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How to generate an efficient support request

 

Requesting support is sometimes tricky, especially in the heat of the moment when you have a critical issue. However, the more information you provide in your support request, the quicker it will be resolved. To coin a phrase 'Help me to help you!' Thanks Tom ...

  • Use existing resources at hand to find the answer to your question eg. FAQ, manual, forums, blogs, web searches, etc.
  • Ensure that the problem is not caused by an oversight on your part
  • When sending a support email
    • use meaningful, specific subject headers
    • make it easy to reply
    • write in clear, grammatically correct, correctly spelled and concise language
    • limit each request to one specific subject rather than asking numerous unrelated questions
    • if a request for configuration changes, provide all information including IP addressing, login information and any other specifics
    • explain the steps you took to reach the problematic outcome
    • if you have error messages, send these in text or image format; if images, use jpg or png ( not MS Word )
    • send questions and attachments in accessible and standard formats ( eg. PDF or text )
    • be precise and informative about your issue
    • describe the symptoms not your guesses
    • describe your symptoms in chronological order
  • Courtesy never hurts, and always helps
  • Supply a solution if you've found one
  • Use proper email etiquette
    • don't use uppercase excessively
    • don't repeat
    • check your spelling/grammar
    • don't cc addresses that are not directly related to the email and other recipients ( use bcc )
    • use text email where possible ( instead of rich text or html )


Some specific support request examples

 

My email / email server is not working / email was not delivered

  • Do you have any other accounts that are also problematic?
  • Do you have internet access?
  • When was the last time it worked?
  • Who are you sending to?
  • What is your email address?
  • Have you received an error message in reply? What is it?
  • Check your content carefully for items that may be blocked by spam filters
  • What are your email settings?
  • What email client and OS are you using?

 

My internet is not working

  • What kind of internet access do you have ( eg. 3g, ADSL, fibre )?
  • Who is your ISP?
  • Do you have your ISP login details?
  • Provide information about your modem/router/firewall
  • Is the ADSL and/or link light on?
  • Can you ping an IP address ( eg. ping 8.8.8.8 )?
  • Can you ping a DNS name ( eg. ping www.google.co.za )?

 

Installation of a network device / firewall

  • IP address, network mask and gateway
  • VLAN ID
  • DNS ( ISP or internal )
  • Network ranges in use
  • Other routed devices on the network
  • Is it the Internet gateway device? Yes, provide ISP login details
  • Is there a modem? Yes, provide IP addressing, login, model
  • Dynamic DNS required? Yes, supply service, hostname and login
  • Static gateways
  • Special protocol support ( eg. gre, pptp, ftp, etc )
  • Rulesets ( what traffic to allow or disallow )
  • Transparent redirection for HTTP proxy traffic?
  • Authentication?

 

Installation of a server

  • Applications required ( eg. proxy, content filter, email, antivirus, file-sharing, etc. )
  • IP address, network mask and gateway
  • DNS ( ISP or internal )
  • Dynamic DNS required? Yes, supply hostname and login
  • Do you require backups? Yes, supply backup devices and backup method ( eg. daily full, continuous incremental )
  • File server? Yes, supply user-list, domain/workgroup name, integration with existing services

 

Installation of an email server

  • IP address, network mask and gateway
  • DNS ( ISP or internal )
  • Dynamic DNS required? Yes, supply hostname and login
  • Domains(s)
  • Virtual hosting ( ie. multiple domains ) required?
  • Webmail?
  • Anti-virus and anti-spam?
  • Greylisting?
  • Access lists
  • TLS encryption?
  • Mail stats/graphing?
  • Mail reports?
  • Anti-virus stats/graphing?

 

My device is not working ( correctly )

  • What is it?
  • What is the brand and model?
  • Symptoms?
  • What troubleshooting steps have you taken?
  • Have you requested support from the vendor you purchased the device from?
  • Have you updated drivers and/or firmware?
  • What is the current firmware/driver level?

 

My printer is not printing

  • Is your printer switched on AND online?
  • Is there paper in the paper tray?
  • Are there any paper jams?
  • Are there any errors on the printer display panel?
  • Is one ( or more ) of the ink tanks empty

 

My PC shows a blue screen when starting

  • Was any new software ( including Windows updates ), recently installed?
  • Have you recently installed a new item of hardware ( including external items like scanners, memory sticks, etc. )
  • Have you recently updated any drivers or firmware?
  • Take a careful note of the STOP ERROR codes listed at the bottom of the screen and relay these in your support request

 

 

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