The upgrade



  • The Scene

    My previous employer was a small, private defence company. It was setup many moons ago as an electronics company but had naturally grown into providing software solutions. That's why I was employed at their satellite site.

    Software needed to be written. To start with it was good - no procedures in place, just pure coding to get the solution done. We had a niche contract that supplied software and equipment in the sort of timescales most companies would take to analyse the requirements. Each job was a single man job, and none of them ran more than 6 months, the shortest application took a mere two hours and was written on a laptop whilst travelling down to the intended customer. We where talking fast timescales.

    It was a small site of about 3-dozen employees. My boss and I basically 'did the software' from the manager's point of view. We 'knew about computers', so where naturally assigned to all the IT tasks as well.

    Just to clarify, the manager was a tad old school and still thought that computers reduced productivity. Emails where printed out by the receptionist and handed to him to read. He'd then dictate a response which was then sent on his behalf. Fair enough - he runs the business and it's doing well, so why worry? The Internet? Waste of time - bah.

    So that's how the site worked - quick. Although after joining I understood that there was probably one thing that might have been slowing them all down, and enforcing the belief of the computer vs. productivity perception.

    The Computers

    Now, not beliveing that computers are all together useful, the computer system was dated. There where about 50 computers on site when I arrived. They where connected together using the old 10Base2 connectors. Hubs littered the corners' of offices where all the coax built up, reduced to a single line for the next hub to connect to. PC's where all running Windows NT, most where 90Mhz with 32Mb of memory.

    All the bubble-jet printers where connected to PC's and shared, this meant that often you'd have to switch on the PC to print something off.

    There where 2 servers. Server1 - file sharing and databases (Windows NT), Server2 - Email and Backup (Windows NT). Basically the servers shared the C: drive so that anyone could write to it. The email system was some odd version of mail thing that came with Windows '98 option pack that worked with office '97. It was entirely automated and closed. All you could do was set paths to store data. Backups copied the C: drive of the 2 servers, to a single hard disk, zipped it up and then copied onto a DVD-RAM, and the backup deleted. When users logged a batch file copied selected folders from thier C: drive to a direct mapping on the server's C: drive. That was a automated backup of the user's PC, until it went wrong, then it was bad.

    The Internet PC was Windows 98 on dial-up, and with SPAM reaching a good 900 emails a day it spent most the day downloading them.

    Yes, this was 3 years ago

    The upgrade

    The site grew into another workspace that was about 100m away in another industrial unit. So, the network needed to be expended to add that. Now, after trying a few times to be given a budget for sorting out the IT stuff and being flatly refused more than £100/year, I thought I'd go for it this time. I done a whole business case document that outlined the savings in maintenance time, replacement parts and generally time saved.

    After a bit of begging I managed to upgrade the whole network, everyone was now running at 100Mbps on a switched network. A fibre optical link joined the two sites together. It was a joy to see. Obviously it took weeks to perform (in slow time) as all cable and PC network cards had to be replaced.

    I got on a roll then. Slowly each system was updated through various excuses for saving money (my favourite was when the boss said, "No-one use the Colour Laser printer - it costs a fortune to refill that thing" - until I showed him the the cost of a print using a bubble jet or the black and white lasers, when he quickly told everyone to, "Use the colour laser whenever you want"). I still only had a budget of £100 per year, but the head office kept sending me new equipment.

    The software work in the company started to dry up so it gave me time to really sort out the problems. And that's when the problem started.

    We had broadband access, spam filters, remote backups of email's, a separate Internet network (for imposed security reasons) that ran without fault.

    The PC's all ran fine, the network was reliable, the backups worked. Everyone had a new shiney PC, the software they needed, we had real servers that served email, files, databases, whatever - tape backups, UPS, network colour laser printers. It just worked.

    I had nothing to do.

    So I left.

    Basically I upgraded myself out of a job once the software ran out. The system was in place and the boss wasn't going to spend any more money for the next 10 or so years, so it wasn't as though anything was going to change with the equipment.

    So when you think your budget might not be much, have a thought for what is in use in some companies. £100 per year and an some seriously out of date IT equipment for a modern company. Can't get that new 2TB drive? Well at least your computer isn't running on a 10Base2 network with 49 others!



  • First and foremost, "where" is an adverb relating to location; the simple past tense form of "to be" is "were". 

    @Postie said:

    Backups copied the C: drive of the 2 servers, to a single hard disk, zipped it up and then copied onto a DVD-RAM, and the backup deleted.
    They're running NT servers, but they for some reason have embraced writing to DVDs?  I find that highly incongruent.  I expected them to be using DLT III tape drives.



  • @Postie said:

    Just to clarify, the manager was a tad old school and still thought that computers reduced productivity.
    This is what they call a generation gap. See you think computers and what comes to mind is email, databases, networks and all the other performance enhancers. What your boss sees is one more encumberance when hunting the woolly mammoth.@Postie said:
    They where connected together using the old 10Base2 connectors. Hubs littered the corners' of offices where all the coax built up, reduced to a single line for the next hub to connect to. PC's where all running Windows NT, most where 90Mhz with 32Mb of memory.
    This makes baby Jesus cry.@Postie said:
    Emails where printed out by the receptionist and handed to him to read.
    This makes Greenpeace cry.@Postie said:
    The Internet PC was Windows 98 on dial-up, and with SPAM reaching a good 900 emails a day it spent most the day downloading them.
    This makes internet addicts like me cry.

     

     



  • @bstorer said:

    First and foremost, "where" is an adverb relating to location; the simple past tense form of "to be" is "were".
    Maybe over there they're spelling this way in addition to having extra 'u's hanging about.


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