Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Help Your Tech Department Help You

As a technology user, nothing is more frustrating than trying to get a computer issue resolved.  You try to explain the problem to the best of your ability, but then get a communication back asking for more information.  This use to annoy me to no end until I started working in the technology department.  Then I started receiving the communications regarding computer issues and having to decipher what they meant.  For instance, Susie Smith might call the office stating my computer doesn't work.  If I went solely on that information, my first assumption would be the computer doesn't even turn on.  However, as I begin to ask questions like what are you trying to do on your computer, I might discover that Susie isn't able to access the Internet.  Of course this leads me in a different troubleshooting direction than the statement my computer doesn't work.  Due to limited or misinformation, a tech must resort to a series of questions to actually narrow down the specific problem occurring on the computer.  So how can you as a computer user help your tech department understand the issue occurring on your computer?

First, take the time to learn some basic technology terminology.  For example, the Internet is the great World Wide Web that you peruse for information, but the browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari) is the application on your computer that allows you to access the Internet.  If you tell me the browser isn't working, then I might tell you try a different browser.  But when you tell me the Internet isn't working I can make several assumptions.  There is an issue with an Internet page you are trying to open, the WiFi isn't turned on or isn't connecting, or you don't have your ethernet cable plugged into the computer.  To assist you in learning some computer jargon, here are the basic computer terms you should know (some may be specific to a Mac computer):
  • Browser - A software program that allows a person to explore the Internet in an easy to use way. Examples of popular browsers include Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
  • Internet - Also known as the web or the net, the Internet contains billions of web pages created by people and companies from around the world, making it a limitless location to locate information and entertainment.
  • Network - A collection of computers, servers, mainframes, network devices, peripherals, or other devices connected to one another allowing for data to be shared and used.  A network is internal so a printer at the high school cannot be used by someone sitting in their home across the street because their device is not part of our network.
  • Server - Servers are used to manage network resources. For example, a user may setup a server to control access to a network, send/receive e-mail, manage print jobs, or host a website.  The servers in our district control access to things like FASTT Math, student login accounts and the time clock.
  • WiFi - Short for Wireless Fidelity, WiFi is how you connect to the network without a cable tying you down.  Ethernet Cable - An Ethernet cable is one of the most popular forms of network cable used on wired networks. Ethernet cables connect devices on local area networks by being plugged into the Ethernet port on your computer.
  • Dock - A bar located at the bottom of the Apple computers running Mac OS that allows quick access to programs you frequently use as well as running programs and files.  It is similar to the Task Bar on a PC.
  • Window - A section of the computer's display that shows the program currently being used.  When you click on Finder or the hard drive on you computer, you also get a window that shows you the folders on your computer.
  • Dialogue Box - A new window that appears above the rest that lists additional information, errors, or options.
  • Monitor - A video display screen and the hard shell that holds it.  It is not a computer, but rather a means for viewing what is available from the computer
  • Desktop - A type of computer that fits on or under a desk, usually laying horizontally, compared to a tower that lays vertically. Unlike a laptop, a desktop computer is a stationary computer that remains at a desk.
  • Laptop - A portable computer with the same abilities as a desktop, but is small enough for easy mobility.
  • Hard Drive - The computer's main storage media device that permanently stores all data on the computer - abbreviated as HD.
  • URL - Short for Uniform Resource Locator, a URL is a standardized naming convention for addressing documents accessible over the Internet, for example
  • Address bar - Alternatively referred to as the address box, location bar, or URL bar, the address bar is a name used to describe the text box used to enter a websites address in a browser.  The address bar allows the user to enter a URL or IP address of the page they want to visit or save that page for later.
  • Search Bar- This is the process of locating letters, words, files, websites, etc.  When you are in an Internet browser, the search bar is usually located on the top right side of the page.  However, Chrome and Safari have combined the search bar and address bar into one.
  • Operating System (OS) - A software program that enables the computer hardware to communicate and operate with the computer software. Without a computer operating system, a computer and software programs would be useless.  On the Mac computers in our district we are running OS X 10.9, also known as Mavericks.
  • iOS - The name of the operating system that runs on Apple iPhone, Apple iPad, and Apple iPad Touch devices given to the devices.  The most current iOS for Apple devices is iOS 8.

Second, complete some basic troubleshooting before contacting your technology department.  While your tech department enjoys assisting you, there are several things you can do to try and help yourself.  Although different situations will require different troubleshooting tasks, here is a standard go to list for troubleshooting:
  • Check all your cable connections - unplug and plug in your cables (If an outlet is involved, make sure the outlet is working properly by plugging something else in that you know is currently working.)
  • Restart the computer or equipment - shut it down, count to 10 or 20 and then restart it
  • Check the help resources and emails provided by your technology department
If you are having specific issues connecting to a page on the Internet or just connecting to the Internet, try this list:

  • Try a different web page - my go to is ESPN or CNN because it has loads of information on the page and if it loads everything then I know it's an issue with the specific page I'm trying to access
  • Try a different browser and see if you get the same result
  • Use   to see if the website is down for other people or just you
  • Turn the WiFi on the computer off and back on (If using an ethernet cable, unplug it and plug it back in.)

Finally, include as much information as you can related to the issue.  In Susie's issue with not being able to access the Internet, she might start by telling me what website she is trying to access, that she has tried using both Firefox and Chrome, and she has tried accessing more than one website - she could even tell me which sites to be more specific.  Here is a list of information you can include in your communication with the tech department:
  • What were you trying to do that you couldn't do?
  • What type of device or computer are you using?
  • What program/application were you using?
  • What have you done to try and resolve the issue yourself? 
  • Did you receive an error message?  If so, what did it say? 
If you do nothing else to help your process when working with any tech department or support service, start off by telling them what you are trying to do that you can't do.

*Technology Terms from Computer Hope (

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