Up-sell! Well now that’s got your attention, have you ever wondered why your IT company generally wants to sell you everything, do you want proactive monitoring and support, do you wish to put your data-comms through us, or our nominated supplier? Sound-familiar?

This being the Christmas holiday’s and me being such a stand-up gentleman and altruistic boss and with many of our staff on leave due to holiday’s, babies and other commitments, I’m actually covering the support calls. I am still a techy at heart and I do still look after directly a couple of key clients personally and step in at times such as these…

So I guess my problem is that one of our clients leased line went down which provides connectivity between their two main sites, and was showing issues over the Christmas period, would have been good but I was working in their server room on the 23rd and the limited logs we use on this site (they do not, as yet, have monitoring) showed it went down on the 24th. When you’re working in such places you always have in the back of your mind whether or not you snagged a cable or moved something you shouldn’t have.

Both of the clients’ sites are in Cumbria and I was back down in Manchester for my Xmas and New Year festivities. So there is a 350+ mile round trip (with the increased fuel duty) to think about.

I did all I could remotely, even had their staff power off and on routers prior to New Year – couldn’t find anything wrong with the customer equipment. So all we could do is raise the fault with their telecoms supplier, who in turn had to raise it with BT Wholesale who in turn, has to raise it with Openreach – to say this is a messy and cumbersome process is an understatement.

To top it all off, it’s not the first time that a similar fault has presented itself and last time I had to buy replacement equipment for the client, drop what I was doing and make a long detour to get to their site to find it was magically fixed without us doing anything to our equipment. All throughout the process being told that the line tested fine and the fault was with the clients’ equipment.

This time, much like last time when I spoke to the clients’ telecoms supplier, they claim to test the line. Generally with our preferred supplier, we have access to tools where we test the line – personally I’d rather our technical teams do it and see the actual test results. They came back to me and said it’s all fine and it checks out – I then have to make the call on New Year’s day to travel up to site and arrange to meet up with the Openreach engineers. For doing that I have to utter the magic words “I will stand the cost if the fault is found with the client-side equipment” – basically I’ll have to pay for the engineers time, if it’s our equipment that’s at fault – I have a great client who does trust me to make the right technical decisions on their behalf.

As you may know at Unleashed, we tend to promote the rather bomb-proof Cisco product line and having been through this before I was convinced the problem is with the line. However, there is always an element of doubt, so last night at 11pm I could be seen at my clients head office as I didn’t have keys and hopped on their WiFi (yes it is secure, I have the codes) to check the router I couldn’t remote into from home. This morning I woke up early and tested the other end of the line again remotely, I did actually see some signs of life – alas some packets had got through from one office to the other! However it still didn’t look right.

I rushed to get to site before the engineers, checked that I hadn’t snagged any cables – all looked good. Got back to my desk checked the line and saw at around 00:10 there had been some connectivity, a quick look in the router then revealed everything had just come back up – just as I’d restarted the router for the n’th time.

I then had to cancel the engineers so we wouldn’t get charged. Ironically, this is the second time this fault has played out like this – as soon as you say the magic words, I’m happy to pay if the faults with our kit, something magically happens to unlock the line or whatever goes wrong with it and because it’s Chinese-whispers between four sets of companies, a lot of detail and meaning is lost.

I suppose it would be alright, but I had actually complained the first time this had happened and had a detailed report, which I supplied when opening the support ticket – I expected that someone along the line would look at it and say, hang on – Jeff fixed this last time, he just needed to do this on the line. Which I’m sure could have been done and probably was, but because we’re only exchanging messages the size of a text message, not even my attachment of my complaint report got through to anyone really other than the front line.

Again on this occasion, a second complaint has been made – as I tried everything to pre-empt this outcome and avoid a site visit. I am told reliably by the support desk at the telco in question that there indeed “Magic Fixing Fairies” at least two people mentioned them – making me think that things get fixed and no updates go on the system, once my magic fixing fairy words are uttered “yes, we’ll pay if it’s our kit at fault.”

So why we always promote our own telecom providers is to prevent these issues, we get direct access to them and the tools that the 2nd line staff would have in this scenario. It can often prevent an unnecessary and chargeable visit to site, excess stress (for all of us!) and minimize the amount of down-time that you experience. It genuinely isn’t an up-sell – we’ll always usher our clients towards companies we know we can work with and will back us up when we have problems, on many occasions we’ve also found our suppliers to be more cost effective, so it’s generally a win-win situation. Ultimately it will be our door you come knocking on when your IT goes off – even if it’s a problem with your leased line and out of our hands, it’s very difficult to find the demarcation between the two sets of services these days.

As for monitoring, whilst I did have some logs on this occasion, the first reports came in from the odd-user who was attempting to work at their Head Office during the Christmas/New Year shut down and struggling. With the monitoring and proactive support, we’d have identified a fault before the user and been able to respond quicker. In this case no harm done as the company does not become operational again until next week, however it does justify us working with them in the New Year and looking at installing it.

We have a wide range of clients across the UK these days and we have those with the traditional thinking on such matters, that staff and contractors like ourselves are only doing their jobs if we’re on site and seen, we have others that are along the lines of thinking that if we’re doing our job right then we’re not seen at all.

I guess sitting in an empty office today, not being seen, I’m thinking very much about whether we’re appreciated for worrying about whether 40+ people (half of the clients staff) will be working on Tuesday morning and that I’ve given my New Year and Sunday up, because that’s what Unleashed is in business to worry about. After all, you wouldn’t have the Unleashed feeling if it was you who was worrying about all this!

Anyway, whilst this is an ironic (perhaps irritating) set of circumstances that proves my point about a couple of things, there is always a buzz for a techy like me to have something resolved and working again.

So, now that I am starting to hear the violin music beginning to play, it is time to wish you a Happy New Year! (I will write our official New Year message when I’ve had a bit of sleep)