True IT confessions

Supergeeks fess up to some of the dumbest things they've ever done -- and the lessons they learned as a result

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True IT confession No. 7: Don't ask, don't tell, and don't let them make you take a polygraph Four years ago "Paul" (not his real name), an independent data analyst in (yes) the Midwest, was working with a governmental client on a $20,000 analysis project. After two months of hard work, he delivered a preliminary draft to the client, then went off on a week-long business trip.

Before he left, Paul burned a disc with all the project data on it so that he could finish it up in the hotel during his trip. And as was his usual custom at the time, he deleted all 4GB of project data from his hard drive to free up space.

Then, of course, he lost the disc: $20,000 worth of work gone in a flash. What did he do? What any smart consultant would do: He billed the client for the entire project, in full. And promptly received a check.

"Six months went by and I didn't hear back from the client," says Paul. "I thought that was incredible, because I expected to receive comments and changes on the draft. A year went by, and nothing."

Finally, two years after delivering the draft, the dreaded call finally came.

"'Are you going to ever finish this project?' I heard on the other end of the phone," says Paul. "I said, 'There's no way that I can stand by that original data and recommendations, since two years have gone by. None of the information is valid anymore.' Of course, I knew full well I could never provide any updated data or updated recommendations based on the original data. Fortunately, the client accepted that explanation and then proceeded to discuss what fees I'd need for some new work."

In his defense, Paul says the preliminary draft was 95 percent complete, and the client told him they'd already implemented many of the recommendations he'd made.

These days, Paul is a self-proclaimed "data backup nut."

"On any given day I have about 10 copies of all current project data, and can completely restore every project data file that I have worked on during the last three years within about five minutes," he says. "I learned a hard lesson that I certainly won't forget anytime soon."

Lessons learned? 1. You can never have enough backups. 2. It's a good idea to also keep hard copies on hand, just in case. 3. If you do lose all your data before you've delivered the final product, try to make sure you're working for the government at the time. They might never notice.

This story, "True IT confessions" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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