The real cost of tech problems, and the real payoff for solving them

image © 20th Century Fox, from the movie Office Space (link to iTunes)

What this blog post covers, in brief:

  • The tech problems you can spot that are the most destructive to business and family
  • Why these problems are common and why people miss them until it's too late
  • 3 common problems: Apple TV issues, Slow Internet and Printing problems at work
  • The permanent solution to all these problems
  • How to stop thinking about tech as tools, instead make it culture to maximize success

Ok, with that said, let's jump right in:

What does a spinning gear on an Apple TV at home have to do with your success at work?
Everything.

What does slow Internet have to do with your child's success in school? 
Much more than you realize.

Are problems printing in an office a predictor of future business failure?
Quite possibly.

Let me explain.

In the first years of personal computers, almost everyone was completely dependent on the geeks and nerds to keep their PCs or Macs running. Computers were unstable, irritable things that were synonymous with bugs. Everyone felt like a beta tester, because, well, they were.

Then Apple comes along with the iMac and iPhone and a strong message: You can do it yourself. Look how easy these devices are. And if things break, you have a Genius Bar. The marketing worked, and while techie consultants didn't entirely disappear, people started purchasing new iDevices by the truckload: Macs, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, Androids, Apple TVs, Amazon TVs, Ring doorbells, Nest cams, Google Home, Amazon Alexa.  The list goes on and on.  People didn't just come home with surprises. Business owners started taking purchasing into their own hands, buying Macs, PCs, printers and more on Amazon.com.  Steve Job's original vision is here: Technology is democratized.

And this has led to a much bigger problem than technical dependency. It's a problem that will affect everyone personally and professionally, unless they understand the problem and how to overcome it.  So, here's some background you need to know:

When it comes to using technology, benefits and drawbacks are diametrically opposed.  There's no middle ground. Technology is either working or it's a complete train wreck.  Most people - even most tech consultants - don't know how to predict the train wrecks. They come out of left field, and by the time they happen, it's too late. Tech consultants know this is true.  After all, they count on this to make a living.  

To make matters worse, there is no other area in our life where our assumptions about what's actually wrong, couldn't be more wrong. Take the example of the spinning gear on an Apple TV.  What's causing it? A broken Apple TV?  Software bugs?  Internet speed? Something else?  Most people will just restart it, sigh a breath of relief, go on and watch their TV show, until the same thing happens again tomorrow.  They'll repeat this process over and over until the pain gets so great they'll walk into an Apple Store for a Genius Bar appointment.  After investing hours in a noisy store, and back at home with a new AppleTV, the same bug appears.

Printing problems.  Slow web browsing.  Spinning gear.  Freezing computer.  Choppy music streaming.   These are all problems that seem so directly related to the device, but they're not.  Every piece of technology is built on a system of complex layers, all of which are interrelated.  Which is why the actual cause of a symptom is almost never intuitively obvious.  Which brings me back to the main point of this article: Basic technology problems like these aren't just minor annoyances - they actually mean you're technology is totally out of control.  And the train wreck is coming.  Let's take just the three above cases:

The Apple TV spinning wheel

Why would a spinning gear on a stalled-out Apple TV have anything to do with success at work?  

Well, there's always the obvious answer: What if it's the Apple TV you're trying to present on at work.  But what if it's an Apple TV at home?  This happened at my home.  I received a text from my wife, who was at home with a restless 2-year-old who she had promised would get his favorite TV show. She's at wits end, and the frustration really came through with the all CAPS text message: FIX IT NOW.  The problem is, restarting it or unplugging and plugging back in is the same as the mythical Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill in hell only to have it roll back down and start back over.

Restarting it didn't fix it . Firmware updates didn't fix it.  Erasing and resetting the Apple TV, which took an hour and caused all sorts of other problems ("what was that password again?"  "why is it asking for the credit card again?") didn't fix it . Replacing the Apple TV didn't fix it, and that cost a day of my life to make a trip to my Apple Store.  I love those guys because they replaced the Apple TV for me at my request, but it still didn't work.  

Hours of frustration.  Days of disruption.  How do you think my work was faring back at the office?  That's my point.

My Internet is slow at home or the office

One of the most common problems, it's also commonly misdiagnosed.  Just like with the Apple TV, the root cause here could be anything from minor to major.  The problem is, if you assume your Wi-Fi is slow because of slow Internet, you could be making a major mistake. It could be a sign of anything from nefarious applications or failing or misconfigured hardware. Or in a best-case scenario it's just a misconfigured Wi-Fi router.  

