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Fixing IT When You’re Not An IT Expert

What do you do when the Internet goes down? Or a computer keeps crashing? These mini-crises are common at small nonprofits and often there’s no one with an IT background to help. How do you stay calm and keep your organization carrying on?


* Get Prepared: Before an incident occurs, you can help yourself by making sure you have what you need to troubleshoot an issue. Gather all of the documentation. Make sure all that of your vendor contacts, account numbers, hardware and software manuals, documentation of past incidents, and network diagram are organized and easy to find.


Label your equipment. It’s handy to include information such as when the device was purchased and who supports it. You might also consider labeling, which wires go to which work station and what’s in your server closet.


Here are a few steps that will help you get to the root of most IT issues when issues arise:


* Identify the problem: Start with the obvious. Is a cable unplugged? Did the printer run out of paper or get jammed?


* Isolate the Issue: Once the simplest issues are eliminated, start asking yourself questions to get to the source. For example, is the problem affecting everyone or just one staff member? Is there a pattern? Has anything else unusual occurred recently?


* Consider the most common solutions: You might not know exactly what’s wrong, but if you can isolate the issue to a single source, the problem can be fixed by taking simple actions such as rebooting a computer or router.


* Google it: It’s likely you’re not the only one dealing with this issue. Many IT forums and blog posts take questions and provide answers. Vendors might also provide FAQs with the answer you need.


* Have a go-to IT consultant: Sometimes the problem is bigger than what you can handle, there’s someone you can call. It could be a volunteer who has agreed to help with IT issues, but most likely, especially if you need the issue addressed quickly, you’ll need to reach out to an IT consultant, preferably someone who knows you and your organization.


Once you’ve figured out a solution, make sure you or your colleagues will know exactly what to do next time. Keep an IT log and record the symptoms of the problem and what you did to fix it. Make sure to include any codes or error messages that pop up.

As we celebrate our 36th year, NPT remains dedicated to supplying breaking news, in-depth reporting, and special issue coverage to help nonprofit executives run their organizations more effectively.