Top remote working IT problems (and how to fix them) [video]

by | 22nd May 2020

Whether you’re at home, or in the office. Every business needs effective IT support to function properly. So Harry and I thought we’d talk to Matthew again and discuss everything IT support.

In particular we talked about:

  • How to get the most out of your IT support
  • How to avoid having to call them in the first place
  • How to support people working from home




Matthew Stibbe:

Well, good afternoon everybody. I’m Matthew from Articulate Marketing, and I have Harry and David from Chalkline with me.

We’re going to spend a few minutes together talking about how to get the best out of IT support, how to avoid having to call them in the first place if you can, and how to support people who are working from home so that they’re not stressing out about IT problems.

So like Ancient Gaul, this webinar is divided into three parts. The first part will be Harry sharing some pearls of wisdom with a little presentation, 10 minutes or so.

Then the three of us will have a slightly broader conversation a little bit spontaneously. And at the end we’ll take questions from the audience.

So if you have a question about anything that we’re talking about, you can just put it into the Q&A section in Teams here. I’ll be able to see those questions and ask them at the end. So, we are now ready to hand over to Harry.

Hello, calling Harry. Over to you.

Frequently asked IT support questions

Harry Boyne:                     

Afternoon. Okay, so let’s get started. What I’m going to do to start is run through some frequently asked questions which we get through to our support team.

So the first question is usually with a spam email being sent through to us. And I’m not expecting this email, is it spam? And probably nine times out of 10, the answer is yes, it’s spam. If you’re not expecting an email, someone’s probably trying it on. Feel free to contact the sender if you know them and maybe ask the question.

But obviously don’t click any links, don’t open any attachments unless it’s genuine.

From a business perspective, it’s important to keep training everyone on what spam emails are, what they look like, potentially do some phishing tests every couple of months so that they know what a phishing email looks like and how to behave. Mainly not putting a password into a link, it’s the most important bit.

Also train users about what social engineering is. The same way that you know that if you get a call from someone claiming to be your bank, not just to give your sort code and account number, because they’re probably not your bank. It’s the same thing with IT provider or Microsoft or BT. It’s really important that if you’re not expecting something, don’t respond to it.

Harry Boyne:                     

The next question is, I forgot my password. This tends to happen quite often where you have a really complex password or where you have to change it very frequently.

Where it’s possible, give users the ability to change the passwords themselves. So what that means is if they’ve forgotten it, they can go through, send a text to their phone to verify it’s them, and then they can reset it.

The next option is to use password managers. So LastPass has one, Google has one built in to the browser. And that means that you can store your passwords, and well I’ll come to the next bit, there’s loads of security benefits of that as well.

The next thing is to make sure, from a business perspective, that you’ve got really good password policy. While you have strong passwords, you don’t necessarily need to reset them all the time.

Microsoft are now suggesting that they don’t ever expire because it’s just not necessary. And also it’s important to make sure that users are able to create secure but memorable passwords.

Being memorable is the most important thing here so that they don’t forget them. But also so that someone can’t manage to get to them by using social engineering, guessing their dog’s name, something like that.

It’s really important to use something that’s secure but meaningful for them.

Harry Boyne:                     

The next one is one we’ve had very frequently while people have been working from home.

I’ve had an email, someone’s been recording me. They sent me my password, I’m panicking. And the quick answer here is they probably haven’t done anything. They’re probably not recording you.

What they’ve done is they’ve found your password in a recent breach, there’s loads of companies, they get breached on a regular basis and the passwords are being taken from that. And what they’ve done is they’re taken that password, stuck it on an email to you to say, “Oh, I have your passwords. I’m doing these nasty things.”

Obviously make sure you aren’t using that password anymore. That’s a really, really important thing here. And also, use multi-factor authentication where you can. So that even if they do have your password, you’re still protected.

There are websites out there, or password managers that you can use, and what they do is they monitor your email address. If your details have been leaked, you’re notified immediately.

So at least if that does happen it just gives you a bit more protection there.

Harry Boyne:                     

The next one is I need to share my calendar with someone.

Now that’s something that we get quite often into the service desk.

And we can do this on the back end, it’s also something you could do from within Outlook. And sometimes it might be easier for you.

It also means you’ll be able to see who has access to your calendar already. So, yeah, you’ve got that option as well. And all we do in Outlook is you find your calendar, you right click it, you choose sharing permissions.

And from there, you can add the permission and potentially remove or modify others if you want, if you’d like to as well.

Obviously if you’re on support with us, let us know, we’ll happily take you through this and we can send you a video of how to do it as well.

