Dean recently found himself locked out of VMware -- a business cloud-computing solution -- virtual server without a set of keys to get back in. That's the cloud's equivalent of standing in front of the building with a useless card key.
"Being a systems administrator," he says, "I was able to unlock it myself. But a few minutes later, it was locked again." He did a little detective work and discovered that the VMware management server was using incorrect credentials. "This was locking my account every two to four minutes." He was unable to fix that problem himself. And that was about the moment his day went south.
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"I attempted to search for answers at VMware's support site but kept getting a 'site under maintenance' page instead," he explains. "So I called VMware support." After a brief exchange involving Dean's customer credentials, Dean was told that the support portal was indeed down, so there was no way to confirm his information. Without confirming he had paid for support, the technician wouldn't give him any. Instead of helping Dean solve his problem so he could access his server, the technician told him to call back later.
"Being too dumbfounded to think or argue," says Dean, "I politely said OK and hung up." He was locked out of his company's data and on his own to solve the problem. So he got to work.
"Windows administrators know that one of the things that can cause a lockout is if a different computer is logged in with the old password. I'm very careful about this, though, having locked myself out once before in that manner. But my inexperience with VMware made me question whether one of the virtual machines displayed in the management console was logged in as me. So I checked every server listed - over 100 -- for signs that I was logged in. I was not."
With little choice and no help forthcoming, he then set about searching online forums for more clues as to what might have caused his lock out. "Finally I ran across a cryptic post where the respondent said he had reinstalled the authentication piece of a third-party VMware tool. Remembering I had once used a trial version of a different tool written by the same company, I searched the computers I normally use and found it. I uninstalled the software from that system and the authentication attempts stopped." A nice bit of detective work.