Stupid user tricks 6: IT idiocy loves company

IT fight club, dirty dev data, meatball sandwiches -- nine more tales of brain fail beyond belief

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"Seems one manager was effectively managing two teams," the admin continues. "He's got a real smart guy on one team and some problems on the other team, so he moves everyone out of the first team, except the genius, and uses them to bolster the second team. The genius is left to move his team's project forward on his own."

As luck would have it, Einstein resented his new responsibility, and with solo control over a whole bunch of servers, he decided to get stupid.

"He sets up his own porno site using our servers and an unused static external address that we bought to use in a project that had died shortly before," the admin says. "It also seems he didn't do a lot of research on how to run a porno site legally in the United States."

"A month later, three squad cars, two unmarked cars, and a big black van pull up to the front entrance," the admin says. "They confiscate most of the data center and almost everyone's personal machines. Even with some DR in place, we were completely shut down for almost a week. My team almost got fired for not managing our neato new virtualization environment the right way. And Mr. Genius, I believe, had to pay a huge fine. Which I don't know how he afforded since he no longer had a job."

Moral: Self-service virtualization doesn't mean unmonitored virtualization -- unless you want to host illegal porn.

Stupid user trick No. 7: Control freak-out

Some tales offer a lesson for everyone.

"We'd just finished installing this new point-of-sale system in 40 remote retail locations. Everything was running fine, and we were monitoring each POS setup with desktop management and remote connections," one IT pro says. "We were using the remote connections to check certain data repositories on an almost daily basis. It's important data, after all.

"Except one of my techs didn't know the difference between a basic remote connection, which runs in the background from the user perspective, and a remote control connection, which just takes over the PC from the user," the IT pro says.

So, after accessing a store in Ohio, the team gets a call from the local police.

"Seems the store manager had freaked out because her computer was being 'taken over by thieves' who were trying to access her payment and credit card data. She had been crying while trying to get control of her mouse and keyboard back and finally just yanked the power cord out of the wall." Totally desperate, she called 911.

"From the description, we immediately knew what had happened. They put her on the phone with me and I was trying not to laugh while she was crying hysterically. It took some time to clean up, and our tech got a crash course in remote connection management."

Moral: User education is important, but technician education is even more important -- and user error is no excuse to call 911.

Stupid user trick No. 8: The amazing adventures of Stupid SQL Man

Here's to hoping your IT superhero isn't a supervillain in disguise.

"About five years ago, our company had one on-site tech, hired from a local IT consulting company, and a really basic network," one line-of-business manager says. "And our tech was really lazy and really evil."

As it turns out, the tech liked having an easy gig and didn't want to be reassigned to something more taxing. So he did what any lazy, evil tech hoping to appear important would do: He kept the basic network running smoothly and started inventing problems.

"He'd take a printer down, and when the employee called to get it fixed, he'd do it from his cube and look really smart," the manager says. "He was doing this stuff every day, so he could spend most of his time either reading comic books or talking with his friends. We wouldn't have caught on, except one day he decides he really needs to be a hero."

The fatal flaw: "He thought he was really good at SQL, but he really wasn't," the manager says. "He tried to set up a problem on our financial database that he could then fix -- and he did it right as we were going through an audit, so he could look particularly heroic. He screwed up and corrupted the whole database. And because he was lazy, he hadn't been doing full backups for a while. We lost quite a bit of data, failed the audit, and had to spend a whole bunch of money getting everything fixed in a big hurry."

Heroic indeed.

Moral: When your IT guy is reading the latest issue of Batman on the clock, you might want to double-check his work.

Stupid user trick No. 9: Let's get redundant in here

It pays to do more than just read the box.

"Four years ago, a few buddies and I decided to try our hand at running our own small-biz IT support company. It didn't work well, partially because we let our customers get away with too much just to keep the business," says one IT pro, now with a larger IT shop.

"A perfect example was this guy running a small real estate management office. We sold him on Small Business Server and made some decent per-hour money setting that up. But he was really tight and the SBS install was more than he expected. So he turns us down when we offer to set up extended services, like unattended backup, shadow copy, and shared files."

Instead, our real estate maven heads off to Staples to solve all his backup needs with a 500GB home network drive.

"He starts backing anything he thinks is valuable up to that drive manually. On top of that, because his company is pretty small, he doesn't have a lot of critical data to back up. So he makes one folder for his critical backups and tells his two bookkeepers to use the rest of the drive for 'live' data -- this with another 200GB just sitting open for file shares on the SBS server he already paid for. But hey, he's the client."

Yeah, the thing crashed.

"All of a sudden he loses all his backups and everything his employees were doing for three days prior, since he doesn't do his magic backup operation more than once a week. We get the phone call demanding that we fix the problem because it was our outrageous fees that forced him to do this. It shouldn't be hard, he says, because the drive was redundant."

On the drive over, our IT crew begins wondering why the real estate guy's second drive never kicked in.

"Once we get there, we find out that the box says the drive could be used as a redundant drive to other drives already on the network. Whoops. Now the drive is dead and all his data is gone," the IT pro says. "We sent the thing out for a platter-level recovery but only got back 60 percent of the drive and that took two weeks. And cost him another $1K, for which he blamed us -- right before he fired us."

Moral: It's not easy, but if you don't want to be blamed for user error, sometimes you need to lay down the law or walk away. And maybe not charge for every little thing just to chisel as much money out of your customer as you can. What? Did I say that out loud?

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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