3 troubleshooting tips that can save you a world of time

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In the IT world we’ve got two sets of tasks we work on every day: projects and firefighting. Projects are those long-term tasks that require dedicated time to plan, assess, design, architect and implement. With projects, you typically got an extended amount of time to get things done. Firefighting, however, is a totally different story; it involves moment-to-moment support issues that crop up during your work day, and you don’t have a clue when the next one is coming.

Dealing with fires is like playing whack-a-mole; one pops up and before you know it you’ve got another blaze to extinguish. The kind of stress that often accompanies firefighting can be enough to cause a personal burnout -- so, before you find yourself scrambling to put out your own fire, take heed of these three tried-and-true tips that can help save you a world of time.

1.   Fix it immediately, but plan for the future fix

Since the pressure is so high when fighting IT fires, it’s all too easy to handle the situation immediately and move on without thoughts of future flare-ups. You figure that the  problem is resolved and no one is calling anymore, so you can just move on to the next thing. Before you know it, you find yourself fixing the exact same problem just a few months later. It feels like a no-win situation. So, how do you get out? Well, you follow the same process, but you add an extra step; do whatever it takes in that moment to extinguish the IT fire (long-term repercussions be damned!), but as soon as you fix it, make a note to come back and do it right. And then actually come back and do it right.

2.   Document the fix

You can't really plan for fires (nor can you take your sweet time fighting them), but you can be better prepared and more efficient when certain issues pop up. One solid way to do this is by documenting the fix. Unfortunately, this sort of documentation is one of the first things to go out the window during a high-pressure downtime situation. We sometimes seem to think that we don’t have time for it, when the reality is that we lose more time by skipping this vital step. Look, you don’t have to write a manual, just be sure to jot down any important, nuanced information that you find during troubleshooting. Seriously, you’ll need this later!

3.   Automate the solution

Finally, if you can’t resolve the problem permanently, automate the solution. The only thing worse than fixing the same problem twice is fixing it manually both times. It might be faster the second time around, but why are you wasting time doing this? First and foremost, ensure the same fire doesn’t come up again. However, if for some reason you can’t, always be sure to script or automate the solution to make second-time resolution a breeze.

The next time you discover that some service is down, don’t just reboot the server and hope for the best. Sure, that might fix it for today but what about tomorrow or the next day? I implore you to not be that IT department that has a server reboot schedule just because they won’t troubleshoot and resolve the root problem.

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Adam Bertram

is an independent consultant, technical writer, trainer and presenter. Adam specializes in consulting and evangelizing all things IT automation mainly focused around Windows PowerShell. Adam is a Microsoft Windows PowerShell MVP, 2015 powershell.org PowerShell hero and has numerous Microsoft IT pro certifications. He is a writer, trainer and presenter and authors IT pro course content for Pluralsight. He is also a regular contributor to numerous print and online publications and presents at various user groups and conferences. You can find Adam at his site listed below or on Twitter at @adbertram.