Expect the unexpected #UserSupport

I’m finally getting around to doing another blog and here we are, just past the end of week 18 and midway through week 19 since the start of lockdown and the “new normal” can you believe it?


In some ways, it seems so long ago since those early days in March but in others, it seems like no time ago at all. I do count myself lucky though to have had a job to do throughout which has helped to keep me sane and exceptionally busy Mon-Fri. I realise others have not been so lucky and for them, I spare a thought.

I mentioned in my last update about how here @ Datactics we were considering how a return to the office may look and I am happy to report that after a lot of hard work across all teams and a lot of measuring and re-measuring we have been able to run a successful pilot week and subsequently move to a 3-week rota basis for getting people back in the office.

For those still considering a return, I would say do not underestimate how much work there is in the project and to plan accordingly and be willing to change and roll along with trials and errors. For us the return has worked well, our distancing measures along with all necessary COVID-19 precautions have been taken and those that have returned to the office already have enjoyed it and reported no issues. We will of course continue to monitor the situation and to take on board feedback from all staff as more return on our rota basis.

What has all this meant for the support function well thankfully not much has changed for us in this new “hybrid” model of working. Well first off I would just like to point out that coming back into the office in a controlled and structured way was much simpler than the rush back in March to implement an un-tested BCP plan! The move to WFH was filled with unknowns and a few sleepless nights whereas coming back thanks to the work of the RTO Team was seamless.

Outside of that, user support has remained steady (consuming roughly 60-70% of the teams time) and project work has been able to kick on as well.

I do have to say though that this period has brought probably my most interesting user/laptop issue in my over 20+ years of IT! Now I will leave the user nameless to save the shame but let me ask all other IT guys out there, have you ever had a user set their laptop on fire atop a gas stove? Well, turns out we have!

The most interesting user/laptop issue in over 20 years of my IT experience: a burnt laptop!

Now thanks to our quick thinking user, disaster was averted by them heroically grabbing the singeing laptop and throwing it into the freezer (feel free to facepalm at this point) and well surprisingly enough the laptop does actually still work! Says something for the Dell build quality 😊 Pic inserted above for the unbelievers.

As mentioned our project work has been continuing thanks to the assistance of Paddy and we are now starting to look at the fun side of things in how we can automate some processes and start to move along in our DevOps story. Early reports indicate that the work done to date has increased speeds across the development processes and I hope that with more automation we will make even more gains. As with all things in IT processes, there is always more room for improvement.

Other infrastructure improvements have continued as well and we continue to tinker with and improve our Commvault/Wasabi DP/DR along with early testing all of which has proved successful. We have also recently kicked off another project one which hopes to see us obtain the NCSC Cyber Essentials certification – This is a massive undertaking but I know the team is up to the challenge and we look forward to what we can learn and adapt during the project.

In other good news, I was able to bring a Dell XPS 13 back from the dead 😊 Some open laptop surgery was performed, a hard reset completed and then an OS reinstall later and it lives. I have to say there was a certain sense of satisfaction in getting it going again and getting back to my IT roots of hardware repairs.

It’s hard to believe that it’s coming up on one year since I joined the team here @ Datactics and looking back over the improvements made across the companies infrastructure its impressive to see how far we have come. Adopting new cloud technologies, deploying new on-prem technology and bringing both together seamlessly into the start of the Datactics Hybrid Infrastructure has seen a lot of hard work, some long weeks and a massive team effort. And from here well Yazz (showing my age) put it best, “the only way is up”! My thanks again go to Alex, our CTO, and all senior board members for their support and as already mentioned, Paddy. Not to forget that all of this has been accomplished mostly during the lockdown of 2020!

What about the fun side of work? Well, thanks to a committed social committee, Datactics remains a great place to work and play 😊 Of late, mind you, I would also add a competitive place to work.

Club commute along the Lagan Towpath

The start-up of our Datactics Riders and Runners club has been bringing out the competitive side in us all and Strava segment times are now a daily topic of conversation. Even in these early days, there are some scores to be settled with Marcus looking to take Matt on a few local segments. We have also managed to fit in a club commute along the Lagan Towpath which was good craic and hopefully the start of more to come.

Mourne mountains
Mourne mountains

In regards to my own downtime well I have been continuing to enjoy getting out on the bike (for non-commute rides), walks in the Mournes and now that the restrictions allow it: more meetups with friends and family. I have also added some more on the Bugatti build and hope to finish that off soon.

Lego Bugatti
Lego Bugatti set

Its been a great Lego build and I recommend it to anyone. My local coffee roastery trials have also continued with the latest edition from Belfast Coffee Roasters whom I highly recommend – The Foundry Blend is amazing.

Belfast Coffee Roasters
Foundry blend from Belfast Coffee Roasters

I have also been lucky to be able to buy some new gadgets over these past few weeks as well – My new cordless lawnmower is great craic (I especially love how it revs up and down depending on the thickness of grass) and this last week I got a Wahoo Element Bolt. Great piece of kit though it is very likely to make me even more competitive as I now get my Strava segments live and can see how hard I need to push…

Hopefully you own adventures continue and if any of you are lucky enough to get away on a stay or vacation I trust it goes well and that you all stay safe (and of course distant).

Right, coffee time. Back at home this week so more choices including a surprise addition of some Café Grumpy courtesy of delivery from a New York-based friend – Big shout out to Stefan.

Until next time. Stay safe and well. Dave

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