Posts Tagged 'Tickets'

June 15, 2009

Help Us Help You

Working the System Admin queue in the middle of the night I see lots of different kinds of tickets. One thing that has become clear over the months is that a well formed ticket is a happy ticket and a quickly resolved one. What makes a well-formed ticket? Mostly it is all about information and attention to these few suggestions can do a great deal toward speeding your ticket toward a conclusion.

Category
When you create a ticket you're asked to choose a category for it, such as "Portal Information Question" or "Reboots and Remote Access". Selecting the proper category helps us to triage the tickets. If you're locked out of your server, say due to a firewall configuration, you'd use "Reboots and Remote Access". We have certain guys who are better at CDNLayer tickets, for example, and they will seek out those kind so if you have a CDN question, you'd be best served by using that category. Avoid using Sales and Accounting tickets for technical issues as those end up first in their respective departments and not in support.

Login Information
This one is a bit controversial. I'm going to state straight out... I get that some people don't want us knowing the login information for the server. My personal server at SoftLayer doesn't have up-to-date login information in the portal. I do this knowing that this could slow things down if I ever had to have one of the guys take a look at it while I'm not at work.

If necessary, we can ask for it in the ticket but that can cost you time that we could otherwise be addressing your issue. If you would like us to log into your server for assistance, please provide us with valid login information in the ticket form. Providing up-to-date login credentials will greatly expedite the troubleshooting process and mitigate any potential downtime, but is not a requirement for us to help with issues you may be facing.

Server Identification
If you have multiple servers with us, please make sure to clearly identify the system involved in the issue. If we have a doubt, we're going to stop and ask you, which again can cost you time.

Problem Description
This is really the big one. When typing up the problem description in the ticket please provide as much detail as you can. Each sentence of information about the issue can cut out multiple troubleshooting steps which is going to lead to a faster resolution for you.

Example:

  • Not-so-good: I cannot access my server!
  • Good: I was making adjustments to the Windows 2008 firewall on my server and I denied my home IP of 1.2.3.4 instead of allowing it. Please fix.

The tickets describe the same symptom. I can guarantee though we're going to have the second customer back into his server quicker because we have good information about the situation and can go straight to the source of the problem.

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February 21, 2008

What It's Like to be a Data Center Technician

As you may have guessed SoftLayer isn't just sales team members, data center managers and development team members. There is also a pretty important group of people who hideaway in their cubicles and can be seen running around our state of the art server rooms from time to time. I am of course talking about us DC Techs; you might know us from our ticket signature "SoftLayer CSA."

I had a question brought up for the first time while on a phone call with a customer, his question was,

"What is it like to be a data center technician?"

I could only laugh just a little bit as I looked around the office and saw several of my co-workers engaging in the organized chaos we call Datacenter Operations. You see, with datacenter operations there is no "daily routine" to follow, there isn't a "what to expect" sheet posted somewhere to prepare us for the day. We have to rely on experience and each other to keep our beloved customers happy. So would you like to know my answer to this customer?

"It depends on the ticket I'm working!"

I say that because this particular customer was calling about a networking issue. In this instance I was his "network engineer", helping him resolve an issue with secondary IP addresses. As I said before, not every issue is the same from one minute to the next so it keeps us on top of our game. One second I am a networking engineer, the next a hardware technician, the next a Systems Administrator. On some occasions we DC techs can be all three at once! It's because of this fact that I enjoy coming to work each and every day. I never know what problem will arise or what I will learn in the coming hours.

I decided to write this after a very long shift, because I think a lot of our customers and people who read this blog would like to know what exactly it's like. Of course there are good days and bad days, sometimes we make mistakes or take a little longer to reply to a ticket than we should. But for the vast majority of the time, our phone calls are ending with "Thanks so much!", and our tickets are ending with "Great Job, You guys are awesome!", and our customers are going to sleep knowing their server is in good hands.

Now what question do all of us DC Techs have? That's simple:

What is it like being a SoftLayer customer?

Judging by everything I have seen recently, with our company expanding to Seattle, building new datacenters, and shattering several of our own sales records, I think we're doing a pretty good job of putting everything you want from a dedicated hosting provider at your fingertips. There is always work to be done, and I speak for everyone here in the office when I say the most important thing to a DC Tech and the company as a whole are our bosses, and we currently have around 4,500 of you around the world and growing!

I’ll see you in the tickets soon!

-Romeo

July 30, 2007

Being in Sales

Being in SLales (SL + Sales = SLales - we're so clever), I talk to around 200 people or so a day via email/tickets/telephone/chat/etc. I like to think of our SLales team as the "A" team in the industry. Going along with Jason's “we wear many hats”, we must have detailed knowledge of every single product and service that we offer -- networking capabilities, what program/software/application works with what hardware all the while fitting what each particular clients unique needs are into their budget.

