Archive for March, 2011

IT Pros and Questionable Media

Every IT Pro is asked to “share” music, movies, or software with a friend or a client. You may think that this is suitable service, but it is absolutely inappropriate. Whether you are asking for free software and/or licenses, illegal downloads, or not reporting prohibited material on your system, it is never acceptable. I have outlined three typical scenarios I have come across over the last 15 years.

  • Free software or licences

Sometimes we are asked to “lend” a license key, or provide a piece of software for any amount of time. We cannot offer copies of Microsoft Office, XP, Windows 7, or any paid software for that matter, even on a temporary basis. When we provide non-purchased software or operating systems, we are violating the ULAs (User License Agreements) of the vendor. Providing free software can jeopardize our standings with our authorized partners. These same companies can take hold of our industry certifications and/or terminate our partnership agreements. Possible legal action could even take place.

If money is an issue, there are many great open source alternatives to commercial versions of software, or operating systems. is an excellent provider for a variety of these programs.

  • Asking your IT Pro to download software or media for you

Yes, we are fully capable of obtaining various media, but we face the same consequences as providing “borrowed” software or licenses. In addition, our ISP could terminate our Internet access. Most of us would not jeopardize our careers by downloading pirated media for ourselves, let alone for a client, or a friend.

  • Reporting of illegal or prohibited material

As ethical IT Pros, if we come across material on your system that violates company policy, or is illegal, we are obligated to report it. We have heard “I don`t know how (fill in the blank) got on my system” a thousand times. It is one thing to be overwhelmed with inappropriate pop ups, but it is another to have intentionally installed illegal software, or other material on your system. Most IT Pros can guess if an ad was accidently clicked on, causing pop-ups; versus illegally downloaded media.

By asking your IT Pro to do any of the above, you are jeopardizing your IT Pros career. When your IT Pro does not download the latest unreleased movie for you, do not take it personally. We are protecting our careers and reputation. Please do not ask us.

Categories: Illegal media

How Users Unintentionally Hinder IT Pros

My last blog post discussed “How IT Pros Alienate Regular Users.” After a few comments from IT Pros, this week I would like to shed some light on the flip side: How Users Hinder IT Pros.

As an IT Pro, I have experienced the same issues over and over again when dealing with users. In most cases, the problems are very straightforward, but communicated incorrectly.

I remember the following statistic from college (many years ago) about computer errors:
4% of errors are hardware; 6% of errors are software; and 10% of errors are user problems, although I tend to think the percentage of hardware errors has dropped since then.

Here are some useful tips you can do to assist your IT Pro:

1. Reboot
Believe it or not, rebooting can solve a lot of computer issues. This is especially true if software or hardware drivers have been recently updated.

2. Look At What’s Changed
Many errors or issues can be a result of something changing. This can include new software, or system updates. Other changes in the environment can also cause issues. The change may be small and not directly related to the computer. For example, I had a client once who called in a panic. Her screen was flickering, and she was unable to work. This was during a summer heat wave. As I entered her office, I noticed she had put a small fan on her desk, to help keep her cool. She had plugged the fan into the same power bar as her monitor. As a result, when the fan was on, the screen flickered.

3. Never Be Embarrassed
Some issues can be caused by downloading harmful software, but not realizing it. This software is usually hidden or misrepresented in “legitimate looking” software. Malicious software can also be triggered by clicking certain links or going to sites; we have all clicked links we should not have. Telling your IT Pro what you suspect was clicked or downloaded can aid in troubleshooting. A good IT Pro should never comment or discuss materials found on your system. There are two exceptions to this rule: if the computer is a company unit, and the material found on it violates company policy; or if the material on the computer is illegal.

Your IT Pro is not there to make your life miserable. You both want to have the same result: get back to work immediately. If you work together, solving the problem will be faster and less aggravating for both parties.

Categories: Small Business IT

Daily Tech Tip

Secure your router and access points.

Categories: Daily Tech Tip

How IT Professionals Have Alienated “Regular” Users

I was chatting with a gentleman last week about the computer systems in his office. Our conversation turned to how difficult he finds trying to deal with the “computer stuff”. He said he is “scared of his computer”. I have heard this statement and similar statements “I do not understand it” and “why is it so hard”. Once again I started defending my industry. We IT pros have made users scared, intimated and frustrated with technology. I think most of us do not intend to do this but because of the nature of our industry, it happens naturally. The following reasons seem to come up over and over again in conversations with everyday users.


  • Acronyms

    Wi-Fi, SATA, USB, WEP, WPA and the list goes on and on. IT pros have a tough time remembering what each acronym stands for; imagine how hard it is for a non-tech person. IT Pros use the acronyms without any consideration of how difficult it is for others to follow the conversation. Unfortunately, I have seen too many IT Pros use the acronyms to intimidate or scare users, whether this is intentional or not.

  • Personality

    Let’s face it, most IT pros are not the most outgoing group of people you will meet. Many non tech users find us unapproachable; think of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. Most of us, have been doing IT for years, and forget that others do not know everything we do.

  • Fast pace of Technology

    We spend our days keeping up with the fast pace of changing technology. Non-techies do not do this at all. The average user does not know about IPv6, they just want their systems to work. We need to keep our users up to date, but only if it is relevant to their productivity.

  • Scope of IT

    IT is enormous!!! There are so many different aspects of IT, and this can be overwhelming for users. Users do not understand why one IT pro will deal with the networking, while another deals with websites.

As IT Pros, we need to make our users comfortable with their computers. We need to remember what it was like when we were learning. We cannot expect users to know about the newest Intel chipset, shortcut keys, or even the “right click”. Users, for the most part, do not care about the newest advances in tech; they just want to know how to use their systems to get their job done. We need to support our users and more importantly make them feel more confident about using their systems. Too many people do not ask for IT help because, some IT pro made them feel foolish when they asked for help in the past. Not only does this make our entire profession look like arrogant snobs, but worse users will be not ask for help in the future. I have encountered users who have been dealing with a computer issue for months but did not ask for help because they did not want to be intimidated by IT again.

As IT Pros, let’s work together to make a great reputation for our industry.

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