When the Internet goes out at work

it comic

I have worked at a few places that have had the Internet connection fail at work. It leaves the entire organization unable to do anything. It is a curious problem and totally preventable. Here is how you prevent it.

  1. Supported means real concrete answers. So going back to #1 above, when there is a problem with the device and the logs don’t show any issues with the device, then in my opinion the device is flawed. Certainly, a firewall is a critical and complex device that isn’t easily upgraded, but that makes it all the more important than it has a backup and a known way to fix it. When the tech support says they can’t find an issue with the device, then it’s time to get a new device. It isn’t worth playing games with a company’s online connectivity.
  2. Use a firewall that is modern and supported. In every company, the cause of the failure turned out to be a firewall that was older and unsupported. Even companies with new firewalls had this problem because they didn’t have the kind of support they needed. Support is not just fixing the hardware when it breaks. It is also having a company that understands its own products and how to troubleshoot and diagnose things.
  3. If the Internet goes out once due to hardware, it will happen again and become more frequent. So in all these companies, the issue became more and more common. I requested the purchase of a new Firewall but was shot down by management. I found this fascinating. How much wasted time was spent by people who couldn’t work because of this? I was not always in a position to convince management to buy new equipment, so I had to suffer with a short-term workaround of rebooting the device.
  4. Having a secondary backup for Internet connectivity is useless if the Firewall doesn’t switch it over. Again people think that having a backup Internet connection is helpful, and it is. However, if the problem is the firewall, then this often doesn’t happen and the Internet fails. To me, this is why every company should have two firewalls so that if one fails, the other can continue and just work. I find it mysterious why companies don’t want to have backups and redundancies in the infrastructure. The cost of not working is always far higher than the cost of devices. I think it comes down to having to manage a complex solution, which required talented IT people.
  5. Companies prefer certain hardware and they don’t consider other options. I get it. Standardizing on hardware is very helpful and something I do as well. However if what you are using isn’t reliable, then what is the point of standardizing it? It becomes a matter of now changing to a better product so that you can focus on making things better not just breaking/fixing issues.
  6. People like broken systems. I have slowly gotten the idea that people seem to like broken systems. Broken systems that sometimes fail give people an “out” so that if they fail, they can blame the equipment. When you try to make the system reliable, they feel that they won’t be seen as a “hero” since their workaround usually fixes it. People hold onto what is familiar, and uncertainty is too frightening for them to deal with. I had one IT manager tell me that my suggestions would fix the problem, but then it would mean that he wouldn’t have a job so he wasn’t going to do that. Ok, how do you answer that? I didn’t say anything. What would you have said?
  7. Money is an issue. This is the most fascinating answer to me that I hear. When I propose the costs to fix the issue, the excuses come out why there is no money to do it. Yet a few hours later we buy a toy for an executive who thinks it is for a business reason. Budget is often given because no one wants to do the math of what the costs to the organization are in labor. When this is pointed out, it is dismissed with the notion that only the bottom line matters and that is hard costs. I find that curious thinking. If people are productive then we need less of them, and that means plenty of bottom-line hard cost savings. Surprisingly many managers don’t seem to appreciate this. They seem to enjoy having large departments to manage.
  8. Employees’ use of the Internet is not critical; they can do other things. This is just not true. Many employees no longer touch paper and do everything online. This answer shows a lack of understanding of what their employees are doing. Often I see people who are just sitting there because some important IT system is not working. It is not working not because I the IT guy am not fixing it, but because I have been told that it is ok that it isn’t working. I have been told to use the workaround until there is a budget to fix it. Ok.
  9. Nothing is perfect. Problems are going to happen. That is true, problems are going to happen. But almost every company I have worked for has had its internet go out. I told management this could be prevented and laid out the costs and offered to manage the project, but was shot down for some of the reasons above. So guess how much those experiences cost those companies? In the cheapest example, the wasted time from the number of employees put the cost at over $10,000. My managers admitted that it would have been helpful if they had let me do what I had requested.
  10. Why care? Why try for perfection? To me, doing IT is something quite special. Where else do you get to put all of these pieces together and make something wonderful happen? When a system works and works well, it is a wonder to behold. I think that the easier we can make technology for people the happier not only the IT staff will be but also the employees. Is that too unrealistic?
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