Kidney Stones and IT

Nasty, horrid, painful kidney stone

If you are an agent in a small office, or an investor in a large office, you may have found a need to have someone take care of your computer systems.  Or perhaps you have fixed them yourself.  Maybe you’ve fixed them yourself and now you need someone to fix the fix.  Whatever the scenario, there are some things to think about.  These reflections came about because of my husband’s job (fixing people’s technical issues) and my urologist (fixing people’s … well, you know).

I wrote a thank you note to my new urologist this week.  I’ve never felt compelled to do so before, although I’ve had some really great doctors. 

A week before my third son was born I was alone in the evening and suddenly wracked with pain.  Terrified?  Of course.  I didn’t know any better and assumed the birth had started but had gone horribly wrong already.  I couldn’t move from the pain, couldn’t call 911, and couldn’t even get to the phone.  2 hours of sobbing later, my husband and older children returned to find me on the floor, trying hard to relax, assuming I was going to give birth on my carpet by myself, God help me.

A call to the doctor’s office and an over the phone diagnosis indicated they thought kidney stones.  By this time the pain had abated to the point where I could move and we all agreed there was nothing to be done in my pregnant state.  A week later I went into labor and the stone(s) started moving.  I could feel my contractions begin and end, but on top of it was a layer of pain I could not relax through.  8 hours into my planned natural birth, I begged for an epidural.

6 months after my son’s birth, it was deemed OK for me to have surgery.  I had a large and a smaller stone in one kidney and 3 medium sized in the other.  The urologist performed the $22,000 surgery to break up the large stone and sent me home with a list of foods not to eat, including limiting or weaning myself from milk to avoid excessive calcium intake. 

In the interim 18 years I have passed numerous small stones and a few larger ones, each time the doctors noting the continuing presence of more un-moved stones and saying, “We’ll wait until they become a problem.”  Gee thanks.

Last month it was a problem.  After a period of time feeling unwell, I sought a doctor’s advice only to find my kidney was blocked by a 9mm stone which would not pass, and I was on the verge of either me or my kidney dying.

And the thank you note?  Even when it was life threatening, she took the time to listen to me and to say, “We need to figure out why your body is doing this and get it fixed.”  At first I thought this meant another list of forbidden foods, but she explained, based on what I was saying, there was reason to pursue a metabolic workup; I exhibited symptoms of hyperparathyroidism.   She also said we needed to not have kidney stones sitting around waiting to become problems.  Her course of action was removal of all vestiges of the problem and proactively treating against reoccurrence.  As a side note, one of the possible causes of hyperparathyroidism is a prolonged deficiency of vitamin D.  The urologist 18 years ago told me to stop drinking milk, which of course is fortified with Vitamin D.  He may have actually exacerbated the problem by dealing with part of the complaint, but not fixing the system as a whole.

Wow, OK.  You’ve had some kidney stones and gone through a lot, but I’m missing the IT connection.

Fair enough.  If you’re a business with a dedicated IT department this may not apply to you, however if you are a small to medium business choosing an outsourced IT to monitor and maintain, this is critical.

A computer issue is a kidney stone.  It can sit there virtually undetected for a long time, as in a virus or Trojan.  It can be huge and potentially network killing, such as what my father did recently, deleting .net framework because he believed it an unnecessary program (I get my anti-clutter skills from my father).  Either way, by allowing the issue to exist, you will eventually have or will continue to have problems with your system.

In a closed system with a dedicated IT department, ultimately the head of the department is responsible for seeing a 10,000 feet and below triage of the system is done.  It also means the hands on engineers need to adhere to a single diagnostic vision, rather than applying individual fixes.  Training should be applied across the board so as new technologies are introduced to the system, an understanding of how those work together with existing hardware and software is already in place.

Outsourced IT relies, in the case of large organizations, on a myriad of trained professionals to watch over your files and connections.  That’s a good thing; more eyes can catch more problems.  The weakness of the system is in the fixing of those problems.  Each person who evaluates the issue will look at it with their own set of diagnostic filters and may or may not see the problem holistically.  More often than not, numerous hands on the hardware means Band-Aid fixes, for example getting the email system patched together for a couple more days until there is another failure, sometimes precipitated by the bandage just applied.

The goal of a closed department may be subtly different than an outsourced one as well.  A dedicated department seeks to have a 100% up rate with no underlying issues.  The pay of a dedicated IT team is generally not affected by outages; those are their jobs.  

An outsourced IT seeks to have happy customers, but is not entirely upset when problems arise.  These are opportunities for additional billing in the form of assistance or possibly acquisition and installation of new equipment to solve problems. 

If you, as a small or medium sized business are considering an outsourcing of your IT, questions to consider are: 

  1. What sort of training do your employees have on an ongoing basis and how frequently are these trainings?
  2. If I am a client, is there one person assigned to our account who holds absolute sway over decisions made, in other words the one person who knows our system inside and out, and the buck stops there?
  3. If our company has a dedicated IT staff, how does your outsourced portion dovetail.  Who has responsibility for decisions?
  4. Last, before you outsource, do you have a computer usage policy in place for your company which limits or prohibits employees from certain activities, such as accessing hidden files, using external input sources such as thumb drives

 Hopefully, should you outsource, you will one day be tempted to write your IT support team a thank you; good IT is definitely worth it.

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