When “no” should be the answer

Sometimes consultants have a problem saying “no”. Too often things are thrown together to please a customer without regard to “the big picture”. Far worse is poor work simply due to laziness or a lack of time. With the lack of time excuse, it would be good to remember a quote by Albert Einstein – “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

The duct tape and bubble gum approach does no one any favors. It will probably be unreliable needing constant maintenance and it will likely fail in a big way eventually.

This is a recent example to my point. I was brought in to troubleshoot an issue where a teleworker was unable to RDP into their machine. This was not a usual customer of mine, but I happened to be available. Looking at the picture at left, you’ll see seven desktop PCs crammed into that cabinet. I have no doubt that this was done with good intentions. The problem is reliability for end users and troubleshooting and maintenance difficulty on the part of the network admin or consultant.

This setup was moved from a business office into a private residence complete with dynamically addressed Internet service and horribly unreliable electrical service. This “temporary” solution has been running for almost two years at this point and not surprisingly has had constant issues with desktops powering off for various reasons or otherwise becoming unresponsive and requiring manual intervention whether a power-on or a reboot.

It took me an hour to get this sorted out as the problematic box was on the very bottom of the stack and buried in a spaghetti tangle of cables and I had to be mindful of not disrupting whatever else is going on in that cabinet. You’ll notice there is a Dell PowerEdge server in that cabinet along with all the desktops. It actually runs as a Hyper-V host with an old SBS 2011 server running as the only guest. Why wasn’t a small terminal server ever spun up on it? That wouldn’t fix all the other issues, but it would go a long way to make a more reliable and easier to manage system.

To consultants and admins: Take your time, plan, and build reliable and easy to manage systems. You might feel pressured to cob together something like the above, but remember who will ultimately be blamed when it all falls apart.

If there seems to be no way around it, there are better customers and employers out there. Cut your losses and move on.

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