Harry Boyne:                     

The final FAQ is, my computer’s running really slowly. Especially when you’ve got older machines, that tends to be quite a common thing we get in at the moment.

Now the big thing is, has your computer got an SSD? That’s a solid state drive. It’s something that, I mean, every computer we’ve sold since about 2016 has had one built in without

Most modern computers do now have SSDs. And if your machine doesn’t, it’s time to upgrade, because that will be the single biggest change you’ll make to the performance of your machine

The next is making sure you’ve rebooted your machine on a regular basis. That’s probably once a day, maybe once every few days at a push, but your machine should never go a week or even a month without a reboot, because at that point you’ll start to see issues.

And it also means when it reboots, it gets the opportunity to install any security updates that it might have queued.  

One issue that we have noticed more recently is if you’ve got network drives or network resources that you access, if you’ve just taken your machine home without setting up a VPN or any form of network access, you might find that you’re having problems connecting, or your machine is struggling to connect which is slowing it down.

So if possible, you should un-map the network drives or remove the network resources so that your machine can carry on running as quickly as it may have done in the office.

When should you call IT support?

Harry Boyne:                     

So, when should you call support? When you’re having a problem.

Make sure you contact us when you have problems as we don’t know when you have an issue most of the time. We do have monitoring, and if it’s things like disc space we’ll know, but if Word comes up with an error, we won’t know.

So make sure you’re telling us, and if it’s happening everyday, make sure we know so that we can get it resolved as quickly as we can.

If you think you’ve disclosed your password to something, or if you think your machine’s been hacked, it’s really important you contact us.

We’ve had cases before where someone may have been a bit embarrassed, or maybe sometimes they didn’t know they were attacked, but some of the cases they may have done something, they didn’t want to admit to it.

The problem here is when someone gets access, the longer they have it, the worse it gets. And it’s really important that we know as soon as you’re able to tell us so that we can start protecting your network.              

So on a similar note, if you’ve got something unexpected running on your machine, that could be a security issue, let us know.             

Finally, if something’s slowing you down on a regular basis, if your Word needs to be updated and you want to be on the later version, if an old programme you don’t use is coming up every morning and it’s slowing your machine down, let us know, we’ll take it off. It’s not a problem. And our job is to make you as efficient as we possibly can.

When shouldn’t you call IT support?

Harry Boyne:                     

When shouldn’t you call support? When the light bulb needs changing, we’re not your building managers.

If you know how to resolve the problem quickly yourself, then feel free to go ahead and do that. If you have a problem, then have a look, see if you can resolve it. But obviously we’re here to help if you can’t.

For example, if you’re having a problem printing something, it’s worth checking if the printer is plugged in. Has someone knocked the cable out more recently?

Have you tried restarting? Nine out of ten computer problems can be fixed by rebooting. It’s a cliche. But it’s true.

And finally, did something change? Has something been running slowly since you changed internet provider, have you got a new printer, which now means you can’t scan?

If something’s changed, if you can obviously reverse it and see if it fixes the problem, great. If you can’t, make sure you’ve identified what’s changed and let us know.

That way we can plan around it and make sure that we’re not wasting time searching for the problem. As we’ll already know what the problem is.

How to get the most from your IT support

Harry Boyne:                     

To get the most from support there’s a few important rules.

The first is to be polite and patient with us. We are human.

Unfortunately we can’t fix every single problem in 10 seconds. It does take us some time. It may be that some issues are trial and error with computers. Sometimes you’ve got to try a few different settings or options before we’re going to be able to get to a resolution. So we will go through a logical troubleshooting process as part of our service desk.

The next is, if you’re able to, please contact us yourself about your issue.

We get a lot of cases where someone else may report the issue on your behalf. And what that means is we don’t get the full story

That means we can start working towards a resolution, but actually we’re fixing a problem that doesn’t exist, or we’ve got the wrong end of the stick, and then you’re not able to test it. So yeah, wherever possible, please let us know yourselves.       

Use the word urgent sparingly. There’s so many cases in IT where everything is urgent. But when everything’s urgent then nothing’s is. You’ve got to prioritise things. We have an internal priority system and we do tend to go through things.

So if there’s a leave request or if there’s a security issue, we will always prioritise it. We have other response times internally depending on what the request is.

But if something is genuinely urgent, then tell us, it’s not a problem. And we have escalation processes internally as well. If something is truly urgent, we’re able to get to it quicker.

The next thing to do is make sure you’re giving us as much detail as possible.

Did something change? Are you getting an error message? Are you able to share a screenshot? If you want us to give access to a particular folder, where is this folder? Who needs access?

If we get all this information on the first email or the first port of call, we are able to resolve things so much quicker for you. 

