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IT vs User... FIGHT!
August 28, 2006 3:33 PM   Subscribe

Half of IT managers admit to hating their users... a lot. - But it's ok, because the users hate IT too. No, they really hate IT. Perhaps IT isn't meeting customer demands. And it isn't like either side's attitudes have changed much over time (July 2001).
In the long term, it simply may never work out between IT and the users. After all, IT support is just like any other customer service job. And we all know customers suck enough for people to start web pages about it... again and again.
posted by smallerdemon (60 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have a hard time taking anything seriously that seeks to generalize about "IT." I mean, this would include data entry operators, programmers, DBAs, telephone tech support, architects at Microsoft, etc.

Many of these jobs have little or nothing in common.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:37 PM on August 28, 2006


From my experience, there are few easier ways to piss off programmers (or software engineers) than to call them IT workers.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 3:41 PM on August 28, 2006


Don't forget Clientcopia
posted by fleetmouse at 3:50 PM on August 28, 2006


In fact, I have no doubt that I would be more productive if I could use Gmail for my work account.

This here is a brilliant point, especially in regards to space. My desktop, at work, has an 80gb harddrive. The only things installed on that harddrive are Windows XP, and the software that IT has come and installed for me - taking up about 4gb of that space, and leaving 76gb locked down and untouchable to me.

Then, they give me 100mb of network drive space as my personal file storage area.

Real good use of resources there fellas! Especially since I do GIS work and have to handle rasters that are 300mb in size, compressed. So, we have to fork out for an external USB harddrive instead, while my actual harddrive goes to waste.

And then there's the seminar on the new "Microsoft web system" that IT invited us to, where their speaker described open source software as "freeware" and said it was "inappropriate to use freeware in an enterprise environment". Tell that to Google, mate. . .
posted by Jimbob at 3:53 PM on August 28, 2006


I think "IT" generally means "IT support", and of course "customers" don't like them -- the only time IT and their "customers" interface is when something goes wrong, and "customers" are inevitably represented by someone who thinks that he has a 14-year-old nephew who could do the job of running enterprise-class information systems -- based on the fact that said nephew has occasionally helped him get rid of spyware and evidence of porn viewing from his home PC...
posted by clevershark at 3:55 PM on August 28, 2006 [2 favorites]


where their speaker described open source software as "freeware" and said it was "inappropriate to use freeware in an enterprise environment".

It is inappropriate to use OSS for many of the IT people I know. Why? Because they cant blame someone else if it breaks/doesnt work. (well, they can blame the OSS community but its no substitute for blaming MS, or a consultant, the users, etc)

Its the you cant get fired for buying IBM (or nowadays, MS) paradigm.
posted by SirOmega at 4:00 PM on August 28, 2006


I so want to be accused of being anti-semantic . Sadly my best anti-semantic bigotry comes out when I'm drunk, and around drunks, and noone really notices.
"She then not only called me anti-semantic but then said I also was discriminating against her [...] I told her that I didn’t know what her Religion was until she just told me"
From this story at the "customers suck" link.
posted by freebird at 4:11 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


SirOmega : "It is inappropriate to use OSS for many of the IT people I know. Why? Because they cant blame someone else if it breaks/doesnt work."

Right. The problem isn't that it they say it's inappropriate when it isn't. It's that it is inappropriate, and it shouldn't be.
posted by Bugbread at 4:14 PM on August 28, 2006


freebird, that's hilarious. Am I an anti-symantec for hating Norton Utilities?
posted by maryh at 4:45 PM on August 28, 2006


Hey Jimbob... The IT guys, if they knew their shit, would have setup your profile to use all that extra space as temp storage for your GIS work. Beyond that the reason IT doesn't let you use the local drive is because there is no easy way to do backups of local data. Even if you stand on one leg and swear that you will never, ever, ever complain about lost data the "corporate standardization" rules would never allow it. Everyone is a square block and may whatever you believe in have mercy on you if you're a round peg.
posted by cm at 4:56 PM on August 28, 2006


The company for whom I used to work as an IT employee outsourced us to a compay to whom they said, "Build us a Yugo not a Cadillac." Jobs went to India, talented people with vital legacy information were released without warning. Granted, the old Caddy may have been the equivalent of a 69 El Dorado, but it was still a Cadillac. They got their Yugo, though, and the end users hate it.

Yelling at the subcontractor's subcontractor who has no idea how the office is set up is just lazy. Tell your managers precisely how much your productivity has been diminished and present it in real numbers that equate to actual money.

Sadly, the only thing the management team is seeing is a big savings at the bottom line, and until that changes, IT is not going to be a fun place to work.
posted by FYKshun at 4:57 PM on August 28, 2006


Some users suck. A lot.
Unfortunately, those users (you know, the ones downloading spyware, surfing for porn, stealing PC parts, etc. etc) ruin it for the 90% of users that just want to get their work done.
Those are the ones that require IT to have ridiculous security settings, inaccurate web filters and brain-dead allocation schemes.

