Hello, my name is Mike Hildebrand (aka 'Hilde') - I'm a Dedicated Premier Field Engineer with Microsoft. Welcome to the first in a multi-part series from us on troubleshooting. From mindsets to toolsets, a variety of Microsoft Premier Field Engineers (PFEs) will discuss a variety of skills, tips and tricks to help you build your ability to troubleshoot issues from the simple to the complex. These will all build on a foundation of patterned “thought” that most of us do in our day-to-day lives without even thinking about it.
We all have faced similar situations to the dead battery issue but often, in our “IT lives”, many of us are driven into an almost immediate panic in the face of a severe problem (i.e. a complete datacenter failure or a single, but REALLY mad user or VIP). We start changing a variety of things hoping we’ll get it fixed quickly. We begin pulling cables, rebooting servers, and often cause more harm or do nothing to reduce the time to resolution for the current event/issue.
First, remind yourself to breathe. Keep your head. Breeeeeathe. Control the situation as much as you can (rather than only reacting to it) and lean on a methodical, repeatable process to help guide and support you while you begin to work the issue.
Second, clearly define the problem as much as possible. You’ll often need tact here to keep from fanning the flames. Have you ever asked a super angry end-user who’s reporting a PC problem “Is the PC powered on?” The eerie silence on the other end of that conversation is enough to make anyone’s forehead start to bead up with sweat. Here are a few examples of “What’s reported” vs “what’s really wrong:”
Ask the focus questions:
Clarify what the problem is, as well as clarify what the problem is NOT
Consider likely causes even at the expense of seeming obvious - just be ready to duck.
If the obvious fails, start diligent but simple troubleshooting at the physical layer and work your way up to the more complex systems/environments (think back to your early MCSE tests and the “OSI model”).
Once you think you’re onto something, try to make one change at a time to actually discover the root cause.
Continue to expand on the steps and thought-framework presented here and you’ll continue to be better equipped to manage difficult situations and make progress on simple or complex problem resolution.
Also, be sure to check out a blog entry by our Dir Service folks on troubleshooting – it is a skill that you should be constantly evolving and growing.
Tune in next time for a discussion of the first tool installment in this series where we’ll take a look at the World Famous Event Viewer.
Cheers! Michael Hildebrand