Finally, leave feedback. We’ve got internal systems where when we close a ticket, you’ll get smiley faces. And I’m sure there’s some companies where you may feel it’s been ignored if you put feedback, especially if it’s a large company and you’re just like, “Oh, someone else will leave feedback.”

But every single piece of feedback we get genuinely gets listened to. We have TVs in our office and we have feeds on teams when we’re working remotely, which enable everyone to see every piece of feedback. And any negative feedback goes to managers to be highlighted. Any positive goes to the engineers directly to reward them for a job well done.

So it’s really important we do get that feedback.

The funniest support requests we’ve ever had

Harry Boyne:                     

We’ve had a few interesting support requests in the last few years.

I mean the one that I always find quite funny or sad is when someone’s leaving and they have to fill their own leave request form in, rather than someone else doing it for them.

We had one a few years ago where a client had had a content filtering service activated, and one of the users highlighted to us that it was blocking too many websites. And the way they did that was by screenshotting a error message trying to go to a certain adult website, which was apparently business related.

The next one, we’ve seen it before where users have had spam emails and they felt the need to clarify quite quickly that that wasn’t them.

Usually the spam emails are quite obvious that it wasn’t them, but I guess they want to cover their backsides, fair enough.

And the other one that was from one of my team members was when they were handed a mousetrap, when someone asked for some help with a mouse issue, which I guess was talking about building issues from before.

And then there’s the obvious things. Well, hopefully the obvious things. It’s removing paper from packaging before putting it into the printer, because the printer is not that good.

It’s keep your vents clean of your machines. Especially if you put tape over it, not much is going to happen. But also don’t, especially at the moment, leave your laptop on a bed and wonder why it’s getting so hot, because it’s probably blocking the vents. That’s why it’s really important to be on some form of desk.

Be careful where you put your laptop. Liquids and hot wax don’t mix well with electronics, leave them alone.

And finally, if you need a hammer to fix a problem, there’s a bigger problem than that.

Discussion and Q&A Session

Matthew Stibbe:             

Fantastic. Thank you, Harry. Yeah. Some of those classics at the end there

And joking aside, I once, when I was a journalist, interviewed the PA to a very well known business author. And she said to me that one of the most important things she had to do was to keep a packaged laptop in a box, ready to be FedExed to him wherever he was in the world, because pretty much every other trip he’d knock a cup of coffee over his laptop and he’d need it sent out to him. So it really does happen.

Listening to that provoked a few thoughts. And the first thing I wanted to say, and I want to put this question to David first, and then Harry.

Is there in your work when you get these support tickets in, are most of them very similar and straightforward, or what’s the mix between, “Oh, we’ve heard this 20 times already or 200 times already.” And the mix between that and very complicated, challenging questions that you really have to scratch your head and think about?

David Smetana:                

The way we design IT is hopefully we like to keep things simple. There’s no reason to over-architect things. So we’re hoping that a lot of our problems are fixed first time, although we can’t promise it. That is what we are striving for.

And then if we’re doing our job properly, even if there are complex problems which we’re trying to resolve, which may be escalated from first to second to third line, what we’ll always do is create some form of knowledge based article around that issue to make sure that if the problem occurs again it can be fixed quickly.

But I guess, yes, there are more simpler questions than complex ones, hence why we’ve got more resource on the first line team. But it really is a blend.

And look, we do have problems that can stretch for months unfortunately, and can be a bit of a conundrum, but there are definitely much, much more of the simple first time fixes.

Matthew Stibbe:             

We’ve all had those kinds of tech problems that just no matter how often you hit it with a hammer, it still won’t resolve itself. And Harry, I was interested to ask you.

As people are starting to use their own computers more often at home because of this situation we’re in, does that present new or different challenges for IT? To make sure that they’re secure and sort of running efficiently?

Harry Boyne:                     

So I guess there’s always been a bit of a challenge for people because, especially in the last couple of years, with the advent of things like Office 365, people are using personal devices more and more.

And being the fact that you could open a browser and get into nine out of ten of your applications these days, most people will give it a go when they get home. And yes, it’s a challenge because in a lot of setups, not much stops you from going, “Oh, I’m going to download that”, and then maliciously or not, you could keep that file.

And there’s lots of technologies that we work with around Microsoft. You’ve got EMS, you’ve got visual information protection. What that can help do is effectively encrypt those files so that you might be able to access them on your PC today. But if you get fired tomorrow, you can’t just open the file the day after. You’ll be locked out of that file immediately. But for a lot of businesses it’s a tough conundrum.

