We have all seen, experienced and dealt with it. It’s a fricking nightmare. System Overloads. Crashes! The continuing spread of COVID-19 has forced far more people to work, entertain (video streaming, gaming) and learn remotely than ever before; this “new normal” has overwhelmed the Internet. This week I spent almost 3 days moving a client’s website from one hosting platform to another. Normally, this should have taken a few hours, but due to the current “normal” a problem reared its ugly head when the server restricted file size unloading. I had 500megs to upload (about 15k pages of code/images/pages) and the system only allowed 36 megs, which forced me to contract IT support. Normally this is an easy fix, but as I dialed the number for support I knew a hassle was on the horizon; I just didn’t realize how big of a hassle. I kept getting disconnected, bounced from one human to another, spoke with inexperienced humans, many working from home (so they didn’t have access to all the troubleshooting programs)…yes, three frickin’ times I had to call only to be put on ”forget”… ranging anywhere from 2-4 hours.
The last two weeks have been the worse, and this week I got many “PLEASE HELP ME!” calls. One person had been trying to fill out an EDD form for 4 days and the system kept freezing on the last page and another kept getting bounced around on a Medical Insurance site. Both were frustrated and on the verge of tears! I got both up and running within an hour.
With the CONVID-19 causing havoc, online use has increased 1000%, thus crashing systems as they become overloaded with users. Yes, I get it, you are not computer savvy, but with the info below, help is here. Remember, it not important of how it works, what is important: Understanding How the “System” Works.
With said, in laymen’s terms, it’s like trying to shove 10 lbs of fertilizer into a 5 lb bag. But fortunately, the internet is designed to do that, well content that is, not fertilizer. The key is learning how to “work the systems” to your advantage.
Most important rule: Be PATIENT, PREPARED, AND FOCUS.
BE PATIENT – getting frustrated does not help, it leads to mistakes or just flat out anger. People get pissed and start punching keys; this will throw the system into a fiery tailspin.
BE PREPARED – Have all your info in front of you. Yes, write down basic vital info like name, address, phone, and Social Security numbers. You will be surprised how many times one has a brain freeze trying to remember the last four digits of their SS number – a quick glance and you are moving forward.
BE FOCUS – Do not be in a distracting environment. No dogs or kids/spouses wanting attention, no calls, etc. The last thing you want is losing your focus when your partner/spouse wants a quickie.
UNDERSTAND HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS
Reality: You are dealing with a non-human and a very complex and technological one at that. It’s only going to be good as the person putting in the data AND like any professional, it’s only going to be as good as the programmers/developer that designed the system. The internet is NOT PERFECT! Nor will it ever be because of the never-ending changing technology. Like any other professional, you have good ones and bad ones. Face reality, some government websites are not as efficient as private ones. It is what it is so we have to learn how to deal with it. The good news there are ways to address the situation without raising our blood pressure or anger meter.
LET’S GET TO PUNCHING IN KEYs
First things first. Start with a new slate. Shut down your computer and restart – this will help dump all the files (cache) your compute will have stored. I’m guessing most have never done this. Once your computer is up and running DUMP your cache files on both computers and the internet. This is CRITICAL, and this is geekism. YOU SHOULD LEARN THIS!
Here is how you can Dump Cache on a PC and on a MAC.
Once this is all done, not only will your computer run better and faster, BUT these files you have deleted have another important use, there is a solid chance they won’t cock block you. Yes, there are many stored files on a computer that can cause havoc on some websites.
So moving forward, you have either set up the account and have logged in. Now you are ready to start answering questions, uploading info (if it’s required), and filling out forms.
Keep the System Flowing. I can’t emphasis more on, how critical this is! This keeps the computer communicating with the website, database and server. Break this protocol and it’s like stepping out of line and you go back to the end of the line. We don’t want that to happen, do we?
Once you land on the page, first thing you do is scroll down and review/read the WHOLE page. What this does is:
- It gives you an idea of what is ahead.
- It completely loads the page and locks you into it and not a piece of it.
- For some reason, you are still reading/comprehending, stuck on a question or whatever and/or spending more time looking in a file or folder to get additional info then you thought you would, KEEP THE CURSER MOVING! IT DOES NOT TAKE MUCH. All you have to do is move it a few times. What I do is draw a few circles on the window, what this does is TELL the system you are still active, and alive and well. Many systems will time out after X amount of time, and when that happens you could very well be back to square one again.
DEALING WITH “HUMAN” SUPPORT
When dealing with human support, where they will walk you through the system FOLLOW THESE GUILD LINES.
- Use a Landline, if possible, your connection will be better. If using a cell, make sure it’s on speaker or use a headset. Again be FOCUS! No distraction.
