Help us help you!

HPC clusters sometimes behave in a strange way, and can make you wonder what is going on. We, the system admins are there to help, but the way you ask for help will have a significant impact on the time it takes to reach the solution.

Here are five tips you can follow to help us help you the best we can.

Tip 1: Start with your due diligence.

Before you reach out, try to understand the problem ; ready any error message carefully, look for bits you understand in all the gibberish. Submit the error message to your favorite search engine and look for possible solutions online. And of course make sure our documentation does not have the answer already. Be careful with LLM (e.g. ChatGPT) as they provide look-alike answers, most often not suitable on a HPC infrastructure.

Tip 2: Use the correct channel

Always use the channel setup by the admins: it could an online form, a generic support email address, a Gitlab issue, etc.

Do not send emails directly to individual members of the support team it compartmentalizes information, and you can never be sure the person you are trying to reach is currently available at all.

Tip 3: State the general goal

Make sure to explain where you were going when you faced the problem. This way we get the big picture and maybe will offer a better approach than the one you are currently stuck with. Also if there are multiple solutions, it can help us suggest the most appropriate one for your case.

Tip 4: provide all important information ("five W")

  • Who: what is your login?
  • What: what job ID, what file, what modules?
  • When: on which date, at what time?
  • Where: which cluster, which directory?
  • Why: what is the problem?

It can be obvious to you but obscure to us. The time we spend guessing or discovering that information is not spend finding a solution.

Tip 5: give the exact error

Often an error message, is the key to the solution. Copy paste the text of the error message and include it in your support request. Do not send screenshots of text! It can adversely interfere with the ticketing system, and prevent us from easily copy/pasting the message


The five gold steps to a successful support request:

  1. Due Diligence
  2. Correct Channel
  3. General Goal
  4. Important Information
  5. Exact Error