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True IT Blooper #105: Too clean for comfort

Is it possible to take your workplace sanitation to excess? In this true IT blooper, an office in Quebec accidentally threw their backup out with the bathwater.

Regardless of your vocational values, cleanliness probably ranks high in your company's credo. Whether you work...

in a kitchen, a factory or a server room, leaving a mess will at the very least irritate coworkers and at the most lead to health department code violations.

But what if you are the health department? Is it still possible to take your sanitation to excess? There's often a fine line between common courtesy and an obsessive compulsive disorder, so Windex your reading glasses and pay attention to this gleaming goof-up.

Dominique Moreau was an administrator working at Quebec's Commission de la Sante et de la Securite du Travail (the Commission of Health in the Workplace). One of his tasks was to keep an eye on a server which was running Nortel's Symposium. The server was one of 20 throughout the organization which ran the widely-used telephony application.

Every location had an admin handy who, like Dominique, oversaw full weekly server backups. The procedure worked fine in 19 of the 20 offices. But, like clockwork, every other week the backup would fail -- always in the same server room in the same building.

The IT staff was perplexed. They knew it probably wasn't a hardware problem, because the process did indeed work every two weeks. And a software issue didn't seem likely, because the same application was running in 19 other locations without so much as a hiccup. "Zut alors!" they thought to themselves and opted to call in the cavalry, or Nortel as they're sometimes called, before anyone's mouth had to be washed out with savon.

When Nortel's support crew arrived on the scene a few days later, diagnostics found the server to be in perfect working order. A quick software check revealed no answers, as it appeared to be 'all systems go.' Through a process of elimination, the native admin was eventually asked to produce his backup media for inspection. He handed them over and awaited a verdict.

After several months of head-scratching, the mystere was solved. The local administrator had been using a head-cleaning tape every other week for his backups.

The good news was, the tape unit was so clean you could have eaten your dejeuner off of it. With plenty of plates handy, however, it was instead decided to get a proper backup tape out of the supply room and try and keep the incident as tranquille as possible. Dominique was relieved. Health Code Commission or non, that was just too clean for comfort.


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This was last published in June 2003

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