Never Again

Listen to the People You Hire

Communication problems with upper management set one company back a couple grand.

I work at the corporate headquarters of a small company, where we have about 250 local computers. When we initially moved into the building in the early 1990s, Cat5 cable was a new product. We knew networking was moving in that direction, but had very little experience with the technology.

The IT director, my boss at the time, ran several bids for phone and network drops. He ultimately decided to go with the lowest bid. He chose a company that I've always referred to as "Big Al's Brand Cabling Company."

Growing Pains
As the years passed, our company grew. I acquired numerous network engineering certifications, moved into management and hired my own network staff. The IT director became CIO and hired a new IT director who had little background in the company or even in networking.

As we moved to 100Base-T networks, we experienced many problems due to the poor initial job of wiring. Cables were constantly pulled over florescent lighting, the jacks and patch panels weren't Cat5-compliant and the sheeting had been consistently pulled back about three inches before the cables were punched.

The new IT director, my direct supervisor, decided that the company needed a "network assessment" and put out bids to numerous vendors. Between him and the CIO, they found a particular company to do the job for $50,000. During numerous meetings leading up to the assessment, I frequently suggested that we get the cabling problems fixed before doing the network assessment so it would actually amount to something.

My chief network engineer fully agreed with me, and pointed this out in several meetings. However, upper management continued to disagree. In fact, at one point, the CIO actually pounded his fist on the conference table several times exclaiming, "We do not have a cabling problem!"

Professional Assessment
Then the network assessment began. The company that did the assessment used a software package that was the equivalent of a sniffer on steroids. The product produced some really nice graphs of what the network looked like. After they completed their assessment, they came up with only one suggestion or solution: Get the cabling fixed. (This company also happened to be in the cabling business.)

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After spending an additional $22,000 with them, all we got were new network jacks and patch panels. We used the existing cables even though they were pulled incorrectly. Many of the jacks were re-punched and tested after hours when the lights were off. To this day, my staff continues to move cables from florescent lighting as we find problems.

Costly Resolution
For the money we paid for the patch panel and jack work alone, we could have had all the Cat5 cabling re-pulled correctly. In my opinion, we never got anything for our money regarding the network assessment. That was such a waste. In fact, for the same amount of money, we could have purchased our own copy of the product that they used to do the assessment.

The bottom line is that if you don't trust your network administrators and heed what they're telling you, you need to hire new ones.

About the Author

The submitter of this "Never Again" story wishes to remain anonymous.

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