Not exactly what they mean by lights-out operation

Small regional office gets a server to support the local staff, and to make sure it runs reliably the company hires an electrician to run dedicated power to the server that's also protected by a UPS, reports a pilot fish on the scene.

"Some time goes by and all seems well," fish reports. Well, almost all: "The office admin comes in daily at 6:30 a.m., long before everyone else, and she complains that she can't get connected until 10 to 15 minutes after she arrives."

The reason comes clear when fish is working late one night. A coworker, thinking he's the last person to leave, flips the light switches by the front door on the way out.

And fish notices that connectivity drops at the same moment the lights go out.

He works his way through the semi-dark office to the server. It's off.

Returning to the front, fish turns the office lights back on, walks to the back and, presto, the server is booting up.

It's painfully clear that the electrician has tied the "dedicated power line" into the circuit controlled by the office light switches.

But wait, what about the UPS? Why didn't it kick in? Fish inspects the UPS and finds that it is powered up. It just happens to be set to "standby" mode -- apparently because someone thought "standby" meant "standing by, ready to jump in when needed."

Sighs fish, "I switch the UPS to 'on,' go back to the front, turn the lights off and can hear the UPS distantly chirping -- that is, doing its job. I turn the lights back on, tape a hand-written sign over the light switches saying to leave them on, and call it a day.

"Next morning the admin is very happy that her computer connects right away. But why are we supposed to leave the lights on?"

Sharky's burning the midnight, um, electricity for you. So send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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