by Oct 31, 2016

Tis the season for spooks and spoils so to get in the spirit here is a cauldron of scary, strange and sometimes humorous tales gathered from the beyond to remind us that it can be a grave delight to get a scare every now and then, as long as you survive.

Truth is often stranger than fiction as these examples will attest.  Stay tuned at the end for some simple survival tactics.  If you are so possessed, we dare you to share your own IT horror stories and make our skin crawl.

Knightmare on Wall Street  Upstart retail broker Knight Capital’s new trading algorithm logs $440M in losses in one day, sinks the company, and even sparks a book deal.  Freddy still slashed out at win though with a total box office draw for all 9 Nightmare movies that reached $447M. 

Ghost in the Machine
Certified true by those involved, this haunting shows the strong bond that can develop between man and machine that can live beyond the grave.  Some say it was mainframe master Ernie who sabotaged the upgrade of his beloved Honeywell  8 years after passing away. 

Server Graveyard Fired Fannie Mae computer engineer plants script designed to destroy $M of data and 4000 servers.  His script was programmed to remain dormant for three months, when it would greet administrators with a login message that read “Server Graveyard” and systematically replace all data with zeros on every production, administrative, and backup server in the company.  It was discovered 5 days after his termination by chance, but I say it was the work of the Ghostbusters.

My Electric Tea Kettle is a Spy With a nod to that less than stellar Steven King movie Maximum Overdrive, this bit of intrigue involves hijacked kettles and irons that were surgically altered to spy on unsuspecting office workers.  Maybe the makers of the Kingsmen were not that far off after all.

My FTP is a child killer
On the lighter side, yes son the words in error message can hurt you.  Don’t let this computer anywhere near your trick or treaters! 

What’s the Answer?  

Keep it Simple. So how are we to protect ourselves, our companies, and our sanity from the strange but true?  Just as it is now common place today for parents to scrutinize their child’s Halloween experience, we can take some simple cues from these rituals to help us from getting slashed.

  1. Know what you have.  If your kids are like mine they come home with a stuffed and sagging pillow case full of who knows what.  It is important to take the time to shift through the treasure and take an inventory to see what all there is.  Just as with your SQL environment, it is important to know about all the instances, databases, and users that are out there.  Keep a continuous inventory to make sure you know what you have and you will have a better chance of managing it all.
  1. Anything questionable gets thoroughly investigated.  It is not worth the risk to second guess a suspicious looking piece of candy, or SQL Server activity.  If it looks bad, treat it as bad until you know for sure.  Implement a thorough set of data access policies and audit them regularly to see who is doing what, when, and where.
  1. Optimize your treat gathering approach.  Halloween comes but once a year and to children of a certain age this is the mission critical candy grabbing day of the year.  Help your child make the most of it by tuning their route to maximize neighborhood coverage over the safest path.  In turn, treat you SQL Server queries with that same level of importance and continuously investigate and tune performance to maximize your IT resources.
  1. Always have a backup plan.  The weather can be very unpredictable this time of year.  It could be hot, it could be cold, it could be raining, it could be foggy, or it even could be snowing.  Have a backup plan ready to bring out when things don’t go as planned such as a costume change, extra glow sticks, or if all else fails extra candy, pizza, and a movie to combat a rainout.  It should go without saying that you need to be backing up your SQL Server environment.  If you are not doing that, well that IS scary.    Where the real time saver comes in is through automating backup and/or restore policies to run across your environment.  Take the time to create a complete backup and restore strategy and don’t be afraid to use a job management utility to help you optimize the process.

With a few simple survival tactics you can survive a host of IT horrors and live to tell your grandchildren about it.  Have some of your own to share, we are all goose bumps in anticipation.