Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tech Mess

On Saturday February 20th, I supervised a major computer upgrade at work. Two technicians, ten hours, many frustrations, and at the end of the day it still wasn't all done to spec. There just wasn't enough time. But it was a good try, and I was satisfied that everyone would be able to get their work done on Monday, with a few minor inconveniences.

Come Monday, as expected, there were issues. I called in to work at 6:15 am to help my early shift person get logged in, and checked in every half hour from then on, until I got there in person at 8:30. From that point, I did not sit down. It was run here, run there, what's my new password, I can't print, where's my e-mail, etc. and so forth. No problem. That's what I was expecting. Give it a couple of days; everyone gets used to the new system; and things will simmer down.

Tuesday wasn't much better than Monday. Wednesday, I thought, is the day we'll turn the corner.

Wednesday wasn't better. In fact, Wednesday was worse. The users were starting to adjust to the new way of working, but the technical problems kept stacking up. Printers that I had personally tested after the upgrades stopped working. I would spend half an hour on the phone with remote tech support getting a printer working, and the next day it would be kaputsky again.

So not cool.

We are not a paperless office. We are a paper-plus office. Almost everyone has at least one printer at their desk; two if they need a label printer. I spent all day Wednesday dealing with printer issues.

By Thursday I started giving up on the new system. I rolled a couple of users back to the old system, just so that they could print. As the day progressed, I rolled back more and more people. We paid umpteen thousands of dollars for four brand-spanking-new servers, for what? Some upgrade. More of a downgrade, methinks.

By Friday I'd pretty much thrown in the towel. I don't have the time to spend 7 hours every day playing helpdesk. Our entire workplace is relocating in approximately 8 weeks. I have to make decisions on moving quotes, telephony system quotes, office furnishings for a dozen rooms in my department, etc. Most of these require a decision with six weeks' lead time to our move date, which means I have only two weeks to have all my meetings and make all my major decisions.

I came in on Saturday to catch up on some work, including itemizing a list of a dozen technical problems that people had asked for help with on Friday that I hadn't had time to address. I forwarded this to the owner of our tech consultant company, along with a frazzled plea for help.

On Monday I was reassured that help was on the way. Oh me of little faith. I'd believe it when I see it.

On Tuesday my tech guy came on site with his boss. By then there were over 20 problems on my list. They put their heads together in the server room. Then they met with me, pen and paper in hand, and made lots of little diagrammatic notes to themselves that I didn't understand. Then we called our specialized software provider on speakerphone.

We had consulted the software provider prior to the upgrades. At that time, they said everything should be fine. But on this call, they changed their tune. Apparently their software doesn't work with our printer system. Apparently. Apparently we would need to buy multi-thousands of dollars' worth of print servers and switches and install them around the entire organization in order for our new system to work.


I swilled that idea around in my head, hating it. At least now we knew were we stood. But we did not stand in a good place. I worried about this place all afternoon.

Finally, my brilliant tech guy's brilliant boss came up with a brilliant solution. It's a little piece of software that he wrote just for us. If it works, and we're testing it now on six PC's, then we don't have to buy a ton of additional equipment just to be able to function. So far so good. Please cross your fingers that this solution goes the distance. We should be able to roll it out to everyone by the end of the week.


DarcsFalcon said...

Wow, that almost smells like a bait and switch by that software company! I hope it all works out, and that the brilliant plan is indeed truly brilliant!

Fingers crossed and all that - you sure don't need all that extra stress. *hug*

WhatIGotSoFar said...

all computers are evil, they're like women, only they don't scream when I touch them.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Yeah, I can't tell if the server company is tricking you into buying more products so their system will actually work ... or whether the people working there are really so dumb that they didn't know to inquire about your printer use/system. Either way, a cheap fix sounds good to me!

Sparkling Red said...

DarcsFalcon: The software company would not benefit in any way if we had to purchase new hardware, because they don't sell that type of thing. So at least they can't be accused of deviousness, just stupidity.

WIGSF: There's nothing worse than a stubborn computer. People can be reasoned with, or if they're being illogical, one can appeal to their emotions. Computers may stop working for no obvious reason, and you can't jolly them into a change of mind.

Nilsa: They must just be dumb, because they don't sell the type of hardware componenets we might have needed to fix our problems. My techs said that their software's printing system is "archaic". In Techland that probably means it's only 3 years out of date, but that's like 300 years of regular time.

G said...

Oh man, I feel for you.

My state went through this garbage back in 2003 by purchasing a software program that is actually designed for businesses such as yours, and not for state government.

The old adage of "if it ain't broke, fix it" seems to apply here.

Sending positive vibes out in your direction.

Jameil said...

SCAM!!! You knew it wasn't going to work and I'm not giving you thousands of dollars to fix what never should've been broken. These are the sorts of things that make me LIVID!! When I pay for things or someone else pays for them & I use them, I expect them to work w/o issue!!! I can be a happy, pleasant camper... or I can be crazy woman. Don't mess with me!! I'm riled up for you!! Lol.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Sounds like any major computer project. Seems like there are always these "little" problems. I feel your pain. {{HUGS}}

Jenski, PhD said...

Ack - Hope the custom software is working!

Sparkling Red said...

G: Thanks. I wish we hadn't had to upgrade, but it was inevitable. The old server needed to be replaced before it died, and we had to be prepared to accomodate some newer technology that the professionals I work with may be legally required to use pretty soon. Change is always tough, but we had to change.

Jameil: Thanks! I'll give you the software company's phone number and you can yell at them for me. :-)

Ron: Ain't that the truth. Adding technology to a process always has a net effect of creating more complicated problems.

Jenski: So far, so good. :-)

LL Cool Joe said...

What a nightmare, but I bet you handled the whole situation with patience.

Hope the new plan works out well.

Crack open a bottle of wine and chill, you deserve it!

Ily said...

Sounds like it's time for a couple of extra days off...thank God tomorrow's Friday, right?

We don't have a tech guy or a copier guy or any special help. It's only two of us in the office and what I don't know, I learn and what she doesn't know she pays for me to learn. I'm learning a lot but I could use a couple extra days off myself. It's been a tough week at work for me as well.

Hope you have a nice, long, relaxing weekend!! :)

Sparkling Red said...

LL Cool Joe: I've been enjoying my vodka with special enthusiasm this week. (Not while I'm at work. Although on the bad days keeping a flask in my drawer sounds like a great idea.)

Ily: Yup, TGIF for extra-sure this week. I hope that we both get a restful break!

Dianne said...

oh my!!
I feel for you
I used to run an operations division and although I wasn't in IT, the IT people reported to me and it could be a handful

one little blip and the game of dominos begins!!