VPs, don't touch the servers!

Chaos ensues after IT VPs visit a newly acquired company and turn off servers -- without telling the tech staff

We acquired a company (Company X) nearly as large as ourselves, complete with a headquarters and data center in another state. Company X's data center's functions got combined with the main one at our company's headquarters, and as a result, lots of equipment became fairly redundant. We were in the process of streamlining, but were a ways off from completing the project.

One day, unbeknownst to myself and the rest of our company's tech staff, a couple of our company's IT VPs took the corporate jet to survey the situation at Company X. We found out later that the VPs wandered around for a couple of hours, made some notes, then got on the jet and flew back in time to check into the office before heading home for dinner.

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While they were in the air, all sorts of things started happening -- bad things that rarely happened, as we tried to have a very robust infrastructure that could handle multiple failures without significant loss of productivity.

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First, email started backing up and then stopped being delivered all together. The mail servers and their backups were being flooded with more email than they could handle. Then a few remote sites stopped being able to access any resources, although the network was up and stable. It took a few hours for users to notice they weren't getting outside email and for a ticket to be created.

Some suspected a denial-of-service or spam attack. We started looking at the email issue. It was instantly obvious that we were being inundated, but not by nefarious attackers. We were being bombarded by friendly fire -- by something at Company X. A monitoring server was sending emails to Company X tech employees who had left the company.

The emails were being sent to Company X's old server, which didn't have an account for the users, so it bounced the emails to our company's corporate headquarters by default. Corporate HQ didn't have an account for them, either, so sent them back to Company X's server because that is where that domain primarily accepted email. The system halted this process after one loop, so it should not have been a problem. For one or two emails, it would have never been an issue.

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