10 things IT groups need to know about The Rapture [The End!]

Apparently, it's the end of the world this weekend: how to protect your IT set up!

First the background. Harold Camping, founder of the Family Radio network, has been insisting for months, via broadcasts and billboards, that on Saturday, May 21, at 6 p.m., The Rapture will take place and the end of world, as we know it anyway, will start. He's done this before, in 1994 to be precise, so it's a bit odd that he's getting so much attention this time.

For many Christians, "The Rapture" refers to a moment when those who are authentic believers will be "caught up" into the clouds with the returning Jesus Christ. There are a range of interpretations about what that means. Then there comes stuff like the Tribulation, Armageddon (the real one, not the asteroid movie), Final Judgment, Eternal Life, with plenty of argument over the sequence and timing of these events.

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Most Christians who accept these doctrines take them seriously. But Camping has convinced some to take it very seriously indeed, as this excellent CNN video report, "Road trip to the end of the world," makes clear: "They walked away from work, families and communities in places as far-flung as California, Kansas, Utah and New Jersey. Among them are an electrician, a TV satellite dish installer, a former chef, an international IT consultant and a man who had worked with the developmentally disabled."

The distinct impression from the relevant New Testament passages -- especially 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 -- is that The Rapture will happen very suddenly, with some number of people just disappearing in the middle of whatever they're doing.

Like, watching the NBA or NHL playoffs. Or being in the playoffs. Or orbiting the space shuttle Endeavor around the earth on its last mission.

Or ... backing up the entire corporate sales, billing and financial reporting database for the month. Or troubleshooting the CEO's iPad 2. Or launching the new, mission-critical, e-commerce website.

But forewarned is forearmed. Here are the 10 things you need to know in case Camping, this time, gets it right.

10. Don't panic.

The only people being caught up will be Christians. If you, and your staff, are pagans, Wiccans, garden-variety atheists (including many who actually attend church), followers of other religions (mainstream or tiny rivulet), devotees of Hawking or Dawkins, or refugees from the '60s, you have *nothing* to worry about. So, considering the state of religious or irreligious belief today, the odds are in your favor.

9. Having said that, automate everything.

God moves in mysterious ways. It's possible that someone who doesn't appear to be Christian, and doesn't even think he is one, could be at risk for Rapturing. (It's complicated. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is not typically regarded as a hotbed of Rapture-ism, affirms paragraph 847] that "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience -- those too may achieve eternal salvation.")

To avoid surprises ("Gosh, I had no idea she was a Christian" or "I had no idea I wasn't"), automate! Get your staff writing scripts to handle the data backups, software updates, scheduled maintenance, business reports; set up self-service Web portals for the UnRaptured.

8. Be informed. But not too informed.

iPad apps like "When Christians Disappear - The Rapture" can provide Scripture references and background, so you can nod knowledgeably when you get caught in the crossfire between Dispensationalist Premillennialists (Rapture first, then return of Christ) and Amillennialists (no literal 1,000-year-rule of the returned Christ), not to mention Postmillennialists and Historic Premillennialists. Just keep nodding: At all costs avoid taking a side.

(Don't bother with "The Rapture Detector," which promises to notify you 30 minutes before The Moment, giving you time to be saved. Even though Jesus and the Church assures us, "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is," [Mark 13:32,33] Camping is precise: 6 p.m. local time, wherever you are.)

7. Avoid disruption.

At 5:45 p.m. Saturday, invite all the Christians on staff to pray in a conference room or auditorium. That way you minimize the network and systems disruption, not to mention the drama, when they all vanish.

6. Review all software licenses.

Make sure they don't expire immediately before or after The Rapture.

Despite being employees of West Coast companies, your Cisco or Microsoft reps might be among the missing (possibly less likely with Apple). Afterward, you might be able to push for a Rapture Discount on new software and hardware.

5. Install mobile device management software.

With an application like MobileIron, you can shut down and lock, and later locate, any cellphones left behind by Raptured staff. Otherwise you could be hit with huge data charges if the phones were on and online when their users were taken. And make sure they're all equipped with bumpers so when they hit the desk or the pavement they won't break.

4. Postpone the upgrade to Windows 7.

You could save money (fewer users) and avoid disruptions (missing tech support staff) by waiting until after The Rapture to move to Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system.

3. Block all internal video transmissions and external streaming for 48 hours.

Let's face it, if you're in a telepresence conference and people start blinking out, it's bound to be disconcerting. Plus, you just know YouTube is going to be flooded with video clips of people's family, friends, acquaintances, or worse, themselves, poofing into thin air. The UnRaptured won't be able to stop themselves from clicking on the links, and the video traffic will bring your network to its knees.

2. Hit upper management for expanded IT funding.

Explain The Rapture to them as the ultimate cloud initiative. They won't know what you're talking about, but they know the cloud is cool and important. They'll just keep nodding as they sign the checks.

1. iPhone 5 release will not be affected.

The consensus is that Apple CEO Steve Jobs is a Buddhist. Or maybe a vegan. Either one is Rapture-proof.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

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