Summoning the IT bogeyman for fun and profit

Vendors do it, and so do admins, but don't get cocky -- the IT bogeyman can turn on you at any time

We all know the bogeyman is alive and well in IT. He takes many forms, though he tends to follow erratic patterns of display, sometimes lying dormant for weeks or months, and sometimes taking residence seemingly forever. But make no mistake: He's always ready to strike.

It could be something as simple as a desktop or server that suddenly refuses to power on or to boot properly, yet when inspected, it performs perfectly. Then it fails again for no apparent reason days or weeks later. Usually the only way to break this cycle and banish the ghost in the system forever is to dump the hardware in question.

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The bogeyman also lives in the wires, the nervous system of IT. Occasionally a link will go batty or a particular Ethernet port will shut down or a big switch will suddenly toss into the logs bizarre errors that even the vendor has never seen. These are episodes that we in IT chalk up to hardware failure, after we've dug deep enough into the problem to determine it's not a "normal" issue stemming from a bad configuration setting or the like.

Naturally, the bogeyman is constantly pestering users, though he takes on vastly different disguises. For non-IT people, the bogeyman can be found in everything from a downloaded file "disappearing" when it was actually placed in the wrong folder or a mouse ceasing to function because it came unplugged or even the presence of the Caps Lock key, which manages to befuddle people to this day. These are the lighter, more amusing appearances of the bogeyman, but they don't count in IT because we know where we put files and how to troubleshoot a "broken" mouse. Also, we're well versed in the proper usage of Caps Lock.

But in IT, the bogeyman has an equally devious doppelganger: a manufactured, synthetic twin brought into existence when a problem is suddenly "fixed" with an imaginary solution. This mirror of the real bogeyman is immensely useful to vendor support services, which may summon him at the slightest provocation.

For instance, as I discussed briefly last week, software vendors sometimes invoke the fake bogeyman when dealing with a problem. Their method: They claim that because their software is running on a VM, all bets are off; they then cease to look further into the issue, regardless of whether virtualization has anything to do with the dilemma at hand. In those instances, they leverage the bogeyman as a trump card and throw the problem back on the admin with prejudice.

In other circumstances, the vendor might vehemently deny that its product is having or causing problems, while feverishly working to mend the issue without letting anyone know. Once the problem is fixed behind the scenes and again works normally, the vendor blames the bogeyman (and sometimes the admin), haughtily dismissing questions about how the problem was suddenly repaired.

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