The trouble is, how do you know?  And what happens if it is a virus or ransomware, and you only find out when the damage is irreversible, and your work or your child's homework is gone forever? Hundreds of parents and business owners alike have shared their horror stories with me.

Printing problems at work

Printing problems are a secret 10X productivity killer.  Let me explain:

In the average office there is at least one person who, when told the printer's not working, will jump into action to fix the issue. And they always do.  Which compounds the problem. Here's a recent example:

Employee A suddenly can't print off her notebook computer. Employee B can.  Employee C jumps to the rescue by uninstalling and reinstalling software and then adding the printer again.  Employee A now can print.  The next day, however, Employee B can't print, but employee A can.  Employee C jumps right in again... same solution, and it works. Until it happens again.  The IT guy finally gets called when the business owner reaches peak frustration and Employee C suddenly "defers" saying "it must be a problem with the printer".  But it's not.

How many hours were just wasted?  How many days?  Remember I mentioned above that printing problems are a strong predictor of business failure?  If the business owner - knowingly or unknowingly - allows her employees to continue operating like this, every aspect of that business' technology is in the same situation: From customer privacy to the security of the network to the safety of company data.  Everything is at risk. Printing problems, just like a messy network closet, can tell you a lot about a business owner and their business.

What all these tech problems have in common

Bear with me, because this is super important.

Remember I mentioned above that every piece of Internet connected technology runs through a system of complex layers, all of which are interrelatedComputer and information technology engineers know this. It goes way back before Steve Jobs and before Bill Gates.  If you're curious, it's called the OSI model, and every piece of tech you own, from your Apple Watch, to your Apple TV, to your big printer in the office, to your Wi-Fi network at home, to iCloud and gmail and Office 365, operates through the OSI model.  Want to troubleshoot any problem in IT?  Learn the OSI model and study all the layers in it that you need to find the root cause of almost any problem.  You'll need to study IP networking.  Get certified in MacOS and Windows. You'll need to understand how cloud services and Internet routing and DNS works. You'll need to understand ports and firewalls, switches and access points and security appliances.  You don't need to master all of these things, but you'll need sufficient knowledge and experience to be able to approach a problem and solve it so the system works better when you're done, without the problem recurring.   I read somewhere once that investing about 10,000 hours is about right, but.......

........ NO BUSINESS OWNER OR HOME OWNER OR NORMAL HUMAN BEING IS GOING TO DO THIS.

Instead, let me share with you a solution that makes much more practical sense. 

All the tech problems above have one thing in common: Someone approaching the problem and trying to solve it without understanding how the whole system works. Furthermore, the system was set up by someone without the understanding of how the whole system works.  If it had been set up by someone with the right experience and knowledge, and with the right tools, the problems above wouldn't be happening in the first place, or if they happened because something changed, the root cause could be identified immediately.

The prerequisite: Tech as a basic foundation

  1. Adopt the right cloud networking tech that enables complete visibility to all the layers of a tech system.  This applies to both business and home networks.
  2. Hire the right person with the right skills, knowledge, certifications and most important - the right attitude and vision - to design and set up your network in a way that is nearly trouble-free, and enables rapid resolution to new problems in the future, without ever stepping foot into your office or home.
  3. Establish a framework (set of procedures) that gives your employees the freedom to adopt and use their technology without fear, supported by the same kind of tech subject matter expert who has the ability to make sure everything is always working for them.

Then comes the real opportunity

People continue to believe that tech is a function skill. It isn't. Tech now needs to be part of your organizational culture at work and even part of your family culture.  

When you approach tech this way, all the computers and other devices stop being critical points of failure that can stop your life.  They go back to what they're supposed to be: Just tools that help us get more and better stuff done.

Imagine if your employees found better ways of getting things done using the tools you gave them, instead of waiting for directions.

Imagine if your kids, starting from elementary school, used the network and computers available to them to learn how to write like Malcolm Gladwell, present like Steve Jobs, dream like Elon Musk and tell stories with video like JJ Abrams.

And imagine if you had 20 extra hours back to you each week.  And a home office so well connected to your business that you could seamlessly work from anywhere.

That's the only thing all this tech is supposed to be about.

Want to take action?  Here are some action items

  1. Share this blog post with your employees, colleagues, friends and family.  Ask them what they think
  2. Leave a comment below.  I want your feedback, no matter what it is
  3. Want to learn more about which Cloud Networking is the best?  Read my article related to that
  4. Want help fixing your network so you can get back to doing what you want/love?  Send me a note via this form here
  5. Curious about the OSI Model?  Read more about it here.  Head's up- you're going deep.

I hope you guys enjoyed this article.