Of course, I imagine most industries have the same problem. Half the safety guards in the last factory I visited were to keep stupid people from doing stupid things on dangerous machines.

That said, if your IT department is increasingly restrictive, non-responsive, and overwhelmed, you need to do your part.
Find the problem user(s) and castigate them until they shape up(or kill them and dump the body in the dumpster, either way works for me).
posted by madajb at 5:05 PM on August 28, 2006


Maybe these are just two instances of the more general case that people suck?
posted by Meatbomb at 5:08 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Beyond that the reason IT doesn't let you use the local drive is because there is no easy way to do backups of local data.

Yep. Every solution I've ever seen never has enough time to finish over the network when you're moving hundreds of users' 20, 30 and 40 GB folders and folders of data.

As far as open source, well, I love the stuff at home. As long as I never have to call anyone for support and suck it up and take whatever it dishes out at me. I know there's no one to call for support for it.

But if you as a user use it, unless there's a very well worded service level agreement between user and support, you will always call me and your expectation will always be "You're IT support, you're job is to support ME." Or "support my job" or "support my department's mission" or whatever you will say to make it sound like this: "No matter what I do on the computer, no matter how badly I mess things up, I expect you to not only support it, but to fully recover any lost data at no expense or time to me. I expect to have complete freedom to install and un-install any software of my own choosing without regard for any other application's functionality or my own data's integrity or safety. I expect up to the minute back-ups of every locally stored file on my computer, no matter where I store it or when I save it. In short, I want YOU to be the RESPONSIBLE party should anything go wrong with my computer. Ever. Period."

And yet... you want IT to not do this as well and have a third party themselves as the responsible party? Hm.
posted by smallerdemon at 5:09 PM on August 28, 2006 [2 favorites]


Im an IT Manager and I get along great with my customers. Im in Support and our feedback scores are 94% or higher every week. Our ticket closure rates are consistantly within 90-95% within SLA. Our communication to our business partners is adequate so that when there is an issue, they dont feel like they are kept in the dark.

We use OSS and other cutting edge solutions, but we do dilligent testing and planning to minimize the risks.

I dont know what these companies are doing wrong, but at the end of the day, I can walk around the office and everyone smiles at me and chats for a minute, because they like me.
posted by subaruwrx at 5:10 PM on August 28, 2006


Maybe these are just two specific instances of the more general case that people suck? Everybody is right in this argument.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:10 PM on August 28, 2006


Beyond that the reason IT doesn't let you use the local drive is because there is no easy way to do backups of local data.

I find this pretty hard to believe. I'm sitting infront of an always-on PC on gigabit ethernet, and IT have access to install whatever scripts and automation they need to. Surely it's trivial, even in windows, to daily, at 1am, copy all modified files to somewhere on the network? Or are you just saying it's difficult? Hell, my job is difficult sometimes too, that's why I get paid to do it. And, beyond that, they let me plug in a (slow, space-wasting) external USB drive that they can't back up either...

I don't know, I don't figure they're evil, just incompetent. And that incompetancy doesn't gel well with the arrogance when I ring up to ask a question... </rant>
posted by Jimbob at 5:10 PM on August 28, 2006


oops on double, please forgive / delete.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:11 PM on August 28, 2006


IT in this context seems to refer to the whole support infrastructure: the people who make things, the people who make those things work, the people who maintain things, and the people who deal with people who can't figure out how it works.

I'm, I guess, an "IT professional", although I think it's a ridiculous term. I'm currently a web applications guy (design & programming) and I've pretty much been involved in the whole spectrum of IT stuff. I've also worked very closely with fellow IT workers.

I don't like them either, for the most part. Tens of thousands of people get into IT because it'll make them money and they have a moderate amount of skill at one very specific thing. Truly competent well-rounded IT people are very rare. Consequently, enjoyable, well-maintained, sensible computing environments are also very rare. The business world has been dealing with networks for a decade or two, now, and practically everyone needs IT service and support, but hardly anyone knows how to provide it. Windows is badly written. Microsoft-certified professionals often are reduced to trial and error just like everyone else. (I'm not a Microsoft-certified professional, myself, but I've met a number of them.)

Computers suck no matter what end of the IT world you're on, user, help desk, developer, manager. Basically everyone who works with software ends up cursing the person who wrote the software they work with. If you write software that interfaces with hardware, you curse the people who designed the hardware. If you design hardware, you curse the people who design the other hardware you have to interface it with.

Our society is powered by a house of cards. I sometimes fantasize that, some day, there will be a lovely, well-designed, easy-to-support, easy-to-use full suite of OS, software, and hardware. Apple's getting there. I've been working at a company that uses Mac OS X for (almost) absolutely everything, and it's very relaxing.

Anyway. Yeah. I don't blame users at all. It is crap. All you have to do is spend a few months as any non-IT office worker to realize how crap it is.

