Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When Worlds Collide (good stuff happens)

As everyone now knows, I have a new full time job as CIO of a company based in Manhattan. This has unfortunately taken me away from my beloved Google Plus community and severely limited the time I have to read and contribute to the content there. It also forced me to throttle back on my personal blog site and to miss, this week, for the first time my self imposed deadline for a column.

Yes, Wednesday came and went with no time to think about, let alone write a column for my loyal readers.

But something else happened this week which I wanted to share with all of you. My two worlds collided for the first time.

There I was faced with a deep technical challenge and limited access to the kind of resources I needed to address it. Our company website was not accessible from within the four walls.  Oh, I knew it was a DNS (domain name service)  issue but this particular environment was still foreign to me. This company network with its servers, routers and firewalls, was still a confusing pile of documentation, diagrams and notes to me. I lacked the history and familiarity that comes with building and operating a network from the start.

The senior manager who owned it for the last six years left during my first weeks on the job taking all that knowledge and experience with him. He would have gone straight to the source of the problem. Not me. I had to step back and try to look at this like a big puzzle and investigate one element at a time.

Worse, I have been in senior management for the last 15 years.. I'm still top of the heap when it comes to theory, strategy and planning but my hands on technical skill level has come down a few notches.

It was important to confirm that the web site was still up for the general public. Easy enough, I thought. I'll just "ping" someone and have them check.  But everyone on my corporate instant messaging system is inside the company.

Popping over to my Google Plus account, I saw that several of my good friends were on-line.  Using GTalk, I asked Eileen McAllister to please verify she could reach the web site.  She not only confirmed it but provided me with the correct external IP address which would play a key role in troubleshooting later on.

I had checked the obvious hosting and DNS service providers and now, armed with the correct address, I could see that all was in order.  That meant it was an internal DNS issue.

Next, I saw my friend Robert Redl, an IT professional in Austria and long time Google Hangout buddy. Opening a hangout, I was relieved to see that friendly face and we set about discussing my technical issue. Combining screen sharing with my cheat sheet of administrator accounts and passwords we managed to remote access various servers and check the configurations. Poking around we eventually found the "A" record which had an incorrect address.

The problem arose from the web site host changing servers. Some changes had been made but this one entry had been overlooked.  It meant people inside the network in a couple of offices would still be pointed to the old site. With active directory, making the change in the DC (main directory server) fixed it everywhere in a matter of seconds.

Having good and knowledgeable friends with the ability to leverage a tool like Google Plus positioned me to overcome a most difficult situation in less than an hour.  Some of  my old crew members had come to save me from perils encountered during my new voyage.

Thanks.

Captain Joe


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