All Posts in “IT Newbs”

Did google kill the troubleshooting star?

Just like video killed the radio star I wonder if google hasn’t killed the IT troubleshooting skills. Once upon a time we followed a common set of principals to determine root cause of a problem and resolve it. Today though so many admins jump straight to google with a list of symptoms rather than establishing root cause. Not that google is bad, in fact it’s a great tool to help but I am not sure it’s the first place to look.

For you younger pups ( I still refuse to be considered old) there are some simple steps to help you get to the root of a problem.

  1. Determine Symptoms
  2. Dig into the logs
  3. Identify suspects
  4. Eliminating suspects
  5. Determining root cause
  6. Retest after resolution

Let’s walk through these steps to help you better understand and see where tools like google make sense.

Determine Symptoms

One of the first things you see when an issue arises are the outlying symptoms. You have all seen enough medical dramas to get where I am going. But it’s important to keep track of issues because when you hit the next step it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole fast. So jot down the issues you are seeing and when it seems to have started happening. Web service unreachable? Ok is it an individual site, or page, is it localized or wide-spread, affecting multiple browsers? All good things to take in.

Dig Into the Logs

When you start to dig into the logs you are looking for the timestamps that correspond with the service outage, along with any instances of the service. While you are digging in, notice events and errors that occur on the system that could impact your issue. Start making a suspects list, where you are going to start looking.

Identify Suspects

Now that we know what the issue we are looking for is, and have some breadcrumbs to guide us to a few possible causes we need to go all detective on it. Based off of logs and symptoms we can develop a list of hardware, software, network components, firewall rules, patches, or services, that are causing our issue. If logs aren’t giving you anything, diagnostic tools can be used like sysmon, filemon, netmon, grep, or even baseline analytic tools like tripwire, vRealize Operations, or SolarWinds can bare the answers.

Eliminate Suspects

Like any good detective now your objective is to take your list and begin to interrogate them to narrow the search down to a few prime suspects. Here is where google becomes really handy, some error codes will stick out as will events that occur around the same time as the issue arising. You also know your symptoms and suspects, so your google query can help you streamline your search. Same web service down, and only localized, happening after patch night, only affecting Windows 8.1 desktops, with IE? Boom there is your web search.

Determine Root Cause

Now that we have some more info to go on hopefully we have our suspects down to one or two. Here is where we need to pause, because if the problem is software based we want to make an identical copy in our test environment to test with. If it’s hardware it makes things a little easier. Let’s split this topic.


 You need to have a way to copy off your system as I mentioned before, because we are going to want to roll back like a Walmart sales associate. When you have your list of suspects and they are all software, whether it’s a driver, patch or just bad code you are going to need to do some uninstalls, or reloads and you will want to be able to roll back to the known bad state if one of the fixes doesn’t work. DO NOT CHANGE TO MUCH AT ONCE, I have worked with too many folks who go through their google search and just start implementing every change they see and never actually knowing which change fixed their problem. Go slow, be methodical if a change doesn’t fix the problem note the new norm and roll back and move to the next potential fix.


  Hardware comes down to 1 simple rule, use a known good. If there is a hardware failure replace the suspect busted hw with a know to be good replacement part and retests.

For networking and firewall rules the software steps still apply, nothing crazy there.

Retest After Resolution

Like anything once you believe you have a fix in place, test it. There is nothing worse than waving the all clear just for the system to blow up. I have been guilty of that myself in the past. So you need to validate the resolution works. Once you are satisfied and the system is up you can be the unsung hero, and move onto the next problem in the queue.

Advice for Young Women Interested in IT (Guest Blog by Danielle Allan)

Danielle Allan (Carroll) is a core Systems Engineer for EMC Federal Division. She began her career in IT with an internship at 17 years old, went on to major in Information Science at Christopher Newport University, then worked at Northrop Grumman and CSC before beginning her EMC career in 2010 through the Global Services Associate Program (GSAP). You can find her on twitter @DanielleAllan12 (sometimes she’s funny).

Advice for Young Women Interested in IT (Guest Blog by Danielle Allan)

As a (relatively) young woman in the IT industry I am often asked “do you have any advice for my daughter/niece/friend’s daughter/etc. who is interested in going to school for/a career in technology?” This particular industry can be daunting to a young woman as it is typically male-dominated. Once you’re in it, though, it really isn’t all that scary and is actually pretty accepting.

My best piece of advice would be: just go for it! If you have an interest in, and passion for, technology you will fit right in no matter who you are.

The biggest issues I hear are that: 1) young women don’t feel that they fit in to the IT nerd spectrum, nor do they want to; and 2) it’s hard to break into the “old boys club.”

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in the IT industry grew up (or even spent any time at all) chugging Mountain Dew and eating Doritos in his or her parents’ basement while hosting LAN parties and hacking into things.

The “nerd” or “geek” stereotype is not something that you have to conform to in order to be successful. Sure, a lot of us are nerds. My twitter bio proudly proclaims that there’s “no shame in my nerd game,” but that’s because I choose to identify with that part of my personality. I’m also a sorority alumna who plays sports in my free time and has never attempted to hack into anything.

Every industry has its own version of geekdom: when all is said and done, a “geek” is just someone who is really passionate about what they do. The “nerd spectrum” can be expanded, bent, and changed. Challenge it. Defy it. Make it your own.

Please let me explain …

Let me start with an apology I realize I don’t post as often as I should, sorry about that. The reason I don’t post more as I realized recently is that I am an IT person and by default IT people are wired a little differently.

I am a history buff (I get it the wiring is slight ADHD it’s cool I have a point) so often times I think to myself what is it that I would have been doing if I had been born in a time before IT was prevalent. Honestly I have never been able to truly answer that as who would but I like to think that the IT people of today are the blacksmiths, alchemists, inventors and mathematicians of yesteryear.