The View from Landmark

Trends and issues in personal computing from Bud Stolker, a long-time PC consultant. The View from Landmark features tips and techniques to make time spent with your computer more productive and rewarding, commentary on new personal computer policies and trends, plain-English explanations of new hardware, software, and network designs and their relevance to you, and answers to common questions. There may be personal material interspersed if Bud believes it is of general interest.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

You call this a managed network?

One of my clients -- a great guy -- is kind of a poster boy for how not to administer a network.

I knew he was in trouble when I surfed to his company's Web page and found it had become a porn site. His technology guru let the Web site registration lapse, and a speculator picked it up. It's now for sale for $500 by a no-name sleazeball in Florida (phone number 999-999-9999). My client was actually using a different domain name for his Web site and never noticed that the Web name he was using and the Web name he was publicizing didn't match.

Just about the time he called me in to clean up his network, the employee who was administering his network quit. History may be repeating itself: the former net admin is the listed contact for the company's current Web site. If he decides to hold that Web site hostage he can do it -- maybe not forever, but long enough to aggravate all concerned.

That same former network admin, who no longer returns phone calls, left his PC running but locked. No one knows the password. I was able to crack into the computer (yes, you can break password protection on Windows 2000 and XP servers with a simple floppy disk), but it's scary that we might have had to nuke the administrator's PC and start over without prior knowledge of how it worked and what he was working on.

There's more. It takes 2-3 minutes for a user to log onto the server. Maybe that's because it's running Windows 2003 Server in 128 Megabytes of RAM! Many basic home computers have four times that much memory. The 8 Gigabyte hard drive is maxed out, too.

One wonders how the network admin was spending his time.

I tried to open the server to upgrade memory but found it's locked. No key available. Okay, no sweat, I probably have a key that works, but are you getting the picture?

There's more. Users are flickering on and off the network. The Internet feed is unreliable. There's a tangle of unlabeled wires leading to the primary network switch (a multiport connector box). The switch is bolted to the leg of a lab bench, just begging to be kicked by the PC user sitting there. At the far end of some of those connections, the Ethernet cable comes right out of a hole in the wall. It's not punched down to the back of a wall socket. Put a kink in the wire, and you can't just replace a patch cable. You've got trouble, my friend, yes trouble right here in River City.

But I digress. There's a point here begging to be made:

Take care of your network; it's a primary business asset. Make sure you, the business owner, own what you need to own (in this case the rights to your Web site). Don't use a staffer's kid to string network cable if you want it to work reliably. Make sure everything is documented and labeled. And don't give away the keys to your kingdom -- or your server.

Hey, it's late and I'm tired after chasing wires all evening. I could go on, but not tonight.

A word or two to the wise . . .

. . . and a mention of our newest service, Domains by Landmark. Not only can you register and renew domain names at competitive rates, you can lock the registration and set it up for automatic renewal. That ensures you won't find one of your most precious business assets -- your Web name -- ripped off. If you're a dot-com, make sure you reserve similar Web names, too: dot-net, dot-org, dot-biz, dot-us, dot-name -- before someone else grabs them!