Dirty IT job No. 5: Network sherpa
Somebody's got to crawl through the muck dragging Cat 5 cable behind them or get two incompatible wireless technologies on speaking terms. Meet the network sherpa, whose job is to haul his clients up LAN Mountain and deposit them kicking and screaming at the summit.
But the dirtiest part of the job isn't squeezing into tight, dusty, rodent-filled spaces, says Horne, who's spent years as an independent networking consultant. It's dealing with penny-pinching customers unwilling to upgrade their crumbling infrastructures.
"Hell hath no fury like a customer who hears he must pay for a wireless bridge in order to retire several hundred feet of RG-58A/U coaxial cable that's been serving as the Ethernet backbone between two buildings for 20 years," says Horne. "Even though the cable will be buried under the parking lot, damaged by rodents, and hanging from the ground wire the electric company has ordered him to vacate immediately, he will insist his network is still capable of '10 gigs at least.'"
Worse, if you do a good job for your clients, they'll want you to come to their homes and do the same thing there -- like the time an exec at Horne's largest client asked him to fix the Internet feed at his remote New Hampshire vacation house.
"One assumes when there's a problem with an Internet connection, the customer in question actually has Internet access," says Horne. "No such luck."
After a four-hour drive from Boston to the lip of the Canadian border, Horne arrived to find a Linksys wireless access point wrapped in a plastic food bag, duct-taped to a three-meter TVRO satellite dish, which was pointed at a distant hilltop where at one time there had been an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot. Horne calmly explained to his client it's not a good idea to poach Wi-Fi, and having dependable Net access would require paying a company to provide it, even if you live in the middle of nowhere.