More stupider user tricks: IT horror stories

Take heed; lessons await

Trick No. 9: One plan to rule them all

Incident: G. Myers was overseeing a full office migration -- at least from an IT perspective. The company was building a new office site in a nearby town over from the old one. As usual in these situations, the IT staff is tasked with making sure all the data, voice, fax, and other ports are wired to the appropriate drops in the appropriate numbers. According to Myers, everything gets drawn out to painful detail on the blueprints: dual data; single or dual voice depending on where you are; each drop located and numbered. Everyone checks off, the contractors are happy, and the site is built out. Finally, the electricians and cable guys come in and do the drops.

This is where the fun starts. The operations manager, who is definitely the boss in this scenario, says he does a walkthrough, checking everything against the blueprints. The IT guys are not given permission to take a day and go check the drops. The ops manager gives the OK; the walls are closed, and painters are called in. Organ music plays ominously in the background.

Worried, Myers goes to see the CEO a few days later under the cover of good-naturedly asking for a better office at the new site. The blueprints are in the CEO's office, spread out on his mini-conference table. Myers gets to look them over and starts asking questions about the state of the wiring. Things seem to check out, but then he notices a big red circle around a research lab room with a note saying, "No data."

Myers shows it to the CEO, the CEO calls in the ops guy, and all three of them stand around scratching their heads. They call someone on-site at the new office; sure enough, this room received no data drops of any kind -- and originally it was supposed to receive just less than 40. They circle back with the contractor and the architect. It turns out a senior marketing guy thought that room said "Research Library" and decided that it didn't need data jacks -- which still doesn't make sense, but who's complaining? He decided to mark it that way and nobody checked twice.

Fallout: A busted budget. The walls had to be reopened, new cables run -- the works.

Moral: Always, always double- and triple-check important plans being implemented by contractors. That or don't let them have access outside of project manager supervision.

Trick No. 10: Porn filters: Use 'em

Incident: A friend gave me this one, and yet another surprising story because it happened only four years ago. A senior management executive calls a status meeting in his office with two midlevel managers, both of whom are female, one of whom has a law degree. The senior guy has a large office, with a small, four-person meeting table at one end near the window and his large desk and credenza at the other. He's set up his desk so that his work area faces the interior of the office. His PC is located directly behind him on the credenza so that he has to turn around to use it. The screen faces the interior of the office. Stage set.

He sets up the meeting so that the two women are at the far end of the meeting table, facing his desk; he's on the other side of the table, desk behind him. The meeting goes along fine until his screensaver comes on. Apparently, he'd had it set to "slideshow," with the picture library coming from a rather extensive collection of XXX, all-action-all-the-time porn he'd been collecting off the Internet. The women don't know what to do, so they just finish the meeting trying to stare at the tabletop as much as possible. Then they trek out of his office as quickly as they can before he notices what's playing behind him.

Three days later, the second female manager files suit. They settle. The senior guy gets a talking-to -- but doesn't get fired. (Wow!) So, my friend gets called in to discuss the purchase of technology that might prevent this kind of problem in the future. My friend explains that the company's SonicWall appliance already has that capability built-in. Management calls the company's IT guy, and he explains that he was told not to turn that function on by, surprise, the very senior exec who had his porn slideshow rolling. At this point, the CEO is grimacing, massaging the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. He needs Advil.

Fallout: The SonicWall anti-porn filters got turned on. The senior exec left "to pursue other interests" three months later.

Moral: Strongly worded memos and HR policies only get you so far -- especially if you don't even enforce them when they're broken. Meantime, turn on those porn filters and kill that stuff where it lives.

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Oliver Rist

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