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The Difference between PC Support and Networking

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In this article, PC support and networking have been split into two distinct areas. The reasons for this are based upon the fact that they are two separate areas of IT, even though there may be areas in which the two are so closely related that the definitions become blurred. For the purposes of this book, PC support is defined as the task of supporting and maintaining PC hardware, workstation operating systems, and application software. Networking is defined as maintaining file servers, network operating system software, and network infrastructure components. There may be times when a PC support person is called upon to perform basic network administration tasksjust as there may be times when a network administrator is called to attend to an application software problem on a PC. Even so, the requirements for each area of IT are different, as is the knowledge needed to effectively operate in each case.

What Is a PC Technician?

Fundamentally, the term computer technician is another way of saying computer "repairman," a label not appreciated by some, but one that accurately describes the job. PC technicians are the tinkerers of the IT industry, working as much with their hands as their head. As mentioned everywhere on the internet, repair and maintenance is the avenue many IT professionals use to enter the industry, and many other IT disciplines require rudimentary troubleshooting skills. But make no mistake; good technicians who make a career of it are born not made.

Good PC support personnel are a blend of two elements: technical excellence and communicative ability. In fact, in many environments, the PC support person's ability to communicate with a client is almost, and in some cases, more important than their technical ability. Of all the career fields in IT, PC support probably requires the highest level of communication. Those who are already working as PC support technicians will tell you it is more than the ability to accurately absorb and relate information to and from a customer or client. It is more of a case of sociability.

Imagine this scenario, your car is not running properly, so you take it to a garage. When you go to the service reception, the guy behind the counter asks what's wrong with the car.Your response, depending on how much you know about cars, will range between the completely informative to "there's an odd knock." As far as you are concerned, your job is done. But this is where the good mechanic takes over by asking probing questions, such as "When does the knock happen?","How fast do you have to go to get it to make that noise?" and so on. The point is that he is doing you as much of a favor as he is himself. The more he can find out from you, the more likely he is going to find the problem. Apart from making him look good, these questions also save you money because the less time he spends on the problem the less you get charged. These are the qualities that make the difference between a good mechanic and a great mechanic.

A comparison between the mechanic and the PC support person works because of a certain commonality. PC support people, like mechanics, work with complex objects owned, used, and not understood by millions of people. Owners of cars and computers rely on specialists to fix the problems that owners cannot.

A PC support person's role differs from the mechanic's role in that generally, mechanics have the luxury of working on a vehicle without the customer sitting next to them. You have to wonder how long many mechanics would last if faced with that situation. PC support staff often have the rather unenviable task of working on equipment while the customer is looking on. This means that having excellent communication skills are even more important because you have to hold a conversation with someone while you are trying to perform a complex task. The upside is that, like a mechanic, you get to suck the air through your teeth and announce in a mock sympathetic tone how expensive the repair is likely to be.

PC support technicians interact with people to a much greater extent than their counterparts in networking, programming, and other areas of IT. This is because PC support people are the ones who maintain the "windows" to the systems operated and built by these other people in IT. Effectively, PC support people are the faces that are associated with computing in general.

The other curious characteristic associated with PC support people is that they are expected to know not just how to fix PCs, but also how to fix any other piece of technical equipment, be it a phone system, a fax machine, a video player, or a photocopier. Although it is quite reasonable to back away from these machines, most PC support people find that they are happy to undertake minor configuration and repairs as they develop a bent for fixing such devices.

As if all of these areas were not enough, PC support technicians also have to work with products that are released at a furious rate by manufacturers so impatient to get their product to market that there are invariably errors or bugs in the products. As a PC technician, you not only have to keep up with the relentless release of new products, but you also have to learn what is wrong with them.

The role of a PC support person is multifaceted. Whether it is a conflict with computer software or a hardware malfunction, eventually, you are most certainly going to encounter a problem with your computer. Sleep easy; there is help at hand.
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