In each column, The Support Authority discusses resources, tools, and other elements of IBM Technical Support that are available for WebSphere products, plus techniques and new ideas that can further enhance your IBM support experience.
January is a popular time to wipe the slate clean. We see it with New Years resolutions, the baseball season, taxes, and countless other things, as a way to start something new or start something over. "Let's just start from scratch and see what happens this time." It's a way to set new goals and to erase any little snags that might have gotten in the way of achieving our objectives.
Hopefully, 2007 was a good year for you. If you're human, you probably hit a glitch or two here and there, but regardless, it's natural to want 2008 to be an even better one. But is starting over really the best way to kick things off?
Yes and no.
It's energizing to begin with a clean slate without any drag from the past, but it can be dangerous to not acknowledge where we stumbled and make corrections along the shiny new path ahead. So, the question is: Will you actively take steps to influence your results by increasing your odds for success, or will you simply leave it all to fate?
The latter choice is the easy one, and certainly you want to hope for the best. But why leave it to chance when it's within your power to do something about it? Education is a big part of that, learning about new technologies, products, industries, and so on, for the purpose of professional growth. But so is learning from our mistakes and from the mistakes of others, and being aware of the conditions and limitations of the things that we work with on a regular basis -- and knowing what to do when we encounter them.
To you and me, that means troubleshooting.
Actually, it's the "knowing what to do" part that freaks people out. That doesn't necessarily mean fixing the problem. Rather, it's about having a general plan of attack and knowing how or where to go to get help, which is always a guaranteed step toward a solution. Did you encounter any situations last year that could have been prevented or less painful if you had a better handle on how to attack the problem?
Because our goal is your success, IBM provides many (many, many) product support resources. Perhaps you've noticed. Perhaps also you have found it a challenge finding exactly the information or type of assistance you needed to get your problem solved. If so, you're not alone. It is for this reason that last year we launched The Support Authority, a recurring feature in the IBM WebSphere Developer Technical Journal, to help you with, well, getting help on WebSphere products.
Since The Support Authority debuted this time last year, over a dozen IBM subject matter and support experts have brought to light many primary and lesser-known methods, tools, and other resources you can use to obtain help on WebSphere products. Articles have described how to use free troubleshooting tools that are available to you, tips for problem determination and for engaging with IBM Support, next steps to take, and more. The response from customers -- and even from other IBMers -- has been positive and encouraging, and so we are happy to see The Support Authority effort continue through 2008, beginning with new topics in February.
Until then, this is a great opportunity for you be proactive, take stock, and stack the cards in your favor by filling up your bag of tricks with tools and information to help you overcome any project difficulties that may have slowed you down last year. Take a few minutes now to leverage the information offered by last year's contributors. Even if you do nothing other than bookmark these articles, you will be that much more prepared if and when something happens. But do more than that: Retaining even one key tip from this column could make the difference between a small "oops" and a major catastrophe.
In case you missed (or forgot about) any of the things that were covered this past year, here are a few key ones you should go back and take another look at:
From free to personalized, you should know your options, which level is available to your organization, and how to initiate support when you need it.
The IBM Support Assistant knows where everything is so you don't have to. It's a free tool you can use as you as a front end to all other support resources. It searches multiple knowledge respositories, communicates with IBM Support Specialists, facilitates upgrades, and even includes a set of specialized problem determination tools.
Sure, it's good for your project and your career, but the more you know, the better your chances of solving a related problem. Education is available in the form of Web-based, remote, and traditional classes, tuitorials on developerWorks, and more, much of which is free.
You're reading this article, which is a good first step, but here is a list of 12 ways you can prepare your environment for maximizing your ability to solve problems fast.
The proof is in this list of 10 troubleshooting tools -- all of which you should pile in your bag -- that, technically, aren't even all tools. Some are are scripts, some are articles, all of them deserve a look.
You can be notified whenever there is important new information on any of your IBM products so you can know as soon as possible if there is an issue that affects you.
Of course, there's more. You can browse all the Support Authority columns -- and all the other IBM WebSphere Developer Technical Journal articles from last year -- on the Tech Journal archive page
Yes, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of support material that's available, but problems are bound to occur at some point, so why not be ready for them? Keeping an eye on The Support Authority will help you face 2008 with more confidence and less worry.
Finally, my thanks and gratitude to Stacy Joines and Dan Julin, whose inspiration and commitment launched the idea for this recurring column. Additional thanks to Dan for suggesting topics, recruiting authors, and keeping our readers up to date on the very latest offerings from the IBM support community.
The Support Authority: If you need help with WebSphere products, there are many ways to get it
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