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Debunk’d: IT & Help Desk

“…Have You Tried Turning It Off And Back On Again?”

Erin Geiger, Content Lead @Lumos
10 Min Read
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https://lumos.com/debunked-it-help-desk

This story is part of Security Essentials, the IT Vault’s practical advice for getting the most out of your security team.

This story is part of Foundations Essentials, a collection of must-reads for all IT professionals.

Debunk’d: IT & Help Desk

Welcome to Debunk’d, where we look at myths, rumors, assumptions and “popular belief” in tech to break down what’s real, what’s fake, and what’s just straight-up ridiculous. In this edition we’ll be tackling widely-believed myths about IT and the help desk. Feel free to share with anyone in your org who still believes these whoppers – and as a bonus, you’ll get some hours back in your day.

Before we begin, let’s be real here. As an IT leader, you see… a lot. From ignored updates and using work-issued devices as coasters to downloading unauthorized apps, a lot of IT issues come down to user error. Like we said, a lot. OK. There. We said it. Humans are gonna human. But at the end of the day we know you’re doing your best to support your users. You’re a hero. And we know it. Now, let’s debunk some nonsense.  

“They’ll figure it out when they get here:” DEBUNK’D.

You know that look your doctor gives you when you just say “my arm hurts?” You’ll get the same from your IT team if you’re not detailed and descriptive in what issue you’re having. Don’t be vague. Don’t be obtuse. And don’t assume the IT team will just take one look at your machine and know what’s wrong.

“My laptop freezes whenever I load a spreadsheet” is much better than “my computer isn’t working.” By providing a detailed description of your issue, you help your team determine if it’s a hardware or software problem, which further helps them determine who can best help you fix it. Being descriptive helps your team allocate resources, and helps you get your machine back even faster. So please remember: your IT team is talented, but they can’t read your mind – or your computer’s.  

I just need a new machine: DEBUNK’D... sorta.

First off, the average lifecycle of a corporate laptop is about 3-5 years. So if you’re on the high end of that, a new laptop might do you some good. And there are many use cases where having the latest, greatest machine is the right move, especially if your users code or produce animation or video content. But by and large, everyday bloat is what’s responsible for slowing down a relatively new machine – from saved attachments and trash that hasn’t been emptied to desktops that look like impressionist art made of data files, a simple spring cleaning of hard drive data can bring a slow machine back to life. The same can be said for a RAM upgrade. From a physical standpoint, be sure to clean your vents and keyboard with some compressed air before calling the help desk – there are few things as embarrassing as finding out your “broken” space bar just had some crumbs under it.

It's safe to open attachments from inside your organization: DEBUNK’D.

If there’s one thing phishers and scammers are good at, it’s taking their game to the next level – and that level could very well be an “innocuous” attachment from Gary in accounting. Except, there is no Gary in your accounting department. Today’s scam artists are just that – artists – who can make an e-mail look legit, right down to your company logos and reply-to address. It can look so real, and sound so urgent, that you don't even think twice. But just like external sources, unless you know the person and are expecting an attachment or link from them, don’t open that attachment or hyperlink. When in doubt, double-check by calling to verify. Oh, and for all that, we know users may still download or click. So when IT wants to update your antivirus and security software, THIS IS WHY.

I don’t need antivirus protection: DEBUNK’D.

As we said above, bad actors are very good at what they do. Don’t believe it? Just turn on the news to hear about how yet another company had a data breach. Or how someone lost their machine to ransomware. Even with common sense and extreme vigilance, it’s not that hard for a virus, keylogger, or some other insidious app to get onto an unprotected machine. For example, if you have a laptop for work, there’s a good chance you’re using free, unsecured WiFi during your commute, coffee break, or on business trips. Or you occasionally use your work machine for something personal. Whether you’re worried about compromising sensitive company data or keeping your laptop from becoming a very expensive paperweight, antivirus protection – installed by your IT team – keeps your device and every device on the network safe. Think about it, do *YOU* want to be the person that caused the breach that put your CEO on television, apologizing to your customers? No. No you don’t.

The help desk is annoyed when you ask for help: DEBUNK’D.

Life isn’t a sitcom (although The IT Crowd is legitimately funny). The help desk staff are there to help. It’s their whole job, and it’s right there in the name. If they’re not helping users, their jobs won’t exist. So don’t hesitate to reach out. And contrary to what decades of talented TV comedy writers have told us, your IT team actually likes their jobs – and solving problems. We will say this, though, what is annoying is coming to the help desk with a vague issue (see above). So, while it can sometimes be embarrassing or time-consuming as a user, if you’re having a tech issue, you want to reach out sooner rather than later, and definitely before it gets worse.

Don’t ever, ever try to fix it yourself: DEBUNK’D.

It’s become cliché at this point, but you can solve a ton of problems with a simple shut down or restart. And yes, depending on your issue, it may be the very first thing the help desk asks you to do. So give it a shot before you fill out the ticket.

And while it has its share of rabbit holes you can fall down, by and large the internet is still pretty great for finding answers. So if you can troubleshoot by looking up an error code, or how to force-restart an app or your entire machine, that can go a long way to help you solve a wide range of minor problems like your Bluetooth devices not connecting, printer not working, etc. But please note we said MINOR problems. If the solution you find online has more than a few steps, or you feel uncomfortable doing something that feels advanced, reach out to your help desk. (And definitely DO NOT take your machine apart.) As we said above, they’re waiting to help.

You don't need to file a help desk ticket: DEBUNK’D.

Can you imagine trying to eat at a restaurant where no one documented your order, where servers just stuck their heads into the kitchen and asked for a couple of salads, or where no one could tell you when your food would be coming? That’s what it’s like when you try to work around your help desk system. Does it really matter if you just ask your buddy in IT to check out your machine because you happened to catch him in the elevator this morning? YES. Managers don’t know who’s working on what, there’s no record of your issue to reference if it pops up again (or if someone else experiences it), and there’s no way of queueing up the next job. Worst of all, you can get your IT team in trouble for ignoring procedure. When you have an issue, do it right. Take the time to file the ticket.

On-premise is safer than the cloud: DEBUNK’D.

Despite a decade plus of cloud computing, this myth continues to rear its head every so often. No matter how many local backups you make, or how often, it’s probably not as safe as the enterprise-class infrastructure behind your organization’s cloud storage. We’re talking about your data resting comfortably on some of the most secure servers in the world, in the best possible environment, with the best protection. Cloud storage also makes it much faster and easier to share, collaborate, and even transfer your data to a new machine. Sounds a lot better than the USB drive you’re keeping in your bottom drawer, doesn’t it?

So, that’s it for now. And obviously these myths just scratch the surface. The best way to avoid them altogether is good communication. Make your policies clear, including the “THIS IS WHY WE DO THIS” part. Stay in front of issues, and foster a culture where users aren’t afraid of IT (well maybe a little bit, since you’re kind of like wizards). And when you run into a new myth, DEBUNK it.

Are there tech myths you want us to debunk? Or tech facts that your users THINK are myths? Let us know and we may include them in future editions.

Until next time!

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