Harry Boyne:                     

We made the decision internally that as soon as we caught wind that we were going to have to send people home and remote working was going to be a reality for a lot of people, we sent laptops out to everyone so that we had the ability to monitor everything centrally.

We kept our data central, because we have more applications than a lot of customers, so that we can access our client’s resources.

We felt it was the right thing to do. And it’s also meant that we haven’t got to rely on them. We don’t want to have a call from them one day of, “Oh my computer won’t turn on. I can’t now work today.” So if we send them a work device, we know it’s under warranty, we know it’s working well so they’re able to do their jobs more effectively.

David Smetana:               

I mean, it’s an interesting point. And it’s a business decision that we’ve made around who do we support working from home. It’s usually the business owners or the partners.

The problem that we have is there’s just too many variables outside of our control to do our job really efficiently. And one of the problems that we have, and I don’t know if you’ll remember this Harry, I certainly do, is that there are certain ISPs, so internet providers, that may block certain services.

Harry and I had an ongoing issue with my home computer where I couldn’t access Office 365. And it was being blocked by the ISP. And I had numerous phone calls and I ended up tethering off my phone to try and work out how to resolve the issue.

Ultimately there are just some things that no matter how good the setup is, there are things out of our control and reasons why things just won’t work.

So I guess there are a few things being thrown into the mix now that are complicating things. And certainly working from home does throw a few red herrings in there as well.

Matthew Stibbe:             

What do you have to do to make your home working environment, your IT environment as good as it can be? And particularly I was thinking, what if you got a slow internet connection?

David Smetana:               

It’s difficult. I guess if you’ve got a slow internet connection you are going to struggle. I mean, that being said, we’ve all been very used to dedicated lease lines in the office. And we’ve got a gig leased line at the office, which Harry is now sitting there using to himself.

Where I’m at home and five people on a 20 meg line. And we make do, it’s working. If there’s a little bit of lag, I apologise. My kids are also on sort of Teams calls with school.

So I guess that there’s not much you can do unfortunately. You can improve Wi-Fi and use, I guess, business grade Wi-Fi. And we use the UniFis, which are brilliant.

Harry Boyne:                     

I guess syncing stuff as well where possible. You could sync things like your One Drive to your laptop. So that way at least you can get to corporate content if you don’t have an internet connection.

Matthew Stibbe:

Yeah. And if you’re going to watch lots of Netflix or something, you can sync that when there’s more bandwidth and watch it.

Harry Boyne:                     

Yeah. Well, and don’t have Netflix playing while you’re in the middle of a Teams call ideally as well. That would help with your bandwidth too.

Matthew Stibbe:             

Well, that’s just good common courtesy, isn’t it?

Harry Boyne:                     


Matthew Stibbe:             

I was trying to explain to somebody on a conference call the other day who completely new to conference calling, they were office based forever. If you have your camera off in the middle of a video conference, it’s like going into a meeting room and then turning your back on everyone in the meeting room, it’s the same sort of etiquette.

So Harry, is there anything that you can do? Is there any mileage in virtual desktops as a sort of answer to this bring your own device security access thing?

Harry Boyne:                     

Yes, there definitely is depending on the requirement. What we find sometimes, if you’ve got compliance reasons to do it, it’s a great thing to do.

But, for a lot of customers it’s going to add a lot of costs that people don’t want to spend. Remembering that a lot of our customers now, they might have some line of business applications, but they have things like the Zero, Zero which is on a web browser.

There are other applications which are mostly office-based, again are within a web browser. Having a virtual desktop means they’ve now got to pay for compute charges, licence fees that they otherwise wouldn’t have to.

But then again, we have other clients where they have got, for various reasons, they have effectively got to make sure that any data they have is only ever on a corporate device. And they need things like RDS and WDD so that they can access those resources remotely or from non-corporate devices.

Matthew Stibbe:             

So we’ve had a few questions here and I think we might move into the question and answer portion of the webinar now

Mrs Trellis from North Wales asks:

“People are working on lots of different apps in order to do their jobs remotely. Speaking to people, collaborating and so on. If you have too many apps open does it cause more problems?”

Harry Boyne:                     

There’s not much more to say on that. The more apps you’ve got, the slower things are going to run. And it’s important to only have things open that you’re actually working on, especially if you’re internet’s slow or you’ve got a lower spec machine.

I guess that’s one of the benefits of making sure you reboot regularly. It does close anything that you aren’t necessarily working on right now.

David Smetana:               

I mean, particularly if you’re working in Chrome and you’ve got tens, hundreds of tabs open, you are going to experience issues, and going to need to close that down and refresh and probably reboot.

Harry Boyne:                     

That’s true.