I like to think I'm making computers suck less a little every day, though. One of the saddest things is that there are so many users who treat computers as though they can only do one thing, like a television. Everything a computer does it was, at one point, told to do by a human. It can be told to do something else. The entire experience of using a computer is absolutely fluid and when you don't like something, when it sucks, say so! If the entire population of your company ends up thinking that something sucks, it does suck, use something else. If your IT people can't come up with something else, find IT people who can. Users need to realize that it's all completely changeable. So do a lot of IT people. The whole thing is all a collaborative creation, and it's all there to help you do the things you're trying to do. If you can't do what you're trying to do, it's not your fault, and don't let IT people make you feel stupid about it.

And try using things that aren't Windows. I'm currently staying in a hotel across the street from Microsoft HQ, and it's utterly mindblowing to see the square miles of real estate and the thousands and thousands of people that are needed to make so much software that is so mediocre. No offense to the MetaFilter users at MS - I know there are some very competent people there. There are also tons and tons of chaff.

This was kind of long. It's something I think about a lot, I guess. Bottom line: I think we're all mad at each other because we have a lot of crappy things to deal with, and I also think that we need to start talking about how crappy it is, and then perhaps we can start to fix it.
posted by blacklite at 5:17 PM on August 28, 2006 [4 favorites]


(I guess I'm just pissed off because I know I'm not one of "those users (you know, the ones downloading spyware, surfing for porn, stealing PC parts, etc. etc) , but I guess, in restrospect, I recall a co-worker a while ago calling me over to show me "the cool new free screensaver" he'd just installed...maybe IT deserve some forgiveness...)
posted by Jimbob at 5:19 PM on August 28, 2006


Jimbob. Ive managed backuyp windows and we manage our critical data first. Our critical data is everything that is stored on servers. Exchange, File servers, db servers et al. We had 2.5-3tb at work, and it would take us 6 hours to back up over gig in teh server room, through the same switch.

Now, if you were to back up everyone's (because youre not the most important person in teh office) computer with 100gb hdds, at an office of 500 users, you are looking 50 tb. Even if you were running at full gig, it would take at least two days to complete.

Now, within that two days, we would have to manage what and where and when. Not only difficult, but ludicrus.

Not to mention that you have to back it up somewhere. Disk is cheap now, but I dont want to spend $2M+ on a 70tb fibre san attached to just so I can be backing up everyone's MP3s and porn .
posted by subaruwrx at 5:19 PM on August 28, 2006


So what can you do, subaruwrx? The only option (as I face) seems to be to limit people's file storage to tiny, unusuable quantities. As I said, I've got 100mb. That's nothing, these days. I might as well just store all my files on my thumbdrive, because it's five times that size. Yet you seem to suggest that that is the limiting factor for how IT allocate space. They can't back up more than TOTALDATA per day, therefore each user is only allowed TOTALDATA / USERS of space. There's got to be a better way to manage things than that, right?

And, as I suggested, surely files have "Date Modified" fields so you can avoid backing up every file, every day. My 300mb rasters never change. The dozens of little 5kb-100kb data files do. What's the solution?
posted by Jimbob at 5:29 PM on August 28, 2006


The company I work for sets aside a certain amount of network share space for each user; it's supposed to be a place where you keep critical files, so that they'll be backed up on a daily basis.

Several months ago, I was called into a meeting in which the IT department wanted to run a scenario by us: one year into the network share program, they were keeping backups six months into the past, and to date *not one person* had ever requested *a single file* be restored...so how would we feel about keeping backups for six months only, instead of a year? We all said that was fine.

Cut to a few weeks ago, when a coworker accidentally nulls out a file he's working on directly from the network share. No problem, he thinks; I've had the file around for days, I'll just request restoration of yesterday's version.

Well, it took several days to find out that the network share backup drives had been filling up, and since nobody had been requesting restores, they'd taken the backup capability offline while trying to figure out what to do about the storage issue. So no file backup existed.

That's the first time in a long time I realized that even here, in a high-quality technology firm, the IT department can still suck, no matter how good our outward-facing technology is (you probably use some of it on a daily basis.)

Shortly thereafter, I dropped a second drive into my desktop workstation and went RAID.
posted by davejay at 5:30 PM on August 28, 2006


(er, whoops: in previous, should have said "...keeping backups oneyear into the past" instead of "...keeping backups six months into the past.")
posted by davejay at 5:31 PM on August 28, 2006


Especially since I do GIS work ...

The IT guys, if they knew their shit, would have setup your profile to use all that extra space as temp storage for your GIS work...

I do GIS work and function as an impromptu SA as well. Although I'm not supposed to, I rewrite the profiles of all the GIS folks so they can work on their harddrives. Those DRG's/DOQ's/DEM's are a killer (some projects push like a gig in images alone). Then I set up a system where the project files get backed up daily on the server. Problem solved.

