Damn you, Netgear.

So our Easter work schedule was pretty manic, perhaps more then expected. We have 3 new ICT work areas now, and they have seemed to fit in quite well, no drama there – infact with WDS in place, it was easy, and other then tell techs what to name the machines, I had no input in the actual build of the PCs.

No, my Easter was taken up worrying about the infrastructure work going on around the site. Due to the arrival of some 387 tablets, I had taken the opportunity to upgrade our switches from aging Allied Tellison to Netgear, on the recommendation of our usual infrastructure partner. I had spoken to Netgear at BETT, but I hadn’t really come away that fussed, they appeared to be offering better kit then HP, and my guy was confident in their kit.

The main selling point is that they could run 10GB over our existing OM1 fibre, meaning, we could use our 8 core run to have an 80GB backbone effectively (we have not yet, I hasten to point out!)

So, all goes well, we included in some work for tidying our second biggest cab as well, and moving it all into a nice new cab. We also VLAN off the CCTV, and the wifi, ready to enable Aerohive to manage the DHCP Scope for the wifi clients – enabling us to solve the problem of running out of IP addresses.

Apart from an issue where a switch wasn’t connected back to the VLAN 0, the start of term goes well, until the end of the first day – and the contractor, whilst investigating a newly dead port asks to restart one the main switches, with 10GB link module.

Stupidly, I said yes. It turns out, the switch had crashed, and didn’t like it when new cables were plugged in, simply not detecting them.

Safe to say, the switch did not restart. Even taking it out, and trying to get into the console only confirmed the kit was dead.

So, you would think getting a replacement was easy? It was only a day old anyway really, and we hadn’t even had it delivered for that long. Well, you have probably guessed, it wasn’t.

I took a punt and ordered the switches from Softcat, knowing they had a good relationship with suppliers, or so they claimed. Of course, the true colours of any supplier comes out when something goes wrong, and Softcat would not direct replace. We had to talk to Netgear.

This I did, and after a 30 min product registration was told I could send it back to Netgear, and they would then dispatch a second had refurb unit – or – in the unlikely case I didn’t want to replace my 1.3k switches for a refurb, I could give a code to SoftCat to send me out a new device.

Well, it appears Softcat and Netgear, then had an argument, and much to my annoyance the new switch almost got delayed again. Softcat, in fairness, did send one out pre 10 am, but still, the whole process was frustrating, and made me accutely aware that we need to ensure that we have hardware on site to manage the situation again if the kit dies. You can have all the server redundancy you want, but don’t forget your switches! As servers are useless without them!!

 

 

Expectations

Unrealistic expectations from users is a common theme of tickets and conversations in any IT support team. Our users, as consumers do, demand that products work to their exact specifications.

Unfortunately, the world of IT isn’t like that – it is often ‘best fit’ solutions that are in place. As much as it surprises some members of staff, we cannot command developers to include our specific wants in SIMs, or Windows, or Office.

These demands to get it working how users expect it, or to fix an issue that has no fix get bigger as IT systems are used more. Because of the impact our support and development has had at the schools we manage – IT is critical to their day to day function, and complaints are louder and more complex then ever before.

When networks are just left to ‘run’ the wants and expectations from staff die out with any enthusiasm they had for using IT.

So, in effect, these unrealistic expectations are proof you are doing your job right. Managing them is a key tool in continuing your networks development. Don’t just say ‘no’- offer alternatives – but don’t shy away from ensuring staff have an understanding of how software development works that they understand how unrealistic their demands and expectations of you are. No doubt, you will share their frustrations – make sure they know this too.

I always point staff to the fact that we never stop evaluating, to ensure we learn when things do go wrong. They go wrong for many different reasons, and staff need to know what these are. So when things go wrong (like internet outages) make sure you inform them of the reasons (even if it is you) – if users understand this more and more, it makes dealing with outages and issues so much easier.

For instance, our new deployment of tablets hasn’t defaulted to the existing iPads, iPads were the wrong choice. So when we get the demands (like today) to rewrite iOS to actually be Windows, we can point out that we have let someone else do it, and just bought windows tablets.

On the flip side, don’t expect people to care or want to understand too much. They are not you, and they will come back to the fact, it’s your job to get their IT working.