Trust me, I'm a consultant

That tech expert you hired to advise you on your data center upgrade may have your best interests in mind after all

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When we told Jim what had happened, he finally agreed to take care of the electrical problem, though he would not admit he'd been wrong. The next day, an electrician installed an additional 20-amp circuit, and we came back to install the new servers again. This time everything worked without a hitch.

A month later the equipment was working great, but it was the middle of August and the building HVAC couldn't keep the room cool enough. The ambient temperature was around 95 degrees.

To make matters worse, Jim decided to keep the old servers running instead of decommissioning them as we had discussed. "Those computers have worked fine for years, and I don't see why we have to get rid of them. Besides, a little heat won't hurt anything!" he claimed.

After one old server became unstable and crashed, Jim changed his mind. The immediate solution he agreed to was propping the door open and keeping a fan blowing air in. But even he soon agreed that something more permanent had to be done.

Jim had installed a wall-mounted AC unit -- with its own dedicated electrical circuit, I might add -- that knocked the temperature down to the high 70s. He complained to us about the electric bill that month, but he figured that once fall hit and the temperatures cooled it wouldn't be an issue anymore.

Fast-forward to late October. On that first cool, crisp night when the temperature dipped into the middle 30s and we had our first frost of the year, my BlackBerry exploded with warning emails from the server monitoring software -- the whole data center was overheating.

Hot and cold

I arrived at the site at 4 a.m., opened the data center door, and was hit with a wave of blasting heat. The wall-mounted AC was still working, pumping out cold air as fast as it could. Then I felt a stream of hot air blowing in from the ceiling vent above. The building's HVAC had switched to heater mode and hot air was pouring into the data center.

I propped the door open until the company handyman could remove the vent from the room later that day. The temperature then came back down to a pleasant 70 degrees and all was well again -- for the time being.

As inconvenient as they were, these problems did show Jim that we were looking out for his best interests and not just trying to get more money out of him. The upside was that he began to trust us and continued using our services until his company folded in the financial chaos of 2008.

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This story, "Trust me, I'm a consultant," was originally published at Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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