Tales of heroic hacks and inspired work-arounds

Hands-on experts make IT miracles happen in surprising ways

What does it mean to be a hacker? The mainstream media has long used the term as a kind of pejorative, calling to mind images of pale, skinny misanthropes launching denial-of-service attacks from their parents’ basements. Real hackers know better.

To a real hacker, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as the execution of a really great hack. Was it the ideal solution? Was it the most elegant? Did it implement best practices? Maybe not. But a great hack can be so much more than that. A good hack is the computing equivalent of duct tape and a penknife. It may not be pretty, but it gets the job done -- on time, and with the budget and materials at hand. A truly great hack, on the other hand, is like magic.

Most of us have been responsible for at least a few really good hacks on our PCs. Maybe we’ve written scripts that allow us to extract information from a file that our apps just didn’t seem to want us to get at, or maybe we’ve managed to schedule complex tasks that would have taken us six hands to accomplish on our own.

But while hacks may be fine for the desktop, what about on the enterprise scale? Do seasoned IT professionals really rely on something as barbaric as a hack when the chips are down and business objectives are on the line? Here at InfoWorld, we say yes! Wherever there are determined, knowledgeable IT staffers at work, you’ll find hacks. And we aim to prove it.

Submitted for your perusal, then, is this collection of tales from the front lines of IT. In each case, there was a job to do. And in each case the problem was solved, not with the latest shiny-new out-of-box solution from an enterprise vendor, but with something far more mundane and yet infinitely more rewarding. Read on, then, for tales of first-rate enterprise hacks.

Hack Tales: Air-gap networking for the price of a pair of sneakers

Cheap USB storage and a little ingenuity made all the difference

Hack Tales: Keeping track of tools the wireless way

This Wi-Fi hack meant tools need never go missing again

Hack Tales: Virtualization helps swing an Exchange upgrade

Microsoft's thorny install path was no problem with the help of virtual servers

Hack Tales: Keeping thin clients synced from coast to coast

Ingenuity and creative Perl did away with laborious system configuration

Hack Tales: Network auditing on a shoestring

Complete map of network shares and access rights kept business auditors happy

Hack Tales: E-mail archiving the home-brew way

Custom code allowed one company to sidestep costly management solutions