When I wrote last September about how much the readers of this column often involve themselves in its content, I wasn't kidding.I tend to think of my correspondents as falling into one of three groups - "screamers" (complainers, usually a marketing minion at a vendor whose product didn't appear in this column), "askers" (IT-ers with good questions to ask), and "wiseguys" (IT managers and staffers with specific knowledge, who on many occasions have contributed much of whatever wisdom appears in this newsletter). Once again, a wiseguy has come through for us.In an earlier issue, I suggested some basic rules of the road for providing storage services to remote offices, and asked my readers for any other suggestions they might care to share on the topic. EP, clearly a wiseguy with a wealth of first-hand knowledge when it comes to remote office support issues, came through for us. Here is what he suggests:* If you must use tape, insist at least on an autoloader, preferably with a barcode reader, and [insist] on tapes with barcodes. Playing the mystery tape game is not fun.* Try to buy the server and the tape equipment from the same place, preferably the same vendor. This is a place where the "one throat to choke" philosophy can really help you.* Know who your real service providers are. Not the big name company with the "global presence", but whom they sub-contract work to in sparsely populated areas.* Become very educated on holidays and their local implications (especially for international remote offices) so you don't spend a couple of days trying to figure out why no one is changing tapes, answering e-mails or returning your calls.* Establish multiple levels of contacts at remote sites. If you do this, when the person who normally changes tapes is on vacation, has been let go, or leaves the company, you have somebody else at the site you can call.* If you must interact with non-IT people at a remote site, accept responsibility for any problems or issues immediately. Proving to them that they are the problem - even if it's true - will not help you in the long run. It's not like there's a long line of people clamoring for this extra bit of responsibility for which there is most likely no recognition, except when things did not go well.* Use the diagnostic tools that some vendors are providing to give you an extra level of visibility into what's really going on with the hardware.* Use whatever monitoring tools you can to let you know when events that affect the storage environment happen.* If service providers must come on site, have a well-defined process to make sure they have the appropriate level of access security to do their job. Forcing them to wait while you beg for an ID with appropriate access is frustrating.Thanks, EP, from all of us.Next time, a real world example of a tech support problem... and how it wasn't solved.*** The 2006 edition of The Great Storage Haiku Contest is now officially underway. Thus far we have entries from Asia, the United States and Down Under. The contest rules are here and you can send entries directly to me. Winning entries will appear in this column in May.