‘One rule for me, another for them’ is all well and good until it sinks the entire company’s ability to receive emails

Mail. Forward. Send. Repeat

On Call  Friday is upon us once again, bringing with it all the promise of the weekend and a cheeky adult beverage or eight. Unless, of course, you’re cursed to be On Call.…

On Call Friday is upon us once again, bringing with it all the promise of the weekend and a cheeky adult beverage or eight. Unless, of course, you’re cursed to be On Call.

Today’s tale comes from an individual we’re going to call “Al” and concerns that triumvirate of evil: a cluttered Windows desktop, Lotus Notes, and the Devil’s Redirect.

Al was toiling away in desktop support back in the early part of this century. While he was a little reticent about his employer, he did tell us “this field was all about sales. Specifically, salespeople who had connections.”

“We routinely paid salespeople we poached to sit on the sidelines for a year to run out the non-competes,” he added, “because customers typically hired us last minute based on who took them to the most recent sports event or let them win the last golf outing.”

Ah yes, non-competes – Google and Amazon know all about those.

One particular member of the sales team, who we will call “Frank”, was a regular pain in the posterior of the desktop support team, triggering groans and mutterings of “your turn” whenever the inevitable ticket turned up.

“For context,” explained Al, “soon after Windows 95 came out, he called up because his laptop was slow.

“Upon arrival, I discovered that his system tray was TWO FULL ROWS, FULL SCREEN WIDTH of icons. All apps running in the background on what at the time was probably a machine sporting about 2GB of RAM.”

Clearly a psychopath. We can only imagine what his desktop must have looked like.

“When asked which apps he really needed, the answer was, of course, ‘All of them.'”

Our tale begins with Lotus Notes taking one of its occasional nosedives. “No one could send or receive email, which put the whole company dead in the water,” recalled Al.

Al’s phone trilled with news that the problem had been traced to his favourite user: Frank.

Obediently, he trudged over to Frank’s desk to work out which of the multitude of “essential” apps was causing the borkage.

“Frank proudly informed me that he needed access to his email off hours,” Al recalled, “and didn’t want to be locked into the company email system (see: portability of contacts in case you get poached).”

Possessed of that most dangerous of things – a little bit of IT skill – Frank had hit upon a neat solution. A rule that would forward all his corporate emails to an account he’d set up with his ISP. Sorted!

Except Frank had forgotten about the limit on his ISP mailbox which, predictably, had been hit long ago.

For every message that was forwarded to the ISP, a “mailbox full” response would dutifully be sent. Which Frank’s forwarding rule would then send it back to the ISP. Which would respond with a “mailbox full”.

“You can see where this is going,” sighed Al.

Fixing the problem was relatively simple. Frank’s Rule Of Insanity was ditched and messages purged from the queue. Lotus Notes recovered, and the company was back to normal shortly after.

Al was the hero of the hour, or at least as much of a hero as one can be in a company that appeared to prize its precious salespeople above all else.

And Frank (the user, with the rule, in Lotus Notes)? “Frank was shortly poached by a competitor, whom I’m sure had no problems with him ever again…

“Or not.”

What are the most apps you’ve seen crammed into the system tray after a user whined that things seemed a bit slow? Have you seen an ill-considered forwarding rule bring down an ill-prepared email server? Tell us all about that call with an email to On Call. ®

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