We all make mistakes—some are just more obvious than others. But it’s a graceful recovery that separates the gurus from the geeks.
What do you
do when Something Stupid happens? I’m not talking about accounts payable
sending the payment for the servers to the guy who keeps the soda machine
stocked, or when Auntie thought it fabu to wear faux fur to the Oscar
after-party. No, I’m talking about Something Stupid.
let’s take my example of freedom to innovate in the technology biz. During
two days in January, not one but two Somethings Stupid happened to our
friend in Redmond. It got hacked and was a victim of its own sloppy architecture.
Web sites were flooded with denial-of-service attacks, those bogus requests
that suck up bandwidth until the servers are crippled. Microsoft brought
in outside help to plot strategies against future DOS attacks. There are
only a limited number of countermeasures against this weapon, but give
Microsoft credit for how it handled this Something Stupid.
other Something Stupid that had Auntie snickering. The day before the
hacks, Microsoft’s Web sites were unreachable for hours. Seems it had
four DNS servers on one subnet and some unfortunate tech screwed up the
configuration on their gateway. Result? “You can’t get there from here.”
Keep in mind
that Microsoft prides itself on “eating its own dog food,” implementing
its own products and designs on its own network. The network architects
must have sent out for turkey sandwiches the day they came up with this
design. Just to twist the knife a little, Auntie will now quote twice
from Microsoft’s Windows NT Server 4.0 Networking Guide, Chapter 9, “Managing
Microsoft DNS Servers”:
plan to install the primary and secondary servers on different subnets
to provide continual support for DNS name queries if one subnet should
minimum number of DNS servers needed to serve each zone is two — a primary
and a secondary — to provide database redundancy. As with any fault
tolerant system, the computers should be as independent as possible,
for example, by placing the primary and secondary servers on different
Stupid has two components:
- Human error. I admit a morbid curiosity as to whether the tech remains
in the employ of Microsoft, but let’s be realistic: people make mistakes,
and let he or she cast the first stone who has never forgotten to pull
the floppy before rebooting, failed to save the i386 directory to the
hard drive, or not set all objects equal to Nothing.
- Less-than-brilliant DNS physical implementation. In the course of
human events and enterprise architectures, we all do the occasional
boneheaded Something Stupid. It’s how we recover that distinguishes
run-of-the-mill IT geeks from the gurus who get renewed at a higher
Being a well-known
iconoclast, Auntie proposes a modest yet revolutionary solution. Raise
your hand high and say, “It was me! I screwed up! My fault! Right over
here!” Doing this will stun the powers-that-be long enough for you to
add, more quietly, “And here’s how we can show that we’ve fixed it and
put into place a mechanism to prevent this Something Stupid from happening
Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.