More stupider user tricks: IT horror stories

Take heed; lessons await

Trick No. 5: Green is great unless it's due to nausea

Incident: This came from a sysadmin who worked for one of our consulting clients. A senior exec went on a green kick. Everything had to be recycled, including old PCs. Unfortunately, instead of talking to reps from each department on how to handle this, the exec simply designated a team of buddies to dole out tasks, which meant that a non-IT staffer was in charge of PC hardware recycling.

To be fair, the guy did his job. He calls a local agency that places decently configured, used PCs in local schools. This outfit even takes care of picking them up; all they want are machines with fully wiped hard disks so that their volunteer techs can install student versions of Windows.

The plan looks good. As the hardware lifecycle on a batch of old machines comes up, new ones are purchased, and the old ones are designated for the recycling bin. Unfortunately, with all the work of a hardware migration in front of them, the company's IT guys are more interested in the new ones than in wiping the old ones. So they just stack the old ones in the downstairs storage room next to the loading dock with a sign on them saying, "To be recycled." What that sign should have said was: "Leave alone until we say otherwise, or die."

The non-IT exec sees the PC heap and calls for a weekend pickup. On Monday all the PCs are gone, but the IT guys are so busy with the new stuff that they don't even notice until Tuesday afternoon.

Fallout: These poor weenies had to chase the PCs all the way to the processing center, find them amid a few hundred others, and perform the hard disk wipes there. That, or get fired.

Moral: If you're worried about local data safety, then pound the priority into your IT staffers' heads. Maybe make a few of them roll to make your point.

Trick No. 6: Don't bail on e-mail

Incident: A case for covering your rear end when it comes to server support, submitted once again by the highly popular "Name Withheld." According to Mr. Withheld, "We normally have an admin rotation for server problems on the weekends. But this time the staff was smaller because we'd just lost two techs in a single week. Both left to go to other jobs. I could have called an outside outfit to cover us on the weekend, but I just didn't make the time, and by Friday it was too late." Seems Mr. Withheld had plans for the weekend, as did his last remaining tech staffer. So he figured, "What the hell, we haven't had a problem in several months. It'll be okay."

Well it wasn't. One of his road-warrior execs left on Friday for a vacation. He knew enough to set an away message on his e-mail and to forward those e-mails to his home e-mail address. According to Withheld, this was back in the days of 10MB e-mail stores for most ISPs, and the exec forgot that his was almost full. The e-mails he gets Friday afternoon quickly fill up his home ISP account almost to capacity.

Saturday morning the exec's dad sends him an e-mail message with a dirty joke in it -- including explicit language. Withheld's e-mail server kicks off a delivery failure e-mail complete with a copy of the original e-mail, which goes to the exec's home ISP account. That's full now, so it in turn kicks off a delivery failure message of its own. Theirs has a copy of the e-mail in it, too. Boom, you've got an e-mail loop. Back and forth, "I can't deliver your message."

Withheld's e-mail server's disks fill up pretty quick after that, but neither he nor the other tech figure it out very quickly because both are frolicking away from their beepers. By the time they do figure it out, it's in the wee hours on Sunday morning, and Withheld winds up cutting his weekend short to drive all the way back to the office and take care of things.

Fallout: The company set up a better remote management package for all its servers and eliminated the ability for users to forward their own e-mail. "Instead we give them Web access to their office accounts."

Moral: Murphy is a mean mother. If he's got a chance to get you, he will. So take the time to cover yourself with the support staff you need. It's not like there aren't competent techs out there looking for work -- even part-time.Â

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Oliver Rist

InfoWorld
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