Thoughts on Correlating data when troubleshooting

Let’s face it; troubleshooting can be quite painful, and if you find yourself troubleshooting a production issue, chances are it’s impacting normal business operations. There are no recipes for troubleshooting, and one person’s approach is usually quite different from another. And even if a problem reoccurs, the first troubleshooting technique may be quite different from subsequent procedures. I believe that exceptional troubleshooters seek knowledge when finding a solution to an unfamiliar issue. The knowledge gained serves as a tool used to troubleshoot recurring problems. Additionally, these problems and solutions are documented and made transparent to the business.

Correlation is your best friend

There is one common aspect of exceptional troubleshooters, and that is the ability to correlate data across several metrics. Correlation gives you the ability to find a pattern across different data points holistically. In some cases, it could you lead you to discover more pain points in the application, resulting in a proactive approach to fix problems before the ceiling hits the fan. Correlation helps you define a paradigm of the problem, which allows you to resolved reoccurring issues at a much faster pace. Correlation provides you with a thorough knowledge of the problem and enables you to use different approaches to fix the issue. Being flexible while troubleshooting a problem gives you a unique advantage compared to those individuals who reply and playbooks or tech articles to fix an issue.

Errors can be misleading

In this day and age, application errors can be quite misleading, which may lead you down a path of frustration – sometimes you feel like going off the grid for a few weeks. One such error which is quite prevalent with SQL Server is “Login failed for user ‘xx.’ Reason: Password did not match that for the login provided.” An experienced SQL Server professional may first check if “Mixed Mode Authentication” is enabled. And while that could be a valid solution to this issue, SQL Server could also throw the same error due to memory pressure on the server. The point I want to get across is don’t jump to conclusions until you are undoubtedly sure of the reason(s) and the solution(s) to the problem.

Maintain your professionalism

As a professional, you don’t want to make a rookie mistake and seem incompetent to your peers. And you don’t want your business leaders to implicate you as someone who often uses poor judgment. Whether under pressure or not, it’s quite reasonable to let end users and clients know that you haven’t yet found a solution to the problem. I know this can be quite stressful, especially when a client is expecting an incident report. However, your work is a reflection of your professionalism; it’s what others use to judge you; so don’t be afraid to confidently speak up if you haven’t found the solution to the problem.

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