A couple of IT things *everyone* should know

So, as usual, lurking on Reddit and a topic comes up about things that non-sysadmins (read: normal every day people) should know in relation to being a sysadmin. I thought this was interesting and a bit silly until I thought about it for a while – I’m somewhat amazed by the number of people who are working who have little to no understanding of the device they use every single day to do their work. Surely, if you’re using this device, you would at least try and understand a few basic things around how it works, how to get the most out of it and how to get the help you need when it *isn’t* working.

Sadly, that’s not the case – so in light of that and based on some of the information that came out of the discussion, I’ve written a “These are some of the things you need to know if you’re working with a computer every single damn day” list:

  • Rebooting/Restarting – You know how we IT people always tell you to try “turning it off then on again”? We’re not just saying that because we like the sound of our voice. We’re saying it because it actually bloody works. The number of issues that are resolved simply by restarting or rebooting a device is phenomenal. This works with a large number of things – computers, phones, tablets, modems, TV’s, game consoles, even microwaves! Seriously, if we ask you to reboot it or restart it – just do it and don’t argue…pretty please?
  • How to provide decent information to us – When you want to contact us to let us know that something is broken, the first thing to say isn’t “it’s broken”. We need more information. Telling us something “is broken” is likely to set us to grinding our teeth, rolling our eyes and trying very, very hard not to put your email/ticket/phone call at the bottom of our pile of to-do’s. We honestly want to know what’s broken, but to do that, we need more information from you – was there an error message and what was it, what part of the program, what were you doing when it happened, are you on your normal computer, what version of the software are you using, have you noticed anything else strange happening. You may think something is *totally* irrelevant…yet it could be the one piece of information we need to fix the problem. So please – give us as much detail as you can about what went wrong and don’t get grumpy/sulky/angry when we ask you questions.
  • How to use Google – When something goes wrong, don’t immediately throw your hands in the air. While I do understand that companies employee IT people for a reason, it is possible for non-IT employees to use their own initiative and help themselves. Often saving themselves (and the IT staff!) a lot of time in the process. Some things really only take a quick Google to work out what went wrong. Not only that, but even if you can’t find the answer, telling an IT person that you went looking at solution X, Y or Z didn’t work will help them narrow it down quicker. I’m not saying you need to do this every single time, but if you think it’s a quick fix, then you may be able to help yourself!
  • Why passwords are important – I’ve written about this in the past (Passwords and security – why is it so hard to get *right*?) because explaining passwords requires more than one or two sentences. Passwords are insanely important. You need to understand how they work, *why* they’re important and why it’s important to make them as secure as possible. If you don’t, you’re just making yourself a liability to your company and possibly to yourself.
  • Where to store your data – If there is a piece of data that is critically important, please don’t store it on a USB drive or external hard drive. Make sure you’ve actually put it somewhere that you know is safe and being backed up. Store it up on your work servers, don’t put it on your desktop. Don’t store it in email. The number of times someone has “lost” a file that was “so so SO important” because they put it on a USB drive and then lost the drive…
  • That the “internet” is never actually down – Just because you can’t browse to Facebook or Google doesn’t mean “the internet is down”. It means that, at this point in time, your computer cannot connect to the internet. Check with people around you to see if they’re having the same problem you are, make sure they can visit the same website. (Thanks to Nick Sturgess for this suggestion!) There could be any number of reasons why you can’t access it, none of them being that “the internet is down”. The information of “I was trying to access this website and I couldn’t” is far more useful to us than “The internet is down”. Please, pretty please, remember this.


So, if you could all pretty please remember them (or even one of them, we sysadmins would be mighty appreciative!

5 thoughts on “A couple of IT things *everyone* should know

  1. Anony Mouse

    Except people googling their own solutions can result in them trying things they don’t understand, making it worse…

    1. girlgerms Post author

      Only if they’re given admin rights. At least saying they’ve Googled it means that they have an understanding of what the problem *actually* is.

  2. adaptable

    hi , i am a new IT wannabe professionnal (maybe next month this statement will change ,hopefully) and have been in one company for almost a week (yeah THAT long ;c) just wanted to congratulate you . what stat is sooooo true anyhow i can now maybe identify myself a bit better (client side ) hope you continue ;D


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