Sometimes you need to leave it to the pros!

I have a Mazda 5 that I love.  Yesterday I decided that I would change the cabin air filter, after all how hard could it be?  I looked the procedure up online then drove to the Mazda dealer to buy the filter then drove back home.  In my driveway I gathered my tools then started to take the various bits of interior trim off so that I could get at the filter housing.  To make a long story short it was agony!  The location was hard to reach and clearly not designed for people of my build and I definitely needed much smaller fingers to get into one or two of the screws holding the housing in place.  I did eventually get the housing disconnected and I got the filters swapped but not before I managed to hurt myself trying to contort into a position where I could gain proper access to everything.  The whole process probably took me 4 or 5 times as long as a Mazda technician would have taken.

The point I’m trying to make is that while I did, eventually, get the job done it took much longer than it should have and I hurt myself in the process.  Overall, I probably didn’t save any money by doing the job myself considering how long it took.  And I have the wrenched elbow and sore shoulder to consider, as well.  I probably should have just left the job to the pro’s.

And that is true of many things in IT, certainly it’s what I see in the SMB world where budgets are “tight”; everyone tries to do things themselves that they really should leave in the hands of the pro’s.  Two weeks ago I had a very sharp reminder of this when I was called into a customer that uses us infrequently.  Their internal network was all wonky; DNS was not working properly and they had many tales of woe about the network.  I did some digging and was horrified to find an incredibly broken Active Directory that had been “butchered” by someone that clearly didn’t have a clue about what they were doing.   A domain controller had been “deleted” — not demoted, just deleted — and there was a whole shopping list of other problems that also stemmed from the same root cause.  Worse, when we went digging about in their backups we discovered that they were backing up their Exchange but nothing else as a former network admin had confused “mirrored drives” with backup!   Aaarggh!

I spent 5 hours or so cleaning up and repairing the AD, I even had to go so far  as to replace the default GPO’s as their SYSVOL was an unholy mess.  I got them working and, not surprisingly, they tell us that things are better on the network, now, than they have been in years!  Thankfully, they had not made any real modifications to the GPO’s or they would have been in some trouble after I did the GPO rescue thing.

All of this points to having the pro’s handle the things that you really don’t understand.  There is no savings at all to doing something yourself if you honestly don’t have the knowledge or tools to accomplish the task correctly and in a timely manner.  I should have gone to the Mazda dealer and had them do the filter and my customer should have come to us long ago to handle the messed up network.  There is no shame in admitting that a task is beyond you and asking for help, especially so when we are talking about IT and Cloud services.  Things have gotten incredibly complicated and there is no substitute for having knowledge and experience in your court.

So the moral of this little story is to recognize when you are in over your head (or painfully contorted into an uncomfortable position) and hand your project over to the pro’s.  Be it the nuts and bolts of your IT internal “plumbing” or the configuration of a Site Collection in SharePoint on Office 365; the pro’s are there to help.