Archive: Don’t Wait – September 2, 2005

(This podcast is pulled “from the archives” and presented here as a service to more recent listeners — Douglas)

Career Opportunities podcast logo


As if I needed it, this week I had an object lesson in the important principle of “Don’t Wait!” I try always to take this to heart and usually manage to operate under its precepts, but a combination of events led to a series of yet other events that needn’t have happened. Thank goodness, the damage to data, and self-esteem, was minimal, but it teaches an important lesson that bears repeating.

Do the project now

This particular event has its roots in a new client I first spoke to a few months ago. They had a small office running an aging Novell server using Groupwise as their email. Together we developed a plan to replace this server, upgrade their network and replace their email with an out-sourced solution. The company was not ready to move on the project immediately for a variety of reason, so I estimated the cost of the project and left it up to them to contact me when they were ready.

This week, during the height of a heat wave here in Los Angeles, I received an emergency call from the client. Their server had crashed. I knew that the machine was in a location that had very bad ventilation, so I told them to move it into the office and let it cool down for a while. Sure enough, after a few hours we were able to reboot the server and go back to work. This event brought home the need to move forward on the project immediately.

Do what you can

We arranged to have a new server delivered overnight and I quickly backed up the existing files to a local desktop machine as a safeguard against any future failures. I had not yet setup the new email addresses, though, so I postponed exporting the email from Groupwise until I had a place to put it. It is here that I broke my own rule. I assumed the server would last for 1 more day and I would be able to move the email out in an organized fashion. Of course, I was wrong. The server crashed again the next day and we were unable to resurrect it a second time.

What went wrong?

There are several points of failure illustrated in this story, all of which you will face at one time or another. First, clients are often reluctant to replace aging systems, especially if they appear to be functioning well enough for their needs. They seem to want to wring every bit of cost out of the system before committing to a new one. In this case, while the server had continued to function, both their UPS and tape backup unit had failed months before. This is not an unusual situation, though. I often find such things when I meet with a client for the first time. That said, these earlier failures should have created more of a sense of urgency to replace the system.

Secondly, when confronted with the initial failure, I should have exported all the mail to a safe location, just as I did with the data files. Instead, I was trying to hold on to an old plan instead of reacting to new issues immediately. I had wanted to move through this project slowly, running the new systems in parallel and therefore execute a smooth and elegant transition. In trying to stick to that original plan, it opened a window to data loss. This is a perfect example of what can happen when we are not open to a rapidly changing environment.

Third, the existing equipment was located in a room with little to no air-conditioning and surrounded by other equipment. This location should have been questioned during the initial installation. It is the job of all high-tech workers to help their clients avoid preventable problems. Somewhere in the past, changes could have been that might have postponed or prevented this failure. Be kind to your clients, and your fellow high-tech peers, when installing or updating new systems. It is important to remember that you might be reviewing or replacing their work in the future.

Hindsight is often the best teaching tool, if also the cruelest. I hope you find my experience a useful reminder that there are times when projects should be pushed through, regardless of whether the current system is still functioning. As high-tech careerists, there are times when we must impress a sense of urgency on our clients. Both for their benefit and our own.

Join me on these networks:

Douglas on FriendFeed | Douglas on Twitter | Douglas on MySpace | Douglas on Facebook | Douglas on LinkedIn

Support Career Opportunities

iTunes Review | Career-Op Forums | | Podcast Alley
Call the Reader/Listener Line @ 818-804-5049

This entry was posted in Audio, Podcast. Bookmark the permalink.