I certainly loathe the corporate IT gurus who screw up my work with silly damn stuff like "licenses", WAN problems, and email, but hey, if they overlook my transgressions so I can actually, dunno, get my freakin work done.....
posted by elendil71 at 5:32 PM on August 28, 2006


IT is like anything else, if you don't know what you're doing and you don't plan it out, you end up with crap. Since 90% of people are bad at what they're doing, and 90% of software is crap at what its being asked to do, you're already into the 99% range of IT sucking in both directions.

That said, I personally think the burden falls first on users for often being not only uneducated but unwilling to be educated about the machines that quite literally control their daily lives, secondly, on management for allowing such foolishness to persist, and thirdly on IT for quite often reacting poorly to such stresses.

I've done tier-1 IT support for a public computer lab, I've seen the worst of the worst on the user side, combined with the dumbest of the dumb on the administrative side. Users are idiots, adminstrators are idiots, and IT guys are (for the most part) stuck with impossible constraints, unrealistic timetables, insufficient resources and no support whatsoever to build for the long term. Then everyone is surprised that the system doesn't work flawlessly on day one
posted by Skorgu at 5:37 PM on August 28, 2006


I'll tell you the main reason IT and user relationships go to shit: because IT only sees people in their worst days when things aren't working. Rarely are the IT staffers present for the successes and they're almost never invited for the champagne celebrations.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:44 PM on August 28, 2006 [2 favorites]


I see this from both sides; I supervise a department that provides support for a a couple of hundred thousand people's high speed data connections. All day long I'm fielding calls from people who are furious that my tech couldn't flip a switch and remove all the spyware from their computer or thrilled that were able to solve their incredibly esoteric computer-reboots-whenever-dog-sneezes issue.

People get very frustrated with computers, because fundamentally they don't understand them. They get that when their cable TV isn't working it's something in the cable or something in the TV, because they grew up with cable TV. They get that when their brakes squeak on their car, that they need to get the car serviced, because they grew up with cars. But computers are different. Even if you've been around them your whole life, they have changed so radically that your childhood knowledge is next to useless.

Even when they try to apply logic they can hurt themselves, like the person who installs two antiviral programs to provide 'extra-protection' to their machine and inadvertently causes the whole system to crash. They get frustrated. And when they finally call someone for help, if that person doesn't know exactly how to fix it, they get angry. The job of a good IT person (in my industry anyway) is to not only solve the problem, but to do it in a way that makes the customer confident that 1.) they are not an idiot, and 2.) that the problem will stay fixed when they hang up their phone. Sadly this doesn't always happen and herein the friction between IT and the public exists.

Interdepartmental IT conflicts are really no different. It comes down to users with unrealistic expectations, and IT departments who apply policies which in some cases don't makes sense (My fairly tech savvy team all have scroll wheel mice with which they can't scroll. Because it might be a security hole.)

The only real solution it any kind of conflict between IT and the Customers it serves is civility on both sides. But then, that's true of pretty much everything else as well.

Or on preview, what Skorgu said.
posted by quin at 5:48 PM on August 28, 2006


Only half? C'mon. The battle lines are drawn. Both sides see the other as mere brainless droids. Both sides are right.
posted by caddis at 5:52 PM on August 28, 2006


I do network support. I don't really hate the clients, but they should remember that I could fix a lot more network and usage problems if I didn't spend so much of my day resetting passwords, helping locate toner cartridges and listening to long stories when I asked a yes/no question.

People who like to use self-updating screensavers, spyware toolbars, and file-sharing software, cause us big headaches. I've done support for two very large corporations and only seen one person ever fired for their computer activity, and I suspect that was just an excuse. This is something management should do.

Another thing to keep in mind when you are dealing with support in a frustrating manner, it is that they are almost always fufilling a corporate policy they had NO say in. If you feel an IT process is bad, go to a manager - not the guy trying to make it work.
posted by Deep Dish at 5:53 PM on August 28, 2006


listening to long stories when I asked a yes/no question.

Well, I find myself only calling IT support when something strange has gone wrong. Something with complicated circumstances behind it, that probably needs some explaination because it doesn't fit into the little Y/N decision tree some IT support systems seem to use.

It's a bit like the Windows "Hardware Troubleshooting Wizard". That thing has never helped me solve a problem because the whole thing is designed towards the obvious, simple solutions that people can fix themselves ("Is the mouse plugged in? Y/N Have you downloaded updated drivers? Y/N"). Once again, though, maybe this applies more to other people...which leads to:

personally think the burden falls first on users for often being not only uneducated but unwilling to be educated about the machines that quite literally control their daily lives

The problem is, that when you get educated users, who know what they want to do with their computers, they start placing even more difficult demands on IT ;)
posted by Jimbob at 6:02 PM on August 28, 2006


What we do is allow a smaller level of network storage and open the HDD to everyone. If they want to save stuff on the HDD, more power to them. If it dies, theyre screwed. They all know that and we tell them that. If they have something thath the need to save, they should back it up.

