Richard Tocci

Richard Tocci
Just when you thought it was safe, I show up...

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why We Tech Geeks Tell You Not To Do Certain Things

I work as an IT professional, and have for the last 16 years. I enjoy my work tremendously -- it's challenging and rewarding, and it affords me many things in life I never expected.

IT has become a large part of the business and social culture today that it's impossible not to have a computing device as part of your life. I know a few people that avoid IT technology altogether, but for the most part, people have embraced technology and use it in full force in their lives. I recall going out to dinner with a friend of mine recently, and the restaurant we wanted to go to was closed. Instead of simply guessing if another restaurant was open, or just calling off the night entirely, I whipped out the Blackberry, looked up another place on the Internet, found a phone number, and called the place directly from the web page. In 30 seconds, we made new plans. THAT is why I love technology -- making it easier to do things that in the past would have become a major project.

But for all that it does right, it takes a small amount of direction to make sure it works the way it's supposed to, and a little cooperation from the people that benefit from technology's rewards. In the computing industry, we call this group of people the "end user".

In the corporate world, or any relatively secure computing environment, we have a simple guideline -- a rule, perhaps:

Do not carry a computer from home and attach it to the network at work without first telling an IT professional at your place of business first.

Seems reasonable enough, I believe. While technology has made things easier, there are elements of the world that want to wreck havoc on our lives by trying to steal our identities, our financial lives, and even pose as us on Facebook, all with the intent of making money. I'm a capitalist, and I love making money, but there are ways to do it without stealing identities and making other people's lives miserable. For this reason, you just don't take your computer to work and plug it into the network.It poses a security risk and needs to be approved.

Here's what can happen if you don't do your due diligence...

WARNING: Techno-GeekSpeak to follow

Recently, I worked with a customer that called because the application I support suddenly stopped working. It had been working earlier in the day, but ceased later in the day. Because the software I support is used to electronically file corporate income taxes to the US Government, the application being down so close to a filing deadline is not acceptable and needed resolution.

The problem was that when the user logged into the application, they used their network login and password -- that being the same one they used to log into their computer each day. Makes it easier to remember passwords and makes the application more secure because it uses Active Directory authentication. In other words, there is a database that holds your login information on a computer on your network (and more than likely, there are a couple of these computers on your network) and tell you what you can and cannot do, and what resources you are allowed to use.

Now this is not a problem, but when they brought their computer from home (one the company provided), it caused my application to fail. That was because the name of the computer was the same name as the network name. So when the application tried to find the correct server, it was being redirected somewhere else (specifically, that computer that a user attached to the network) and login then failed.

What does all this mean to you?

It means that even if a company gives you a computer, you should make sure that you will be able to connect to the work network directly. That is your responsibility as an end-user. And, it's common sense.

If your IT department says it's OK and then something fails, the IT department needs to do their job and find the problem. So long as the end-user tells IT exactly what they did, and that they had permission ahead of time. My customer did do this and found the issue pretty quickly. However, that doesn't always happen, and the burden lies with IT and not you as the end-user. If you did your due diligence and asked first, and you were approved, your responsibility ends and IT has the burden of proof. IT should also not take the immediate posture that it's not their problem -- nothing irritates me more than when an IT department just blows off an end-user's concern because they don't think there is a problem.

Your should help IT as much as possible, giving them all details of the problem. That makes it easier to narrow down the problem.

The lesson is to use your head, ask permission, and if something fails after that, IT needs to fix it. Oh, and document everything.



This post is simulcast in full living Technicolor on www.richardtocci.com and on Facebook.

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