There's protected, and then there's PROTECTED

New customer calls this consulting outfit for network support, especially one particularly vexing problem, a consultant pilot fish reports.

"They were in a 50-year-old building that has a very old-fashioned electrical system," fish says. "The building was designed for a time that predated the widespread use of computers, and even for the time it seems to have fewer outlets than are needed."

Now the building houses a school, and a dedicated power line runs to the network closet. It even has a battery backup, installed by the IT guy who used to support the organization.

But every time there's even a hint of a thunderstorm, the building has power glitches -- and every time the power goes down, the temperamental Internet gateway flakes out and has to be manually restarted.

Which strikes the client as very strange -- why should short power glitches take down the network when there's a UPS? But the equipment is mounted up near the ceiling, and it's rare that anyone has actually checked on it.

At least until someone on fish's team goes to the trouble of bringing in a ladder.

"Like most mass-market UPS units, this one had two rows of outlets," says fish. "One row is clearly marked 'Surge + Battery Backup,' the other one is marked 'Surge Only.'

"The network equipment was plugged into one side, and the other row of outlets was unused and covered with dust. Guess which set of outlets the equipment was plugged into?"

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