So, everyone has a 500mb "Home Directory" to allow them places to back things up. We dont allow USB drives or burners on our desktops either, due to security risks.
posted by subaruwrx at 6:05 PM on August 28, 2006


Here's something I learned while working at a very large bank a few years ago -- if you worked as a bank branch manager two years ago, you are NOT an adequate director of IT now. Nor will you ever be, even if you're capable of setting up Windows "all by yourself" at home.
posted by clevershark at 6:07 PM on August 28, 2006


That seems like an eminently more sensible solution, subaruwrx. Of course, the whole thumbdrive / burner thing is context sensitive. This place wouldn't operate without them.
posted by Jimbob at 6:13 PM on August 28, 2006


if you worked as a bank branch manager two years ago, you are NOT an adequate director of IT now.

Aaah, the basic idea that mangers should have experience in the field they are managing went down the sewer a long time ago...
posted by Jimbob at 6:15 PM on August 28, 2006


...but nowhere as much so as in a large, bureaucratic organization like a bank. And government of course. Here in Canada (and in other English-style Parliamentary democracies) the makeup of government is often altered by "reshuffles", where ministers are moved from one portfolio to the next, effectively reinforcing the widely-held notion that none of these people have much of an idea what they're talking about in the first place...
posted by clevershark at 6:28 PM on August 28, 2006


I am not exactly in IT, but I do see all the email that goes to IT support (it's a email address that cuts a wide swath). I'm pretty shocked at how rude people can be to IT folks. Working at the exact same place, I have never been treated with anything but complete respect from these exact same people; however, the bile that gets thrown at IT if, say, the email system happens to falter for a minute or two really makes me ill.

I suspect that, not knowing how systems work, and not seeing these people scrambling around to fix them, users imagine that the guys are sitting back with a beer, giggling about the users' struggles. I know better. If only we could install a webcam so everyone could see how hard the IT folks work, even past midnight, so that the systems can live up to the high expectations of our users, I'm sure they would be a bit more sympathetic. At least, I hope they would be.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:28 PM on August 28, 2006


As a working IT professional I feel very strongly that we should invade Jupiter.
posted by Sparx at 6:36 PM on August 28, 2006


As a working IT professional I feel very strongly that we should invade Jupiter.

Pluto was just the beginning!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:46 PM on August 28, 2006


From the article: "At least one in 10 IT staff have been so ticked off that they have deliberately been obstructive and unhelpful to users, managers and colleagues."

For extra credit, pick one profession below where this is not also true:

1) Office Support Staff
2) College Professors
3) Accounting/Accounts Payable or Receivable staff
4) Human Resources
5) Politicians
6) Medical Staff/Doctors
7) Legal Professionals/Lawyers
8) Law Enforcement
9) Non-elected Municipal Workers.
10) Cashier
11) Sales person
12) Food Service
13) Stock Brokers

I could go on....
posted by illovich at 6:48 PM on August 28, 2006


It is really quite simple. There aren't enough people or hours in the day to support the umpteen million permutations of Windows, and the multitude of associated problems. So IT has decided to limit the user's ability to fuck things up. That's why you only get a small Network drive, and why you can't install software at will, and why you can't have the latest whiz-bang gadget, and why you can't use GMail when everyone else is usng Lotus Notes, and why you can't have SP2 until it has been fully tested to see that it is compatible with the hardware and software you do have. In my company IT (actually Desktop Support, and Network Security, and Desktop Engineering and the Lotus Notes people are tasked with keeping thousands of computers running 100% of the time. It is really amazing that they can do it at all given Windows' proclivity to get in the way...

disclaimer: I support nearly 200 Macs and associated servers in three facilities in three widely spaced cities...all by my onesies.
posted by Gungho at 7:07 PM on August 28, 2006


In my previous job, a portion of my job description was to be a liason between the office staff and the tech guys. They needed someone to deal with the little stuff so they could focus on the larger issues.

In the first few weeks of my job, I helped one co-worker find her toolbar 15 times. I also showed people how to bold things in Word, format an Excel spreedsheet, plugged in mice and checked keyboards. After two years in the job, I started to develop an attitude that was very similiar to the IT guys.

But at the same time, sometimes the IT guys made my life harder. By not backing up people's work before they reformatted, or not explaining what was wrong, they just made me have to go behind them and put programs back (that needed to be there) and try to find lost data.

I know why they were so unwilling to go the extra mile with the staff, because if you do...you're finding a damn toolbar every week. It's not the stress of solving problems that makes you rage, it's solving the exact same problem for the exact same person over and over again. Some people are hard not to hate.
posted by teleri025 at 7:13 PM on August 28, 2006


illovich, that reminds me -- when I was in junior high, they said, work hard, so you can get into good courses in high school! High school is a mythical place where everyone is picking their own courses and people are intelligent and determining their place in the world!

When I got to high school, they said, work hard, so you can get into a good university! University is a mythical place where everyone is picking their own courses and people are intelligent and determining their place in the world!

When I got to university, we all told each other, work hard, so you can get a good job, or do grad school, if that's your thing. In the real world, people are working hard, able to decide what they're doing and determine their own place in the world.

