Stupid user tricks 7: True tales of extreme brain fail

Private bits on the public cloud, execs botching backups, the proverbial plug gone unplugged -- will users ever learn?

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"The VGA cable was connected to his laptop but not to the VGA wall input, which in turn connects it to the projector," Root recalls.

Yup -- the age-old stupid user trick of forgetting to plug the damn thing in.

Rather than rub in the silliness of the mistake, Root took the high road and helped cover up the executive's slip-up. Before connecting the missing cable, he switched the display to a different input and pretended to fiddle around for a few minutes -- making it look as if there were some legitimate problem and letting the executive save face.

Root's discretion did not go unnoticed. "While watching me, he realized his mistake and came up later to thank me for not making him look like an idiot in front of his superiors," Root says. "He even gave me a spot bonus."

The moral: As Root puts it, "With knowledge comes power. Don't use your intelligence to make others look stupid; instead, make them look like heroes and you will be rewarded for it -- if not monetarily, at least with karma."

Stupid user trick No. 4: Back that thang up

File this next fail tale under "reasons why executives should never attempt tech support."

The gang from Conduit Systems, an IT management firm based out of New England, got a call one day from a high-ranking exec at one of their client companies. The exec breathlessly explained that he had accidentally deleted a file and needed to have a backup restored right away.

This was back in the era before remote access was common, so the Conduit crew had to hop into a car and rush out to the company's office, about an hour away. Evidently, 60 minutes was too long for the ailing executive to wait.

"When we showed up, he was in the process of restoring what he thought was his file back to the server," says Dan Tully, Conduit's executive vice president. "He said, 'Don't worry about it. I've already got it started and should be good to go.'"

Famous last words: Tully and his team decided to stick around, and it was a good thing. A few minutes later, calls started pouring in from the company's end-users -- all of whom were suddenly unable to access their files.

"We knew something had gone awry," Tully says.

Sure enough, the brilliant executive had decided to restore the entire volume of the backup instead of just the single file he needed. But wait, there's more: Instead of pulling the backup from the previous night, he had grabbed a backup from the same day, only one year earlier.

"Needless to say, it was somewhat disruptive to the workflow," Tully laughs. "People often have just enough knowledge to feel they have the confidence to go ahead and try something on their own, but instead of a quick turnaround, they usually create a mess that requires the better part of a day to rectify."

It took a few hours, but Tully and his team were able to hit "undo" on the executive-level damage. Though the entire company lost out on half a day's productivity, the Little Manager Who Couldn't got his missing file back in the end.

The moral: Just because your title is seven words long doesn't mean you're an expert in everything. If you aren't an IT worker, set your pride aside when something goes wrong and let the pros do what they're paid to do.

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