Ghosts of Christmas past: Helpdesk horrors

The festive season is the right time to look back at those troubling manifestations that continue to haunt helpdesks, says Jack Wallen
By Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
1 of 10 Joffley/Flickr

Viruses found

It's the season to revisit scenes from the past that still trouble helpdesks and all those in support roles. From lost admin passwords and hopeless end users to failed backups — here is my Christmas list of the 10 things that can still disturb support's peace of mind.

1. Viruses repeatedly infecting the same machine
This issue may not be your top problem of the past year. But even if it isn't costing you sleep, it will still have you cursing the day you ever encountered the user who insists on opening every attachment that graces his inbox and who loves visiting dodgy sites. The next occasion that same employee reports yet another virus, it's time to act — or risk premature grey hair.

2 of 10 Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Recurring problems

2. Solved issues that keep recurring
You spent hours last month on that ADTRAN router to get RDP reaching the internal network. For some reason it just stopped working. So more toil is required to get it operational again. But then it stops again. Back to the drawing board, only this time all the settings you fixed last time are still fine. You can tell this is going to end badly. Not only are you going to have to solve a problem you reported fixed, you might well have to propose buying new hardware.

3 of 10 CJ Isherwood/Flickr


3. Clients refusing to pay
If you operate as a consultant, your livelihood depends on your clients' willingness to pay. Non-payment is a problem no one wants, but it seems to be a common theme among self-employed support specialists. How do you avoid this nightmare? Rather than turn to a lawyer, there are several things you can do to avoid wrangles over non-payment.

4 of 10 Gatis Gribusts/Flickr

Night call

4. The call in the middle of the night
It's the witching hour and your special batphone rings to let you know the network is down. You can't remote in to check it out. Your only option is to get dressed and head out to the site to reboot whatever piece of equipment is at fault. Of course, you may be lucky, and a call to the provider will reveal a serious issue with your pipe, thereby sparing you a late-night trip.

5 of 10 Solo/Flickr


5. Server down and no backup
The nightmare of nightmares for IT. Your server has tanked and there is no backup to restore from. That scenario puts you at the mercy of a broken drive or RAID array, and you'll have to pray that the data on those drives can be recovered. The lesson? Back up your servers and convince everyone around you of the importance of backing up theirs.

6 of 10 Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Budget cuts

6. Budget cuts
In the present economic climate, companies are downsizing everything, including IT. Many companies are shifting from internal IT to outsourced IT. If you work in internal IT and you see the writing on the wall, this change is a nightmare you may not be able to avoid. Budget cuts are a certainty, so the only thing you can do to avoid this is to work efficiently, ensure everything you do and every decision you make is sound — and hope for the best.

7 of 10 Wabisabi2015/Flickr

Cat hacker on laptop

7. The hacked network
At some point, your company network will be hacked. The consequences depend on a lot of variables. But the most important thing is to be prepared. Have a disaster plan that includes security breaches — not just hardware failure. But instead of just relying on a recovery plan, make sure your protection is as strong as it can be. Ensure updates are applied, all security rules are checked, and all security hardware is up to scratch for today's attacks.

8 of 10 Simon Lieschke/Flickr

Password of the week

8. Lost admin passwords
My memory is not what it once was, so a recurring nightmare is to forget the administrator passwords for various systems. This problem can be circumvented, but sometimes not easily. Forget that domain admin password and there could be problems. Forget that router admin password or Cisco admin password and you're going to have to jump through hoops to sort out the problem. You have to keep those passwords safe and for your eyes only.

9 of 10 Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Panicked man

9. Death of the VPN
If an organisation has a number of employees who work remotely through a VPN and that tunnel goes down, havoc ensues. When this happens, you are held responsible. When a VPN goes down, lots of people can't work. That could mean a great deal of lost productivity — all on your shoulders. It's one reason why it's crucial to ensure the VPN is solid and not prone to drops or configuration issues.

10 of 10 Practical QuickBooks

QuickBook recovery

10. A damaged QuickBooks data file
As a certified QuickBooks engineer, I see this problem frequently. When something goes awry with a QuickBooks data file, if there are no backups to turn to, things can become tricky. What makes this issue especially hellish is that the company's finances are effectively resting in your hands. When money is at stake, panic rises to a level that other issues are unlikely to approach.

Other frights?
Being an IT pro can sometimes feel as if you're being chased by the spectre of one disaster after another. Why not share with us the event that has haunted you most?

This story originally appeared as 10 frights that often haunt IT support pros on TechRepublic.

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