have general information regarding a model of your computer. It is not as precise as a Technical Spec document, but it is better than nothing in the hands of a skilled technician.

If you keep up with these files, especially when you get new hardware, it will help you when you troubleshoot problems that may show up when you connect that new hardware into your environment. You can also search with precise product names because you have the specification and model numbers in your documentation. Printers are especially difficult with all of the different model numbers and very slight variations producing a forest of devices to search through when you need help with your particular device. If you can, you should create a small network map of your environment if you have more than three or devices, as this will help you if you start having network difficulties in the future. You can also convince your network technician to do the same thing for a modest price. (A platter of brownies usually does the trick. Some might want money, though. Your mileage may vary.)

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