- Speak Slowly and Clearly – if you are a fast talker, LEARN to slow down.
- Use Alphabet Call Signs: When repeating anything with letters in it, always confirm the names with call signs. For example, if your name is John Doe, so to repeat/confirm I would say, first name, Jackson, Oscar, Hotel, Nevada – last name, Delta Oscar, Echo — too many times a B or C will sound like a V or vise versa.
- Be Direct and to the Point: I sorry to say this reality check, many support humans are foreigners so their English, Spanish, etc., maybe a bit hard to understand, which even makes it more critical for this. Always confirm and repeat. Always remember, they will understand you better, than you them, so it just another reason why you want to be direct; don’t bloviate and get off the subject matter. You do not need to tell them your pet lizard had baby lizards.
- Do Not Interrupt — let support finish, then asked your question. Again we go back to, not keeping in the sequences of the system. Human supporters follow a learned sequence tutorial system, let them do their job and things will move a lot smoother and faster for you.
- Take notes what they tell you if you don’t understand and they read back to them what they say. Sometimes they may say something that makes no sense whatsoever. Make sure you completely understand before you move on to the next step.
WHEN THE SYSTEM FREEZES
Okay, so everything is going well, and then typing in a form suddenly the system freezes or not loading. DON’T PANIC! BE PATIENCE! Keep the system active by moving your curser but only just a tad. Wait until you can enter the info, but after a 10 plus minutes (which seems like an eternity) nothing happens, this is usually caused by cache or systems overload (too many users online).
So now what? Start over? No, what we want to do is try and make the system get out of the cache files that have been locked into some matrix (this is usually caused by frustration/pissed where one keeps banging in info and the cache gets filled/backed up), this unlocking can be done by making the system THINK you have completed a task and moved on.
Use the back page function. When freezes happen, use the GO BACK to the previous page on your browser. What this does is start you over again. It will/should dump all data that you were just on, put you on the page you just finished and you can then (hopefully) start again by hitting the next button.
NEVER and I mean NEVER, Cut and Paste. Because of hacking, and using automatic form fills, the system is designed to see this and in some cases lock you out or cause a freeze (overloading the system with too much info at once). The System is designed to record each character impute one at a time. Take your time and do it right.
Try not to use Characters like apostrophes’, colons or commas, unless you are instructed to do so, like setting a password or entering an email (@). Do not use, Jane’s Coffee Shop, but use Janes Coffee Shop. Do not use, Janes Coffee Shop & Breakfasts. but Janes Coffee Shop and Breakfast. Characters are used in programmer’s languages and could confuse the system. For example, the php Syntax language uses commas for a function echo call (echo $string1, $string2;), so if a programmer messed up, it will cause problems. Always use the KISS theory, Keep it Simple Stupid.
Use an old Hackers trick. Old school hackers use a variety of characters and most common was the brackets ([ ]) to gain access on the login page; they will use [admin] and [password]. Without getting into the geekism, this is a short code command to get all the info that is defined inside the brackets. Interesting! Nowadays, security programmers are wise, and it will raise a red flag if someone tries it on a login page, BUT, not necessary once inside the website. You can do the same. Just add the brackets [answer to the form], and you change the direction of the command, and it could “unfreeze” you that one particular form line. This is what I did for the person whose system kept freezing on one particular line item that she was struck on for 3 days and about ready to put a gun to her head. This works about 40-50% of the time. On private websites, do not expect to have much success with this hack.
TIMING CAN BE EVERYTHING
Internet traffic is at its peak during the morning, noon, and early evening. All computer/website/servers are set up in Greenwich Mean Time Zone (GMT) format, or Think Military Time (e.g. 01:00 or 1 am, 22:30 or 10:30 pm). Since the internet operates 24/7/365, always figured the prime time is from 6 am to 6 pm. So, to use it at its lowest peak time, figured 3-5 hours before 6 am to do your thing. Okay, so getting up at 2 am may not be your cup of tea, but if you need to fill out your employment claim, and not looking forward to the nightmares you have heard about, trust me, you will get up. Just remember, you are a disadvantage if you are on the West Coast USA, you will still get traffic from those on the East Coast as the peak is coming into play on the East Coast. It’s all about timing …
All in all, using the above your online use doing these hard times will go a lot better. Best of luck and stay safe.
Special thanks to my friend Berry Lyons who review the article and added a few items.
Good information. the hackers trick was interesting.
LOL, soooo true! Nice reality post. Its obvious the author knows his shit! As a web developer, I will add, support people are like anything else, good and bad ones. Sometimes it takes serveral calls to get to the one most knowledgable on the problem. And do not forget to thank them when your problem is resolved. Thanks for the post.