What Was Old Becomes New Again

So, as most people are experiencing, the COVID-19 epidemic has been turning our world upside-down.  For me, it meant figuring out how to continue our small business operations providing IT support to our dear customers, while my team was concerned about the clients and their own exposure.

It was a real concern.  I may have started the company, but hands on technical engineering is not my forte!  I’m a Business Analyst, Project Manager, Entrepreneur, and passable Accountant; and I’m a bang-up Systems Architect thanks to over 20+ years in the industry.  But my real skills lie in explaining complex technologies to business owners and assessing the cost-benefit trade-offs.  My team also tells me that I’m a pretty compassionate and accessible “boss.” 😊

Faced with the current situation, however, there was nothing for me to do but roll up my sleeves and get dirty.

The first occasion was on March 9 when the city of Atlanta started to just shut down.

We’d had warnings, and the prior Thursday one of clients asked us to brainstorm the 100% remote, “work-from-home” contingency –  but on that Monday they declared “that’s it” and shut the office.  I had popped down to check on a misbehaving UPS unit that was refusing to communicate with the network and had become inaccessible to our monitoring tools.

Arriving onsite, I found the ominous scene of the office empty, except for 2 or 3 harried employees gathering their laptops and monitors to exit, and the entire senior management staff ensconced in the board room with the door open.  I waved on my way in (we’re trusted partners and so are badged and have access at any time in case equipment failure demands), then proceeded grimly to the server room.

The UPS was offline, but after confirming the cable connections to the switch, it was a relatively simple manner for me to reset the management NIC on that device via my direct laptop-to-serial cable connection.  Thank goodness I bought that for all our staff inclusive, just in case.  Then I called Kevin.  He walked me through the reset protocol with one eye on my laptop (which has our agents installed and he simply could remote into), and one eye on the Eaton documentation.  We usually deal with APC, so Eaton is not 100% transparent. After the usual 5 minutes of orientation every troubleshooting exercise goes through, we found the reset area and executed the commands. This wipes the existing configuration, but lets us re-enter the necessary network information (IP, subnet mask, gateway, DNS servers, etc.), to basically reconfigure that network connection from scratch. Voilà! The device immediately appeared online again for ping tests and via the virtual management server we run to safely shutdown the environment when needed.  Problem solved.

As I exited, the owner of our client’s business came out of the board room to greet me, carefully avoiding close contact or the usual handshake.  “Social Distancing, Catherine!” he admonished me.  It would be the start of many lessons in being hesitant with ALL social interactions.

I was very grateful that our client was so gracious in explaining the new “6-feet” rule that had come out as recommended over the previous weekend and non-judgmental in addressing my faux pas of instinctively reaching out my hand to shake.  And we exchanged our news.  Office closed, for now. Hope social distancing will work, for now. Systems stable, for now. We’ll support and do whatever’s necessary to keep them running provided the building owners don’t do anything silly like shut down power, in which case we discussed all the necessary contingencies … whatever it takes.  They will adapt, call us as needed and know that unlike “for now,” that we’re in this for the long haul.

With that, we departed. Job complete.  I was grateful it wasn’t anything more complicated.

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