When I got a real job, I thought, okay, I'm going to work hard, so I can get a better job, because there's a company out there where people are intelligent, and competent, and working hard, and doing what they want to do and determining their own place in the world.

Now I'm a contractor, and I'm staying in an extended-stay hotel across the street from Microsoft (although not working for them, it's a different company, down the street). I posted upthread what I think about them.

It turns out, no, there are no places where everyone's amazing and intelligent and competent, and everyone has days (or weeks) that they don't want to go to work, and, yeah, most things are kind of crap, pretty much everywhere.

(okay, two gigantic comments in one thread. time to get a blog or something.)
posted by blacklite at 7:14 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


i think it kind of evens out for the IT guys...the user-friendliness of the computer has been oversold to the user, so the IT person gets caught in the middle and has to deal with the inevitable frustration of expectations; but at the same time, the lack of user expertise gives non-IT people the impression that IT people hold some advanced esoteric knowledge, so they get paid a bit better as a result...i mean, really, don't push it...
posted by troybob at 7:22 PM on August 28, 2006


I don't know, I don't figure they're evil, just incompetent. And that incompetancy doesn't gel well with the arrogance when I ring up to ask a question.

Ever do IT support for physicians and scientist at a "top" university in its field? That redefines arrogance. IT doesn't answer with arrogance as much as exasperation.

Re how "easy" it is to do those backups, well, remember, you are not the only person on the network. How much data will you be moving and storing? Is your solution cross-platform compatible? So, multiply, say, 20GB of data you want to back up every night, multiply by 200 people. 4,000 gigs of data. Does your server have that much space just for backup, outside of standard network file storage? Is your network reliable enough to handle the nightly backup data traffic? (A serious question when your building infrastructure spans "built last year" and "built in 1932" - network updated last year with gigabit and DHCP servers and network updated in 1986 with 10gb and no DHCP and fixed IPs that you hope no one is stealing thus causing IP conflicts and knocking out your computer's network functionality), etc.

We have about 2500 users on our file server. We have networks spanning two separate organization across the entire city and approximately five large locations and probably 15-20 smaller locations. Our institution itself has several thousand users, some using other other IT services, some with decent support and updated anti-virus and firewall software, some with no IT support with no concern for those things. Sometimes a few machines can take down the network in an old building with enough rouge traffic. etc. ad infinitum. Somehow, it all functions pretty well with our clients storing their stuff on the network. Yeah, when the network is down, oh boy does it suck. But when a hard drive is lost, I bring in another workstation, have the user login, and they're working in short order. No data recovery. No restoring from backup just for current files. (We back up every day, and restore accidental deletions etc. from the server).

So, are we too cautious? We'd love to simplify the system. Get a few hundred departments to all agree on the same rates for desktop support and cross some clinics, research labs, etc. all together and get them to agree that they all use the same amount of resources, and if not that it all equals out in the end.

I'm not sure what else to say. Things that looks easy for the user can be a massive spiderweb of bureaucracy and infrastructure Jenga for IT.

I'm just sayin'! ;)
posted by smallerdemon at 7:23 PM on August 28, 2006


Oh, and sparx... you made my day man. :) I can't stop laughing at your post.
posted by smallerdemon at 7:36 PM on August 28, 2006


Regardless of OS, part of IT's job is to maintain security. Even on your Linux or Mac box, if you install a malware/trojan/etc, you're hosed.
(Linux in particular has quite a lot of these as well, obviously Windows does, and Mac's vulnerabilities have been growing dramatically in the last 2 years if you look at the companies who track this - probably because people started using Macs again).

So, a lot of why people don't like IT departments is the same reason they don't like traffic cops: they keep you from doing things how you want ("But I know I can handle [installing this program]/[driving 10 MPH over the speed limit]").

Then throw in the fact that not all situations are fixable (that program won't work on that OS) or may require a long downtime, and no one is going to be happy when they have to deal with it. Once in a while they'll make someone happy by quickly fixing a problem, but that is usually more short-lived than the unhappiness that comes from a problem that can't be solved.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:42 PM on August 28, 2006


At an old job, I got the OK to roll out a backup solution only after a developer had a hard drive die in the middle of the day, and he lost all of his code and email. Why didn't he check the code in? Who knows. Fact remains, he didn't. The "just back everything up to the Samba share" bit failed miserably when he sheepishly admitted that he *thought* he was backing his mail up, but really didn't know how and had only managed to drag his Outlook shortcut to the server. Anyway, the problem of users with their mp3s and crap was an issue. I was using Retrospect because it works great when everyone in the entire company gets laptops and nobody has a set schedule except me, but that's because my boss was a clueless asshole who would say stuff like "Managed switches are unnecessary!" 5 minutes before asking why we don't have VLANs in place and why I can't get port information. This turkey was full of little nuggets like that. But I digress once again.

We just configured Retrospect to not back up media files. All of the users were made aware that their personal media files were not going to be backed up. The problem was solved. I did disk-to-disk backups and dumped those backup sets off to tape. Sure, users could have changed the file extensions/etc, but none of them did, and Retrospect worked out great.

