Like most jobs, that of a network engineer has good bits and bad bits. They will differ slightly between that of an IT Support Engineer and that of a network engineer, but there are a few in common.
Here are five things that all network engineers hate:
Design engineers particularly hate this one – a customer who knows exactly what they don’t want, but not what they do want and keep changing their mind. Often, they have a little knowledge gleaned from the media or at the 19th hole, and provide frequent requests to the network engineer, who spends valuable time either talking them out of this latest flight of fancy, or revising their design criteria and redoing the work they have just completed.
The increasing use of home networks, particularly those with a WiFi component has created a new breed of network engineer. This is the guy or gal, who because they managed to set up their home network and the Internet interface on their fibre or DSL modem, now consider themselves fully-fledged Network Engineers. If, in addition, they successfully connected desktop PCs to the home network, then they consider themselves IT Support Engineers. IT Support call them Rogue users, or often something less polite.
Despite their home network having no security, is being used by the next door neighbours without their knowledge and is riddled with malware downloaded from the Internet, they feel confident in helping colleagues fix their IT problems.
With surprising ease, these enthusiastic amateurs create a situation which takes time and effort by a real IT support person to sort out, taking them away from more constructive work.
Network devices, particularly those from second-tier suppliers from the Far East, can be easily found in the lower-price segment of the equipment market. Sometimes these are poor copies of those supplied by more recognisable suppliers, sometimes they look like something lashed up in a garden shed.
The one thing that they have in common is either no or very scanty documentation and difficult to follow on-board management and configuration software. Any text seems to be either in the original Klingon or has been translated into mediaeval English.
Network engineers can spend hour upon hour installing, configuring, reinstalling and reconfiguring these devices, usually by trial and error.
BYOD, WiFi and Smart Devices
Network engineers and IT Support Technicians are very apprehensive about the Bring Your Own Device, “BYOD” concept. Allowing users to attach their own kit to the office network brings all sorts of problems in its wake. There is the obvious security threat and the potential to introduce malware to the office network, but the one problem that drives IT support to distraction is smart devices and WiFi.
Most users seem to think that any smart device will link seamlessly with the office WiFi network by simply starting WiFi on the device and logging onto the network. That may well be true with the common brands of phone and tablet, but many of the more obscure or cloned brands of phone do not properly support the WiFi and security protocols used by the office network.
After trying manfully for a little while and resorting to the local office guru, they come to IT Support for help. They usually do not have any documentation and just hand over the phone saying it won’t connect. Again, IT support can spend hour upon hour configuring and reconfiguring these devices, usually by trial and error.
Backups, or rather the lack of them
There is a continual conflict between users and IT support about who is responsible for making backups of user data on desktop PCs, and increasingly these days on smart devices like tablets. This is particularly common in small office networks without central server based storage. Leaving it to the user is generally a bad idea because they don’t do it, or do it in such a way as to make the backup unusable or incomplete.
When a hard drive crashes, the last answer a support technician wants to hear is “What Backup, that’s your job”.
Obviously, this is not a complete list, and many organisations will have other candidates for it. However, having said that, surely your IT Support team will recognise most of it.