Shark Tank: Got your money's worth yet?

The closet that serves as this company's computer room holds a Unix server with a big production database, several Windows servers and some communications equipment, says a pilot fish who used to work there.

"For 'security' reasons, someone decided not to put any vents in there," says fish. "And with all this stuff in there, it heats up pretty quickly -- temperatures of 100 to 105 degrees in the summer are not uncommon."

Fish knows this is putting the servers' hard disks at risk -- particularly the Unix server's RAID array, which can recover from one disk dropping dead, but not two or more disks at a time. So he suggests installing air conditioning for the closet.

But the boss brushes off fish's concerns. Company has a pricey service contract that will replace any disk drives that go bad at no extra cost, and she wants to get her money's worth from it. "And she felt the odds of losing two drives at a time was astronomical," says fish.

Nor will the tightwad boss shell out for a replacement for the backup tape drive that the database has outgrown.

And after four or five drives in the RAID array are replaced in turn without incident, boss is congratulating herself on how much money her strategy is saving.

Until one hot July day.

"One disk went down, and before I could put in a service call, another went down with it," says fish. "D-e-a-d. Neither of them would even spin up. Our system crashed hard."

Sixteen hours later, replacement drives arrive -- which is when fish discovers the backup image is incomplete. "So almost everything had to be recovered from scratch, which took two more days," fish says. "We ended up losing our inventory and a few months' worth of transactions."

It takes 50 employees a week to do the physical inventory, and the company loses a week's worth of shipping time. Total estimated cost of the snafu: more than $100,000.

The boss? "She claimed it was defective hardware, and nothing could have been done to prevent it. And her boss bought it," says fish.

The air conditioning? "She still wouldn't install it," fish says. "She felt that it was a very rare event to have the system crash like that, and it would never happen again. Besides, there was no money left because the system crash cost us so much."

And the fish? "I finally convinced another manager to use project money on his budget to buy some portable air conditioners, which lowered the temperature in the room considerably. My boss didn't like it, but she accepted it because it didn't cost her money.

"When it was review time, what did I get dinged on? Insubordination for putting air conditioners in the room, and system uptime, because ultimately I was responsible," fish grumbles.

"And when I left there a few weeks later, they still hadn't gotten a new tape drive."

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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