As far as gmail goes? Yeah, it's popular, but my god, did it become a pain in the ass when users did shit like forward all of their corporate email to their Gmail account just because it was GMAIL and GOOGLE is SPECIAL. *sigh* "I deleted an email, can you restore it?" they'd ask. "Sure, if it's been backed up." After much digging, I find that sure enough, they drank the gmail kool-aid. Only a handful of users did stupid stuff like that. And it was the 2-3 Outlook users that caused most of my technical support grief. :|
posted by drstein at 10:18 PM on August 28, 2006


This is the part I really wonder about: "...75 per cent of IT workers go to work wishing they were in another job. "

Is it the case that 75% of every person in every field wishes they were in another job? (As illovich implies.)

This strikes me as unlikely. Honestly, it's just the nature of the IT support jobs as mentioned earlier. People want control and absolutely hate relinquishing any to people that don't trust (and pretty much flat out don't respect, which is fine, since clearly the IT support techs and managers don't respect the users either) and yet they still have to call and ask for help.

(One of my mornings started with the following: "I don't like you. And I resent that my department has to pay you money." and it went on for ten minutes and then ended with "But I still need your help." - worst part about that... not the only call. Wait, also worse is that our group actually has the reputation of being the friendliest group and the group that will go out of their way to actually resolve an issue WHEN you call.)

And indeed, I am in the 75%. My next job will not be IT support. I'd rather be happy.
posted by smallerdemon at 10:55 PM on August 28, 2006


I think that 75% problem might come from the pathway people take to get into these jobs, smallerdemon. Computer geeks. People who, in their teens, loved computers, that was their only interest, and decided that was the logical thing to do with their lives. Be computer experts.

Then they hit reality, and discover that being a "computer expert" involved fixing other people's annoying problems, and doing a lot of generally boring, repetitive, thankless work within very tight corporate constraints. All their creativity and imagination and ability completely gone to waste. But, as I gather from people's stories here and on Askme, few see any option but to continue along the same line of work - it never occurs to them to, I don't know, go become a painter or a horticulturalist or a dog groomer or a nuclear scientist, because they are computer geeks and that is what they do. And they take a bit of joy in the open source projects they help out on in their spare time.

I mean, for all my complaints about IT staff above, I used to be one. I worked for a small ISP, where my job ranged from handling customer accounts and support, though to web development and network administration. And I very quickly realised that while it might be a job, and I was good at it, it was not something I could spent the rest of my life doing, and went and studied ecology instead. And now I come here and complain about IT staff. I should really try to be nicer.
posted by Jimbob at 11:34 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the IT guys where I work (publishing company) are shit -- arrogant and unresponsive for starters. When I started at this company my computer was a mess -- practically unuseable. I quickly realized that the IT folks had little to no interest in me, since I was on a Mac. Never mind that all of the production work is done on Macs...

Anyway, bitching was not my point. My point was that I had come from a job that paid less but had a fantastic IT guy (small pub company) who was fantastically responsive, quick, and foreword thinking. The network and our individual equipment improved noticeably as long as he was there.

God do I miss him.
posted by papercake at 5:12 AM on August 29, 2006


> "customers" are inevitably represented by someone who thinks that he has a
> 14-year-old nephew who could do the job of running enterprise-class
> information systems

I am a customer, in the nonstandard sense that I am an IT pro (A+, MCSE, 20+ years unix admin experience, my first Linux distro was Slackware kernel version 1.0.13) who doesn't happen to work for an IT department. I work in a hospital that naturally has an IT department, but I work for Radiology running the medical imaging network, image archive servers, and the display stations with the big greyscale monitors running at 2048 x 2560.

Our IT department is a good one, but I find myself devoting a good portion of my day evading and going around them. The problem is inevitable: they have all kinds of systems and procedures in place to make it possible to cover the needs of 3000 PC users without having 3000 PC techs. All software is installed remotely, for instance, and if they don't have a remote-install package for that app you want, well, you can't have it. Users are not admins of their own PCs, so they can't damage them too badly but also can't install software they may legitimately need to do their jobs better. Having worked both sides I see IT's point of view, but I also see that there's inevitably going to be some level of tension between IT and the users who do whatever they like on their home PCs and don't at all care for the bondage-and-discipline regime imposed on them at work.

As for me, having trusted physical access I was local admin of every computer in Radiology within a week of taking the job. None of my boxes are Win domain machines (I found ways to do everything I need to do with plain old tcp/ip) so IT can't do much remote admin on my stuff--my personal workstation runs Ubuntu so IT can't touch it at all. And I am (probably best of all) strongly defended politically by the fact that Radiology earns a great deal of money for the institution while IT has to be carried financially. But it still feels odd to need this bastion mentality just to do what needs to be done to keep my department functioning. And that's working with (or against) what I reemphasize is a good, competent, responsive IT department. Can't imagine what it would be like working against a bad one.
posted by jfuller at 6:51 AM on August 29, 2006


I was in the bathroom once at work on the day that our sys admin sent out an email reminding us it was sys admin appreciation day. He was at a urinal when someone else entered.

