Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Problems with CG3000DCR Cable Gateway

There isn't a whole lot of info out there for this issue outside of a well done YouTube video by Christian McDonald and a few Comcast Community forum posts so I wanted to make sure people hear about this problem. We'd been having some problems with our Comcast service for a few days and the techs decided it would be a good idea to try a different modem. We had an older SMC gateway (SMCD3G) that has been a workhorse model for Comcast for a number of years now. We got the latest and greatest business gateway they had locally - a Netgear CG3000DCR.

Speeds were pretty good with it right away but that very same day we had a number of HTTP/HTTPS timeouts. That stuff happens so I wasn't too concerned but over the next couple of days it became an issue that was not going away. After some investigation we discovered 2 things - The most brief outages were simply HTTP timeouts that were inexplicable. The longer outages were happening because the modem would reboot itself from time to time.

Latency was also an issue. HTTP traffic would be fast for established connections but establishing a new connection was very slow. This was not the case for PCs connected to a public network we have for some public terminals. Internet there was lightning fast and new connections were very fast. Our setup was very similar to that YouTube video I linked to above - one firewall static IPs through the Netgear, the other firewall DHCP through the Netgear.

Firmware was the latest 1.32.03. Signal was good from Comcast and configuration was a direct copy from the old SMC gateway. Everything really pointed to the static IP problems others are complaining about with the Netgear. This morning a tech stopped by to put an SMCD3G back in. As soon as it was hooked up all our problems went away. Fast internet, low latency, no timeouts.

So beware the Netgear CG3000DCR for now. I think it's just fine if your firewall is configured with DHCP on the WAN. For those of you with static public IPs stick with the SMC gateways for now.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dangers of IT Exceptionalism

After reading a tweet by Joe The IT Guy the other day I got to thinking about IT Exceptionalism and the dangers of that state of mind. Here's how that conversation went:

I think I understand what Joe was getting at and I don't completely disagree with him. What I believe is that allowing a disconnect between "colleagues" and "IT" by dehumanizing them to "customer" is a hazardous move. Instead of addressing how we provide service we've instead constructed barriers and disconnected ourselves from the people we're supposed to be helping. Touchy-feely, kumbya, blah, blah. I know.

IT has spent too much time separate from the business. Business leaders still struggle with how to deal with IT and technology because they still don't understand that IT is part of their business infrastructure not some money pit a bunch of nerds constructed. Problem is that IT has liked the autonomy and power that go with maintaining the technology black box. The nerds enforced a power stalemate with the popular jocks that were in the executive suite. 

The other problem, as I see it, is that IT has a uniquely global view of the enterprise. Often times the only other group of employees that have that view is executives (and facilities maintenance...don't underestimate how much they know about your business!). This perspective and the fact that business leaders don't understand IT has spawned a feeling of IT Exceptionalism that at times feels like its infected IT industry-wide.

Considering our co-workers, or even users in general, as "Customers" really minimizes the roll that they play in IT's success and widens the chasm that already exists between IT and the business interests it serves. There's obviously an appropriate time to consider users "Customers - when the core function of the business is providing IT services. Obviously, as an IT admin you're dealing with customers in the truest sense in that scenario.

When we need an analogy for IT-types to understand good service we seem to always go with the "customer" one for some reason. As customers, do we experience good service because we're customers? Often we do not. Customer service is not the purpose of the business unless for some reason the business has decided it is how it will differentiate itself (I'm totally ripping off +Rob England  here). Profitability is the real purpose. So we're asking IT to treat users as business does - Like sheep to be fleeced and dealt with begrudgingly.

Business can ignore, mistreat, under-deliver, and otherwise abuse customers as long as customers continue to pay. IT has acted that way with users and colleagues all too often in the past and it worked because there was no other way to do things without IT. Now in the days of BYOD, shadow IT, and cloud services IT can be bypassed and users and colleagues are doing the end-run in droves.

Perhaps instead of considering users as "Customers" we should treat them as co-workers, friends, fellow humans, lovers, family. Whatever it takes to have empathy and patience with them. To treat the people we are helping with respect and kindness. We need to understand service and learn what it means to serve. We have a great chance to have a positive impact on our fellow humans in IT. It's always "Service as an Opportunity" - SaaO.

Friday, November 1, 2013

SaaO or Service as an Opportunity

Let's bring it down for just a little bit. Many people who read my stuff are big into IT service and specifically IT Service Management. Let's talk a little about the service thing a little here. We all know it's important, but why service? Why did you choose to be in service?

I just went through a staff meeting where the topic was change. The employee assistance program folks were talking about how to deal with change and how the grieving process applies to our coping with change. Almost every change scenario they discussed involved an information system of some sort. As the IT guy in the room it felt uncomfortably targeted. If Information Systems causes this much grief why did any of us get into it?!

Service is really important. There's a service component in many belief systems or religions. We have service to country, serving as board member, public service. A high value is often placed on service.

A friend who's active with youth in a faith setting posted a Halloween message on Facebook with "A chance to serve" by trick or treating for donations to the local food shelf. I loved the excitement in the post - It was a chance to have fun and contribute to a service that is very needed in the community. Double the reward.

That's just it: Every chance to serve is an opportunity - an opportunity to have an impact on another person. Many people go into IT because they're "good with computers" or they're the super technical types. There's certainly a place for that. What's really needed, however, is people that come into IT because they're good with people. IT is really about the people first, technology second and when you understand the impact you can have on people through your service...well, that's when the magic starts to happen.

When that user calls for the umpteenth time about an issue I'm completely sick of I think of the opportunity I have. We're doing IT to serve.