David Smetana:               

Yeah. And actually, there are so many SaaS products now that that’s what we do. We just have so many different tabs open for all the SaaS products that we’re using.

Actually, that’s where we do experience performance issues with RDS, is people using browser and video within RDS. That’s where you can run into sort of performance issue.

So there’s got to be a real sort of reason why you’d want to run things over remote desktop, and running a browser and office apps isn’t really one of them.

Matthew Stibbe:             

And another question here, and I think I can relate to this as a business owner.

“If it’s too expensive to buy laptops for everyone in the business, can you rent them?”

David Smetana:               

We don’t do that. We can finance it for you and we can be flexible in the way that we procured them for you, but we would really not want to rent them. But I guess that’s a business choice.

There are lots of very clever deals where it’s a sort of finance deal for a number of years. And then after those sort of three years you give it back and get a new device. So there’s lots of clever things that we can do.

Harry Boyne:                     

I was going to say, there’s lots of leasing deals we’ve set up, especially more recently while people have had to get laptops mobilised quite quickly.

These are similar to cars in that you can either have a two year lease that you return the devices after the two years or the three years. Or you can have other leases where there’s a balloon payment at the end. Or you can have one without.

There’s loads of options you have. And actually I think we can do that on any hardware now. So there are options there.

With renting, you wouldn’t get a new laptop most of the time, unless you spent a lot of money. And also in terms of data security, a lot of our clients want to see their drives being destroyed after they’re done with them.

If you’re renting a device, especially a modern one, a lot of the new ones, if you talk about Apple or service devices where the SSDs are soldered on, you’re not going to be able to destroy that hard drive.

And you’re also not going to want to run anything on it to kill it, because then it’s a completely useless device.

David Smetana:               

I was going to say, we’ve seen before, haven’t we Harry, where we’ve taken on new clients and we’ve brought their laptops into the office and opened up and seen repurposed hard drives with other clients names written on them.

Harry Boyne:                     


David Smetana:               

I mean, there are all sorts of things that we’ve seen. So yeah, exactly. And it’s just not the way we work and not the way we would want to do it. Things need to be done properly. And like you said, you want to be safe in the knowledge that things have been destroyed and shredded properly.

Harry Boyne:                     

What you don’t want is a corporate laptop that’s, you will have sensitive information on it, then being given to another business, you don’t know who it is. And you’ll have control of it. So I guess that’s the big downside of renting.

Matthew Stibbe:             

Probably renting not in itself a good idea, but certainly financing if cash flow is an issue. And the sense I’m getting from you is, yes, have a work provided computer.

David Smetana:               

I was going to say, we worked very closely with Ingram Micro, who we transact a lot of licencing and a lot of hardware through and they offer all sorts of financing deals. So yes, they make it very easy for us to do that for our clients.

Harry Boyne:                     

And I guess one of the conversations you have as well, so clients were having the conversation of, “Well, I only need these laptops for three months, because then everyone’s going to be back in the office.”

And I guess one of the things that may happen is people may start asking to remote work more. There may be more conversations to be had around that subject.

What you can do by keeping a laptop is you can now buy a dock and dock the laptop in the office. So you no longer need to have the desktop and/or a laptop. You have a laptop, you bring it with you and you dock.

And that might be a better way of working. Obviously hot-desking is not something that anyone is going to want to be doing for the next few months, especially with the government guidelines.                      

It might be an option that comes back and it may still be easier to have the docks, so at least you can go in and you can work from the office for two days a week and then go home for two days a week. And whatever it is, you’ve got a lot more flexibility.

Matthew Stibbe:             

And one last question from me, last time I saw you on teams, David, you didn’t have this blurring effect going on in the background. How are you doing that?

David Smetana:               

There is a button on Teams that allows you to show background settings. There are a number of settings which Microsoft give you by default, or you can upload your own photographs and apply them.

So I’ve got a photograph here of the Arsenal at Manchester City semi-final at Wembley. You can have all sorts of fun things.

And actually, I’ve got to say, that’s one of the things I’ve quite liked about watching my son work. All the kids have fantastic background settings. I’ve seen Peppa Pig and Ronaldo and all sorts of things

Matthew Stibbe:             

You never see Peppa Pig and Ronaldo in the same room though.

David Smetana:               

No, definitely not.

Harry Boyne:                     

There’s a conversation starter!

Matthew Stibbe:             

We’re coming up on the end of our time together. So I wanted to say Harry and David, thank you very much.

I hope that was useful for everyone. Thank you for the questions at home.

There will be another webinar in a couple of weeks. Thank you very much. Bye bye.

David Smetana:               

Thank you.

Find out more about how we found the shift to remote working by watching our webinar here.

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