"Hey, did you get you sys admin appreciation card?"

"What card?"

"Oh, it's called your paycheck."
posted by jon_kill at 7:11 AM on August 29, 2006


If you are working in IT support because of IT then you're in the wrong job, it's the support which is important.

have you tried rebooting?
posted by fullerine at 7:14 AM on August 29, 2006


One of the major problems said over and over again, is this:

It's customer service.

It's customer service on a device that the person feels is 'theirs' (know anyone who names their computer?) and it's very threatening when it doesn't behave.

To complicate this, many IT people choose IT as they're not great relating to people. People are irrational, systems are not. They're solvable. It feels comfortable to get that reward of solving the problem.

Bonus, The IT people never get any level of training regarding customer service.

And after feeling like 'miracle workers', seeing people make stupid mistakes....etc.
posted by filmgeek at 8:13 AM on August 29, 2006


In the end, from what I can discern from seven years of IT support, it boils down freedom, control and responsibility.

Users want freedom to do whatever they want. They feel/believe IT wants to control/curtail that freedom. IT's job is being the responsible party for a group's computing resources, and they're well aware of it (contrary to popular belief) . With only so many hours in the day and only so many available resources at your disposable, you're left to make unpopular choices that curtail people's freedom. Simply by virtue of the nature of the situation, the user will be unhappy anytime a freedom is restricted, and the IT person will be unhappy when they have to field calls from dozens of people expressing their unhappiness with the restriction.

It's a wonder that communication between the two groups is as civil as it is sometimes.
posted by smallerdemon at 8:18 AM on August 29, 2006


Good points filmgeek.

* wonders why the cupholder on my computer refuses to come out anymore
posted by caddis at 8:18 AM on August 29, 2006


I support about 200 GIS users on a three-subnet network, give them 10GB quotas so they can keep it all server-side and backed up, make some customizations in the 5 or 6 cases where performance had to be optimized. I use OSS for the back end. So it can be done. But probably only in .edu.
posted by bendybendy at 9:09 AM on August 29, 2006


Jimbob writes "I find this pretty hard to believe. I'm sitting infront of an always-on PC on gigabit ethernet, and IT have access to install whatever scripts and automation they need to. Surely it's trivial, even in windows, to daily, at 1am, copy all modified files to somewhere on the network? Or are you just saying it's difficult? Hell, my job is difficult sometimes too, that's why I get paid to do it. And, beyond that, they let me plug in a (slow, space-wasting) external USB drive that they can't back up either... "

Problem is local hard drive back up doesn't scale well. One person is no problem, 100 people with 1-300GB of data not so much. Even just hitting the files that windows thinks have changed doesn't help as much as you'd think because people routinely rename top level directories.


davejay writes "Cut to a few weeks ago, when a coworker accidentally nulls out a file he's working on directly from the network share. No problem, he thinks; I've had the file around for days, I'll just request restoration of yesterday's version.

"Well, it took several days to find out that the network share backup drives had been filling up, and since nobody had been requesting restores, they'd taken the backup capability offline while trying to figure out what to do about the storage issue. So no file backup existed.

"That's the first time in a long time I realized that even here, in a high-quality technology firm, the IT department can still suck, no matter how good our outward-facing technology is (you probably use some of it on a daily basis.)

"Shortly thereafter, I dropped a second drive into my desktop workstation and went RAID."


Of course that RAID won't do squat to retore a file that has been zero'd.

clevershark writes "Here in Canada (and in other English-style Parliamentary democracies) the makeup of government is often altered by 'reshuffles', where ministers are moved from one portfolio to the next, effectively reinforcing the widely-held notion that none of these people have much of an idea what they're talking about in the first place..."

That's because the Minister's job isn't whatever the Ministry does. His job is goverment. The Deputy Ministry is the guy who needs to know how the ministry functions.

Gungho writes "why you can't have SP2 until it has been fully tested to see that it is compatible with the hardware and software you do have."

The only reason to love NTSP6 is it taught the need to test service packs from Microsoft.

papercake writes "When I started at this company my computer was a mess -- practically unuseable. I quickly realized that the IT folks had little to no interest in me, since I was on a Mac. Never mind that all of the production work is done on Macs..."

There is a good chance your support guys have repeatedly requested either a Mac guy be hired or the company provide Mac training.
posted by Mitheral at 9:47 AM on August 29, 2006


Seeing as how this thread is effectively dead and there are only a few more days to go until it's permanently closed, I'd like to post a little something in here. I know it's not relevant to the thread subject that was posted but it's not like I'm derailing anything. If I had logged in half an hour earlier on that day I would have been poised, ready to post. Anyway, 'twas not to be (and that may well have been a blessing). This opportunity only comes once.
54321
posted by tellurian at 4:23 PM on September 18, 2006 [2 favorites]


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