Don't blink. Just...don't blink

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Flashback to 2000, when this pilot fish is the newly hired IT manager for a small company with three major branches spread across a continent.

"Headquarters was in Dallas, with Atlanta and Los Angeles branches connected by frame relay -- a 128Kb link to L.A. and 256Kb to Atlanta," fish says. "The frame relay price was high, the bandwidth was low, and remote users were constantly waiting on the corporate database to catch up with them."

Fish does the math and realizes there's a better way to do this: Putting in a T1 line at each location, plus point-to-point IPSec links for the VPN, would allow more speed at less cost.

The project is approved, and fish's work begins -- getting up to speed on the technology, flying to the branches to set up VPN concentrators at each location, and running network tests to verify the improvement.

Finally it's time for user acceptance testing for the Atlanta office. Fish knows the biggest pain point for Barney, the branch manager, is opening individual bids -- that pushes a lot of data across the wire, and the frame-relay network can take as long as 40 seconds to open a bid.

It's after hours, and fish has set up Barney's PC to route through the VPN instead of the frame relay link. OK, fish tells him, launch the app.

"Done. That seemed quick," Barney says.

All right, open the most complex bid you're working on and tell me when it finishes opening, fish says.

"OK, I double-clicked. Nothing."

Ten seconds tick by. "Still nothing." Thirty seconds in: "Still nothing." Fish is starting to sweat -- this isn't the way it went in his previous testing.

Seconds keep ticking by, and at the one-minute mark, fish is close to panic -- until suddenly Barney bursts out laughing.

"I'm sorry," he tells fish, "I'm an idiot. I was waiting for the load screen, and it happened so fast I missed it. I've been staring at the open bid for who knows how long?"

Sighs fish, "A few more tests showed that average time to open a bid had dropped to under two seconds. Users who were accustomed to seeing the load screen had to retrain themselves to look for the bid data instead."

Remember, the faster you get your story to Sharky, the sooner you can get a shirt. So send me your true tales of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com, and a stylish Shark shirt will be yours each time I use one. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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