A typical day for the SLales team involves getting to work and going straight for the Monster or coffee (or both) depending on your preference. Get to our cubes and login to our side of the customer portal, chat and check our email. This is when the fun begins. Immediately we are engaging people on chat, catching up our shared SLales and personal email inboxes, talking to clients or potential clients on the telephone, verifying orders, IMing with different divisions, putting through payments, credit card changes and grabbing tickets from existing clients looking to cut a deal for upgrading and/or adding servers and services – all at the same time. We take multitasking seriously here!

On top of all of that we have to make sure that customer billing is accurate when ordering these services depending on the deals we have available, which are always going to be inventory-based. Also, we are making sure that everything is working correctly on each customer's server and if not, coordinating a game-plan to make sure that the client is satisfied and running along smoothly, as quickly as possible.

At the end of the day we want all of our clients to be comfortable, happy, making money and enjoying themselves – because if you are, we are too!

-Michael

May 25, 2007

The 8 Keys to Successful Tickets

Tickets are a tough animal to tackle because everyone is predisposed to their own "best way". After eleven years in the hosting world (3 in mass virtuals, 3 in enterprise, and 5 in high volume dedicated), the trouble ticket is always tough to perfect.

From our side, here are some pointers that will streamline your ticket:

The 8 Keys to Successful Tickets

1. One Ticket = One Issue - If possible, keep the tickets as simple and targeted as you can. Don't worry about opening multiple tickets with different issues...we actually prefer it. Having multiple issues can impede proper support. Here's why:

1) It can make it hard to troubleshoot because we don't know which one to work on first.
2) We don't always know which issue is more important (to you) and needs resolution first.
3) It can require different departments and may be shuffled around.
4) The longer the ticket gets, the more the next tech has to read and the higher the propensity to miss key information.
5) Multi-issue tickets seem to be never-ending, frustrating both the customer and the technicians trying to help.

2. Username / Password / Server / IP - start with the basics. We lob about half the tickets back within minutes asking for server credentials which slows the process. It's your server -- if you don't want us in there just tell us. You won't hurt our feelings. It makes troubleshooting more difficult when we don't have access, but we do respect your right and privacy. Just understand there is a trade-off with slower troubleshooting and limited server access. We will not login to your server unless we have to.

3. Come Clean and tell the truth - if you flubbed up a kernel upgrade, deleted key files, installed new software, or just don't know what you're doing, don't worry about it. We will not parade you down the data-center hall of shame. We all learned this stuff somehow and most of that learning came from making mistakes. Being honest will get your resolution much faster and your technician will appreciate you not playing "hide the ball". We all make mistakes -- even seasoned veterans. We are here to help you and that is our goal.

4. Close the ticket - if your problem is resolved, just update the ticket and say "please close this one". Otherwise, tickets can hang out, get stale, and fill up the queue, slowing the whole ticket resolution process. The techs will greatly appreciate your response.

5. Clear, Concise & Complete - "I installed this, made these changes and now the server does _______" (good). We get a lot of tickets where it states "Server seems slow?" (bad). Does that mean network, hardware, disk IO, application, everything? If you don't know, general is fine, but if you mean Disk I/O seems slow, tell us you mean disk I/O. Don't leave off that key piece of info like "I run a forum that gets 10,000 hits an hour".

6. Network Issues - include trace-routes or ping times (as many as you can possibly get). Attach them to the ticket. The vast majority of network issues are outside the network between you and the server. We are very interested in finding those locations so we can:

1) ...help you resolve this issue.
2) ...contact the carriers for further assistance.
3) ...manually route around clogged public peering points.

Chances are, if it is affecting you, it also affects at least one of our other customers as well.

7. Research & Info - help us help you by giving us any ideas you may have. The forums are chock full of goodies. Google solves half my problems on the first search, and the vendor websites are a goldmine. Remember that when we log into your server for the first time, its like going into a home you have never been in while it's dark. It takes a few minutes to feel around to see what is running and where things are. We appreciate any help or insight you may have in the process.

8. Throw them a Bone - I am convinced that being a support technician is one of the most difficult and thankless jobs in this world. Every phone call, ticket, or chat involves a problem that must be resolved and the person on the other end is potentially anxious or agitated because downtime is bad. When you get to resolution, top off a ticket with thanks....great job.....or end the phone call with thanks for all the hard work. At the end of the day, we are all human and need a little recognition for a job well done.

-@lavosby

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