Consumerism & IT (Working title - Everyone's an expert)

Everyone knows someone who 'does IT'… Which is fine - depending on what IT you get them to do ….

The consumerisation of technology has led to some interesting effects - namely people who do the odd bit of IT at home implementing IT systems for offices…and coming a bit unstuck for various reasons.

In some respects a lot of us will have been there. I remember early on in my career some of the initial deployments of Netware 2/3 … Well, let's say visiting those sites a few years later made me cringe somewhat. Still, you learn right? Educate and move on.

Education & experience does seriously affect your world view though doesn't it? For example I look now at code I wrote maybe 5 years ago - and while it's functional - I often find myself thinking what on earth was I thinking? Or why did I write those 60 lines of code when a simple piece of sub-code would work? Also - I appear to have discovered in-code documentation. This is a good thing.

Anyways, a little while ago a friend of mine who's an owner of a small startup (well, I say small - it's about 150 people now, and I say startup - they're on year 4 I think) asked me for some guidance. Why me? Well, their issues were predominantly around using Skype in Office365, WebEx, GoToMeeting etc. They'd tried them all. All with similar issues - disconnections, poor quality etc.

I swung by one day fully prepared for a free lunch, and then spent a good few hours scratching my head. I could
see things were not working - what I couldn't see was what wasn't working. Yes, confusing statement. What I mean is that media products were terrible - laggy, disconnections, and just generally hideous. I got chatting to a few people around me and their general assumption was that it was 'everything'. That 'everything' changed my view, and I started looking into general network performance.

Internet speed tests - brilliant. Local network tests - what you'd expect from 1Gbps local connections. Then wait - what's that? Did I just see Outlook disconnect for a few minutes too? What on earth. So I started to look harder at the network - random loooong times to connect. Wait what?! Anyways, I did some more digging and I see that there's been some hacking on the workstations to massively increase the TCP/IP timeouts and retries. Aha, now we're on to something.

As part of my wandering about and getting coffee, I glanced at the IT rack. Yes, the IT rack is in the coffee area. Where else would you put it? Anyway, this consisted of a pile of Netgear switches on a shelf…in a usual uncomfortable mix of different colour cables, and lack of securing to the rack. In my idleness I started to work through the OCD damaging mess of cables - and the issue became clear. Something so, so basic that I'd almost forgotten to check for such things. Something was flashing in my brain about the
5-4-3 rule.

So…I start pulling the mess of cables apart - and this connection method becomes clear:


So day 1 they buy a cheap 8 port switch. Who doesn't have a drawer full of them? Then they need a few more ports - so add another switch, plug in the Internet connection and the odd on-prem service. Then wait, we need more ports. Plug in new switch etc. Then we end up in the world of network notwork. Did you see what I did there? Kinda proud of it considering my level of coffee intake.

Anyways, anyone with a basics of networking should see how inefficient the above is. A simple re-wire and guess what - everything now just works. Forgive the poor diagram - I'm still having breakfast:


It's so easy to wander down to PC World (Other advice-filled wonderous providers are available), buy stuff, and just plug them in…and it mostly works isn't it? Hell, this model probably would cope if all it were doing was delivering Netflix to the front room, kitchen and bedrooms. For work though, all those minor irritations, disconnections, poor quality media sessions - they rob your users of time and motivation, which of course robs your business of productivity.

Anyways, here endeths my Tuesday breakfast sermon. Be careful of the fella that 'does IT' because he got Netflix working in his kitchen. Or something.

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