New in 2012 – IT Horror Stories

I do a lot of public speaking over the course of the year at many different conferences and events.  I always try to carve out time during and after the presentation to take questions from the audience.  While many of these questions are de riguer, I often get questions that can only be described as “How do I handle this … <insert IT horror story here>?”

These stories often turned out to be more interesting than the question or the answer in and of themselves.  For example, it’s a common public speaking best practice to repeat a question back to the attendee.  This helps ensure that you fully understood the question and, in case of a session recording that’s picked up only on the microphone, that the question is also recorded.  But when you’re immediate response, as the speaker, is “Your manager told you to do WHAT?!?”, you know you’ve hit a zinger, as in “Your manager told you that backups aren’t important?!?”

These stories came to be so fun, in the time-honored tradition of slowing down to carefully examine a car wreck on the highway to the point of clogging all other traffic, that I started to make IT Horror Stories a part of my regular presentation portfolio.  And I never have to repeat myself since something new and horrible aways seems to be happening and, in many situations, conference attendees specifically seek out these sessions just so they can air their grievances.

Want to share your IT Horror Story?  I’ll give you a free eBook for any that I post here!

In our first installment of IT Horror Stories, I bring you a little lesson from my friend and coworker, Richard Douglas (blog | twitter), a SQL Server enthusiast living in the Maidenhead UK region.  Richard writes:

The background story is that I was in a meeting with a few managers and they announced (as they tend to do) that in 20 minutes they were going to start UAT’ing on a machine I hadn’t heard of (let’s call it PC101) I asked what this
machine was as it wasn’t listed on my last estate audit using MAP (Ed: the Microsoft Assessment and Planning too, found here. I wrote it about on my SQL Server Pro magazine Tool Time column).

The manager told me that it was just a PC not a server with one spindle and only 2GB of RAM on Win 7 32bit OS to hold a suite of databases with a total size of 300GB with TDE enabled to boot – and they were going to be doing user testing on this!!!

I told them there was no way that this machine was going to be usable and the users would take a bad view of the new features because of the poor performance.  So I was given the challenge of doing what I could to improve performance – in 15 minutes.

Straight away, I rushed over to desktop support to see what spare machines they had lying about.  Luckily, they had some spare machines for new starters.  So I managed to grab a bit of extra RAM and a hard drive from another machine. We had trouble attaching the extra drive into the machine.  It just wasn’t going to fit.  So we ended up putting the drive on top and taped it on so it wouldn’t get knocked. All the log files were moved to the second drive to try to eliminate some of the disk contention and we also added a USB flash drive to make use of Readyboost.

Of course, the users still complained about performance.  But I like to think that we helped things a little and it’s a great story of British ingenuity!

Manager: Of course we can get top-of-the-line performance with a little PC under a desk somewhere with minimal RAM, CPU, and IO capabilities.

ITPro: Are you kidding me? We might’ve been able to make it fast if we’d done a little planning beforehand. But this is rolling out RIGHT NOW!

Manager: Well, see what you can do with it.

ITPro: Ok. What can I spend to upgrade components?

Manager: Nothing.

ITPro: Gurgle… < Makes clutching motion at throat as if dying>

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