First Published on May 29, 2015 on Ex Creators

You’ve heard me say this time and time again but I can’t stress it enough. No Platform is Bulletproof. Something is likely to go wrong at some point in the life of your online community. Having a strong support system is vital but knowing how to troubleshoot and resolve your own network issues will give you an invaluable edge that will translate into having a more productive and successful network. The tips provided in this article transcends all platforms.

So let’s get started…you’ve detected a bug.

WHAT’S NEW?
Detect an issue? Take a pause then hit the rewind button. The resolution to your problem may be as simple as undoing the very last change you made (e.g,  adding custom codes or a plugin).

CATCH IT AS IT HAPPENS
Always perform a thorough check of your network after implementing changes. Make sure all components are functioning as they should. Test blog and forum posting, photo, music and video uploads if applicable. Test messaging, replies etc, etc. This can be a very tedious process but the rewards can be great.

Catching issues as they happen makes finding a resolution to a problem a lot easier but problems can sometimes go unnoticed for extended periods of time and that can make it real difficult to find the source. When this happens, work backwards and undo any and all recent changes to see if the issue goes away.

LOG IT
Keeping a log of changes made throughout your network will help identify the cause of issues that goes unnoticed. Keep  a log of:

  • What was Changed
  • The Date Changes were Made
  • What the Change is Supposed to Achieve

BACK IT UP
Get into the habit of making a complete backup of your site before implementing major changes.  You should at least backup the database or at the very minimum, save a copy of the file you’re about to change before applying any changes.   If the backup and restore feature isn’t native to your platform find a third party plugin with a successful track record to get the job done. A quick note – you should avoid making direct changes to template files as much as possible. Implement changes to  codes via child themes (if available) or via code override mediums such as designated areas for code injection. Doing this will make it easier to undo changes if necessary. It also protects your customization from being overwritten in the event of a software or template/theme update.

THIRD PARTY PLUGINS – THEY DON’T ALWAYS PLAY NICE
Third party plugins can be awesome. They often compensate for a platform shortcomings but they can cause major headaches. A lot of the bugs I’ve dealt with are too often traced back to the installation of a third party plugin. Sometimes their codes conflict with other third party plugins and themes/templates. Again, backing up your network before implementing changes is always a good idea. Don’t forget to check around for issues after installing a plugin.  “Bugs” caused by plugins can easily be fixed by deactivating the offending plugin. If you’re unable to pinpoint the plugin causing the issue, deactivate all non essential plugins one at a time and check to see if the issue still exists with each plugin deactivated. Delete your browser’s cache to make certain you’re not viewing a cached page. Be sure to get help  immediately from the author/provider of any plugin that conflicts with you core platform elements.

BUGS THAT AREN’T REALLY BUGS
A large percentage of the so called “bugs” I’ve helped resolve aren’t bugs at all. Misunderstood, badly configured and or overlooked network settings can often mimic the effects of a pesky bug. Check your settings occasionally to make sure they’re configured correctly. Installing certain software updates or plugins can sometimes reset configuration values back to default. Reset global permissions can interfere with preferences individually set by your network members.

SEARCH HELP DOCUMENTS AND FORUMS
Chances are the problems you’re experiencing isn’t unique to your network. Others may have experienced the same problems and may have already found resolutions. Searching through available help documents and support forums may provide answers and fixes. Doing a quick Google search may also help your efforts.

There are times when even the most savvy network owner/administrator fall short in their attempt to resolve issues with their networks. These are the times a good support system comes in handy. Whether or not you’re getting one on one support or community help it’s a good idea to provide your support agent with the best information at hand.

EXPEDITE YOUR SUPPORT TICKET
When creating a support ticket provide the staff with as much relevant information as possible. Make mention of all corrective measures you took to eliminate the ongoing issue. Doing this will ensure that you’re not provided with a reply asking you to try what you’ve already done. Provide screen shots and highlight the issues whenever possible.

It’s a good idea to include your log-in credentials in a support ticket if the support technician is trusted and has requested and granted such information in the past. As an alternative (best practice), you may create a special account (with a strong password) and give that account just enough administrative powers to access the sections of the site where access is needed to troubleshoot and resolve a particular issue. You can provide tech support with the credentials of that account should they need to gain administrative access to your network. Demote the created account to a regular user when not in use.

Troubleshooting Your Online Network

Following these tips may not solve all your problems but they’ll sure help you keep network downtime and headaches to a minimum by ensuring that bugs are squashed before they are allowed to fester and wreak havoc on your network.

TDB
Ex Creators Dot Com

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Great guide, thanks a lot for sharing!

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