Read an Excerpt
Welcome and thanks! First, I need to say right up front that this book is not specifically about administering a Windows NT or Windows 2000 system (or any other version, for that matter). Although I talk about many administrative functions and describe the use of some of the tools, I do not go into detail about every program, what fields to fill in, what check boxes to mark, and so forth. If you are looking for a book to help you pass any of the Microsoft certification tests, you would be better off putting this book back on the shelf and looking elsewhere.
On the other hand, if you are concerned with the processes involved in the day-to-day operation of supporting users in a Windows NT environment, look no further. This is the book for you. As the title says, this book is about supporting Windows. Supporting users in a Windows environment (or any environment for that matter) is more than knowing which programs to start for particular administrative functions or knowing which buttons to push. There are so many aspects that go beyond clicking the right button in a specific program. Because of this, much of what I will discuss could be applied in any computer environment. In fact, much of it could be applied to any service-oriented field.
The material in this book is based on almost 15 years' experience in support and related fields. It began when I worked in a liaison office while in the U.S. Army. Dealing with border incidents, traffic accidents, and bar fights is very similar to doing computer tech support, although reinstalling is not an option when a tank plows into a farmer's barn.
Next, I worked in tech support for a majorsoftware vendor. When I picked up the phone, I often had no idea what the call was about, what kind of computer the person had, nor anything about the particular environment. Proper organization on the part of both the support department and each individual was vital for the survival of the company.
Currently, I am working for a manufacturer of industrial machinery. We have about 1000 users spread out all over the world, ranging from single-
person offices running Windows 95 on a laptop to over 500 users in the company's headquarters, where I am. As a result, I have dealt with support issues in a wide range of environments.
I have found that aspects of each can be applied to the others, as the goal is always to either solve a particular problem or provide someone with a particular service. What I have done in this book is to address these issues in a way that particularly apply to support users in a Windows NT environment.
One of the key aspects of all of these jobs is providing the service the users need without its becoming a burden or unmanageable. In every case, you are often presented with conflicting priorities, none of which is better than the others. Sometimes, you need to base your decision on intuition or simply pick the lesser of two evils. Therefore, I have tried to present both sides of the issue, because what is the lesser evil in one company is not the same as somewhere else.
The book is broken into three parts. In Chapters 1-5, I talk about the framework. These are the issues that form the foundation of your information technology department (IT, or whatever it is called) and therefore is the basis of your user support. Chapters 6-13 are the processes you go through to support your users. Finally, Chapters 14-16 are details of what most people think of when they talk about "user support."
Once again, I need to say that this book does not cover every minute detail of the topics I discuss. That would take volumes and volumes of material. Besides, that isn't the goal of this book nor is it necessary. What I have done is to pick out those areas that I feel have the greatest impact on both the users and your ability to support them. There are also a few scattered places that have less of an overall impact, but ones I feel are often ignored, overlooked, or done inefficiently (at least in my opinion).
Some of you are going to look at the topics and wonder why I chose that one and not something else, if you think something else is more important. Well, the blunt answer is that it is a matter of personal opinion. I am basing these decisions on my own personal experience supporting users in a Windows NT environment as well as conversations with a number of people who do the same job in other companies. Unfortunately, I was not able to talk to someone in every possible situation. As a result, it is possible (if not probable) that there are certain aspects of your company where it might have been better to talk in more detail about something other than what I did. This is unavoidable without turning this book into an encyclopedia.
One place you might notice this is in the Chapter 5: Hardware Configuration. There are many other kinds of hardware you can connect to your machine that I didn't discuss. Some are very basic like floppies, mice, or modems. I had to weigh the number of issues that are involved, how often problems can crop up, and how significant these issues and problems are. The result is that I left off a little bit of hardware. I apologize to anyone who might have felt let out.
The same basic principle applies to the products I talk about. There are many, many, many more products on the market. Not just those in a particular category, but there are also a number of product categories that I did not talk about at all. Here again, I talked about those categories that have the largest impact on users.
On the other hand, there a few products that are in the category of "nice to have" but are not really essential for business. However, in these cases, I was so impressed with the products that I just had to mention them. Besides, the goal is to help your users work more efficiently, which I believe these products do.
There is also the level of the products I talked about. There are a number of products on the market that are designed more for large companies (i.e., "enterprise-grade"). I did not talk about products at this level for three main reasons. First, although these products generally work on a client-server basis, the basic functionality is same as single-seat products, which are intended for smaller companies. In discussing these products, I still provide you an overview of the available functionality. Second, it would not be very cost effective for a small company to buy one of the enterprise-level products, although there still is a great deal of benefit for large companies to buy stand-alone products. Finally, there is an issue of space, both in the book and on the accompanying CD. It would not have been possible to provide demo versions of more than a handful of these enterprise-level products. Instead, I was able to give you a wider range of products to look at.
Please keep in mind that time passes while writing a book and technology changes faster than many writers would like. From the time I started writing this book until the time I finished it, the computer industry went through many changes. Even between the time the book was finished and first hit the bookstores, the technology wouldhave changed. That's the nature of the business.
As a result, there are probably many aspects of the technology that I could not discuss simply because things changed too quickly. Because this book is not about "technologies," but more about "processes," I hope you will see that what's missing of the technology (perhaps) makes this book incomplete and not useless.
As usual, all the mistakes are mine. When you find any, please drop me a line and let me know. Even if you don't find any, I would still appreciate your dropping me a line and letting me know what you think.