How Technicians Troubleshoot Computer Problems

Christopher Lentz | December 03, 2014 08:00 AM

We have all had a computer problem at one time or another. Some of us have enough knowledge to fix most simple issue and some of us do not. There is no doubt it takes a certain kind of person to really understand how to troubleshoot technology. Today we will talk about some of the methods used by supprt technicians and engineers to quickly resolve issues for clients.

Follow the OSI Model

The Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) model is, as Wikipedia states "is a conceptual model that characterizes and standardizes the internal functions of a communication system by partitioning it into abstraction layers". In lamens terms, that is saying that it breaks the parts that make a computer work and interact with other computers into small more managable sections. Each section connects to the next section up the line. For the OSI model there are 7 layers: physical, data link, network, transport, session, presentation, and application. The wise support person will start at Layer 1 or the physical layer by checking that the power cable and network cables are plugged in properly and that the device(s) is on. Next they check the switch and the router to be sure they see Layer 2 and Layer 3 traffic on each device. They follow the model up until they find where the issue is. This is by far the fastest method to getting to the root cause of an issue.

The Guessing Game

Despite a pretty great knowledge of systems and networking, some technicians out there still rely on their guy instinct about what an issue might be caused by. We call this one the "Guessing Game" because that is exactly what it is. Young and inexperienced technicians often try this method because they lacked proper training and/or education in the field. More experienced engineers though, might combine this method with the OSI model in what we call "Middle Out" troubleshooting. 

Middle Out

The Middle Out method is common among very experienced engineers who have seen numerous issues accross a multitude of platforms and situations. The wisdom allows them to combine the Guessing Game and OSI methods by using their deep knowledge. They can make an educated assumption about what the issue might be caused by and begin their troubleshooting there. If that does not find the issue, they will either go up or down the OSI model based on what results they get back from their initial assumption. While this method can have its advantages, it can sometimes lead to slower than necessary issue resolution times. 

Each support tech or engineer is different, but proper training and certification can ensure that they follow the tried and true OSI model method for the best combination of resolution and efficiency. When time is money you want it done right the first time and in a timely manner.


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