Repeat after me: The technician is your friend…

Sixth in a Series: Technology and the SOHO

A good PC technician is worth their weight in gold. They really are. No matter their stereotypes (and there are quite a few) if you have a good tech, you know it and do everything in your power to keep them. A good tech seems to know what is wrong before you fully describe the problem. A good tech has an encyclopedic memory for odd configuration facts that might affect your computer. And when they don’t know the answer, they have a website, blog or friend just an instant message away who does.

They are an unappreciated, overworked, cog in the vast IT machine. They are the front line troubleshooters, the guy crawling under a desk to track a cable, they are the girl getting up at four in the morning because her pager is buzzing and a necessary server just went off-line. The PC technician is our first line of defense against all enemies foreign (Toshiba) or domestic (Dell). But what are the qualities of a good PC technician?

A good PC technician has several amazing powers that when used properly make them invaluable in any environment they work in.

  1. They are ethically impeccable. They have access to the most private information of their clients. They have access to the inner workings of the IT environment they are working in. If they wanted to make your life miserable, they could easily. But instead, they put their client first, protect their client’s needs and assets and understand that their reputation as an IT technician is of the highest value. The PC technician believes in providing the best service at a fair price.
  2. They have the power and desire to share their vast knowledge with their client. They empower their client with information and documentation. They teach the client what went wrong and how to prevent it in the future. They are not looking for the quick buck; they are looking for the satisfied client. A good tech can make you understand the problem and the solution in clear, concise language.
  3. They have the power of discernment. They can ask the right questions, listen intently and understand what the client is talking about, even if the client is upset and yelling at the top of their lungs. They can stay focused on the task at hand, even if it has been hours with no results to speak of. They recognize that success may be just around the next bend.
  4. They have the power to calm their client. When something is wrong with a mission critical PC, clients often go ballistic, but a good technician soothes the savage client so they can get the information they need to solve the difficulty. They have an affable manner and can remain calm themselves so that they can engage the client in a meaningful manner.
  5. They are enthusiastic about their career choice. Their love of computing allows them to be fully engaged when solving a problem for a client. These are the people who eat with their computers, take their PC on vacations with them, speak to their computer like it’s alive. Yes, they may seem strange but it is that connection to their machine, and a possible lack of connection to other people, that gives them such an affinity for troubleshooting PCs in the first place.
  6. They have the power of focused analysis. A great PC technician can look at the million possible combinations of things that could go wrong and whittle them away until there are only a few possible choices. A great PC tech can do this in their head, virtually, before even touching the keyboard, eliminating possible choices with lightning speed; once they touch the keyboard, they are on a path toward resolution.

Okay, so I have painted the portrait of a super-being. No PC tech can be all of those things, can he or she? Not likely. But the more of those things a PC technician possesses, the better their chances of being the technician you want in your office, solving your problems. Even I have to admit, when I first started doing PC technical work, I wanted as little to do with the client as possible. I was only interested in the technical challenge of solving the problem. It took me a long time to realize that my work was not dealing with the computer, but with making the client comfortable with me working on their computer.

To be fair, as a client, you have a few obligations to your PC technician as well:

  1. Take the time to know what equipment you are using. You would be surprised how much this may help a technician when they are attempting to solve your problem over the phone before they make that hour drive to your office.
  2. Keep your workspace clear of unnecessary clutter. Do I need to elaborate here?  I won’t even begin to tell you what some of the workspaces I have had to deal with have looked like…
  3. Make sure you have enough space to work effectively in your environment both on your desk and on your computer’s desktop. If you work with very large files, make sure you purchase removable media or external hard drives from reputable companies and make as many backups as necessary for you to feel safe.
  4. Take the time to learn how to use your computer effectively. Not just the one program you really like. The more you know, the better your chances of getting the most out of your computer. Your PC technician will likely be more than happy to teach you anything you need to know for a nominal fee. Sometimes they will do it just to ensure that the difficulty never happen again.
  5. Try and find a technician who has a style you can work with. If you dislike your PC technician, and you are unable to come to some sort of accommodation, it will be a miserable relationship for you both. Some PC techs like to work remotely, others like to be totally hands on, some like to hold your hand, and others just want the technology to work. Shop around for the technician that suits your needs.

Be honest with your PC technician when he comes to help you. I know that seems like a weird statement but many people fail to realize, that the more your technician knows about how you use your computer, the better his chances of figuring out where or how a problem affected your system. Your IT tech’s job is to take millions of potential possibilities for why your computer failed and reduce them to a small number of potential answers; more information helps refine this process.

  • He won’t judge you and like your doctor needs to know everything you were doing when your problem occurred. So if you are addicted to Facebook or MySpace, he won’t care but the fact that you use those sites might explain where you got that latest Trojan horse or virus file.
  • If you can replicate the problem, it helps to solve the issue, see if you can repeat it before you call for help. She might even be able to help you resolve it over the phone.
  • Know everything that goes on your computer. If your computer is how you earn your livelihood, be mindful of computer and online games. Advanced computer games (especially online games) can cause problems with your configuration.

In an ideal world you would see that technician at least once per quarter, to run a basic diagnostic, that checks for machine performance, runs at least a quarterly virus scan and malware scan (if you have not been as diligent about it as you should), run any updates that my require special handling, and have your tech check to see if your system backup and restore is actually working.

Be nice to your technician! A tech’s lot is a long and difficult one. You would be surprised how far a heartfelt thank you would go to keeping a tech in your good graces. A good tech asks a lot of questions, seeks to understand your business, helps you design technology that will work for your industry and still remain easy for you to use. A good tech will check those things that need handling that you might be reluctant (or forget) to take care of. Once or twice a year, she will likely:

  1. Check your computer’s overall performance. They will determine if you need to upgrade your hardware (add RAM or a new drive for more disk space)
  2. Check to see if you should erase your disk drive to improve your system performance, if he does not erase your drive he will likely…
  3. Perform a high level diagnostic: antivirus, anti-spyware, reduce disk fragmentation, and remove temp files.
  4. Optimize your bookmarks or other data collections if they are not managed well or you request the assistance.
  5. Check your peripherals and software installations for latest updates to improve their performance.
  6. Assess your processes to see if there is a better way for you to accomplish your goals.
  7. Check to see if your network or network services are optimized for your environment.
  8. Document his work and explain what he has done when he is finished.