Cleaning up after a networking vendor's bad behavior

An IT tale about being in the right place at the right time, with the right level of professionalism

Back in the late '80s, I worked for a group specializing in Novell networks. Sharing network resources among PCs was a new and upcoming field, and the Novell operating system was quickly turning into the standard among small businesses. We had a prospective new client in an upscale community: a law firm that wanted to replace its current vendor and its network.

The law office was located in a high-rise building downtown. The law firm did not have any formal IT staff, so the office manager took us around. We were shown a serial-based network connecting all of the PCs in the office. The previous vendor had used premade serial cables, so each office had a 2-inch hole drilled into the wall to accommodate the large 32-pin serial cable ends before passing them through the wall toward the server room.

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We were finally taken to the server closet, where all of the serial cables led to a serial hub. The cables terminating in this room formed a huge wiring bundle approximately 18 inches in diameter entering the closet through a large 2-foot hole in the wall.

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It was obvious to us that the serial-based network provided little security and lacked many features; also, its performance was excessively slow. In addition, the bulky cables were unsightly, obtrusive, and cumbersome, which was in stark contrast to the decor often found in a high-profile law firm. (We heard later that the partners had been livid to discover the large holes that were cut into their expensive walls to accommodate the serial cables).

Then we finally asked the question: Why are you changing vendors? The office manager said that they had been unhappy with the level of service the previous vendor had provided and mentioned some of the performance problems we'd already pinpointed. He then added a juicy twist to the story.

Initially, the law partners did not know any better, so they had trusted a friend of one of the partners to provide a technology solution for their office environment. This friend designed, installed, and supported the serial-based network. He was given keys and unlimited access to the luxurious office to perform installations after hours.

Late one Saturday night, the police department noticed that the lights were on and there was activity in one of the high-rise buildings downtown. Since crime was virtually nonexistent in this community, especially in a building that was normally dark after hours, the police converged on the office to check into what may be a possible burglary in progress. With guns drawn, they entered the law office suite -- only to find the vendor and his girlfriend disrobed on the couch in the senior partner's office.

Needless to say, the law firm wanted a new technology partner and a new network. We were in the right place at the right time, we impressed them with our professionalism and experience, and we got the job.

This story, "Cleaning up after a networking vendor's bad behavior," was originally published at Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at


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