What if you stopped doing the things that are keeping you busy?

I was attending one of my weekly community group meetings last week when something came up that surprised me. It was tangentially related to my assertion and fact, that RMM tools aren’t necessary and that my MSP doesn’t subscribe to one. In the main, my premise is and always has been, that always on remote access is dangerous. However, that leaves the other parts of RMM. We do them, we just do them differently.

In the group, the topic of updates and alerts came up. How do I deal with those? Specifically, what about full hard drive alerts?

This isn’t the first time that I have been asked a question about this specific alert type. The first time I said, we don’t care. Full hard drives are not a thing anymore. In response I was met with incredulousness. In return, I double checked myself.

I surveyed the support tickets my staff completes. I could not find a reference to a full hard drive as far back as that data goes, which is 2009 for our current ticketing system. Because of the seriousness of the objection to me saying that we don’t care about full hard drives because they don’t happen, at our next staff meeting, I raised the question.

When is the last time that a clients’ hard drive filled up?

Crickets. I waited. More crickets. Finally, someone thought of one and someone thought of another but neither were on machines that we managed. They were edge cases on machines that were not under management but part of someone’s home. I clarified. Crickets. Finally…ummm, maybe 2010 ish? This validated what I had seen in our tickets. It was in fact pre-2009 but none of us can remember exactly when. It’s been a long, long, time since full hard drives have been anything that we spent time on. They simply don’t fill up.

Why don’t hard drives fill up anymore?

I remember the days when hard drives would occasionally fill up. In response we implemented folder redirection. Desktop, Document, Photos, Music and Favorites shifted their storage over to the server. That more or less took care of the problem but still it would happen now and then. Then music sharing services became mainstream, people began plugging in their iPhones into their computer and it would automatically download their photo libraries, movies and music. The redirected folder would fill up either the local drive or the server drive or both! Music sharing services came into vogue around the same time. It was a big mess.

We responded by blocking the download of those things. If you want music, great keep it on your phone! We blocked the files types. If there’s a business need to download photos, then we’ll set up a photo sharing library for the purpose. But we can’t tolerate personal data taking up hard drive space, causing downtime and costing the company money.

What if we had a different response? We could have increased the size of the hard drives on local computers, we could have setup alerts so we could jump in and disrupt the persons day instead of letting their drive fill up. We could have sold them more drive space on the server and then probably also a bigger backup system. If we did either of those things, then we’d still be responding to hard drive almost full alerts today.

Responding to full hard drive alerts doesn’t make us valuable

Do customers appreciate that you don your cape and fly in to solve a problem, perhaps even before it occurs? No they don’t. You’ve told them that full hard drives happen and that’s why they need you. If you’re lucky they don’t know that, that isn’t true. The computers could be managed differently to eliminate the problem. But they don’t know that. They might appreciate that you’re there for them but that doesn’t prevent them from being unhappy that the issue occurred in the first place, even if they don’t understand that preventing the problem is even an option for them.

What does make us valuable?

This problem of the full hard drive can be characterized in a few ways

  • Getting to the root of the problem
  • Making a decision based on the exception
  • Not confident that they’ll still find you valuable if they aren’t calling the helpdesk

Each of those is a blog post unto itself. I’ll try to summarize. Anytime you see three calls for the same issue, you should put the teams heads together and ask,

  • How can we make this stop?
  • What policy can we put place? Either physical or textual
  • Do we need to educate the end user?

How can we make this stop is the one critical question you should always be asking as a proactive MSP. That question is the very definition of what is means to be an MSP. That is the proactive answer. Getting to the root of every problem is what you should be doing. And don’t worry about the exceptions. Deal with them as exceptions!

To the question, what does make us valuable and for people concerned that if your client isn’t calling your helpdesk that they won’t find you valuable, you need to develop your service offering to focus on what the business will benefit from. Think business outcomes, not just keeping people working. That’s a fine baseline, but it’s not enough. This issue is really a corollary to my older blog post, We’ll get fired if a client can’t print but just because they can print doesn’t mean that we’ll keep them as a client. You could change a couple of words to make it, We’ll get fired if hard drives keep filling up but just because they don’t doesn’t mean that we’ll keep them as a client.

Why is this? Because a full hard drive or a working printer, is a tiny annoyance to a business. They will get rid of an annoyance but they won’t hire you or keep you because you respond to the annoyance. They will keep you because you eliminate the annoyance as a matter of course and you focus on what does matter to them. What matters to business today and what they expect from IT is to bring value, hard dollars to their business, in the form of increased productivity, education, and teaching them to be more successful using the technology that you’ve brought to them. Add security and stability to that and you’ll have a client for life that doesn’t mind spending any dollar amount to keep the good things happening for their business. Just don’t let them see you spinning your wheels constantly chasing down things that in their heart they suspect just shouldn’t be happening at all.

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