I understand that the IT department does their best to help people solve
problems and offer services that improve…
You’re asleep already, aren’t you?
Okay, the short version: The company IT department is a good thing, and
what they do is meant to help. I’m totally on board with that. I used to
be in the IT department. We weren’t out to screw you, I promise.
Here’s the deal, though:
There are a certain quantity of problems that need to be solved, and
your computer has a fixed amount of capacity to solve them in. Your disk
isn’t getting any faster, your CPU isn’t going to magically process at
an extra gigahertz faster. You’ve got what you’ve got. With that,
besides getting work done, you probably also want to:
- Back things up - It’d be a shame if you lost your work.
- Stop the spread of viruses - You don’t want to get infected,
now, do you?
- Keep company data secure - If someone breaks into your car and
steals your laptop while you’re picking up donuts for the morning
meeting at the store, they shouldn’t get access to your proprietary
Each of those things are valuable, but they also eat resources on your
system. In some cases, not a trivial amount, either.
I have a 1.7GHz processor and 1.5GB of RAM. It’s not a super
powerhouse, but it should be enough to get the job done. It took me
eight full minutes to boot up and log in this morning, and my machine is
still tanked. Why?
Say you’re getting ready to ride in a bike race. Your computer is your
bike. “We got you a pretty decent bike,” says IT, “This bike will
definitely get you over the finish line.” You look the bike over, check
the specs, and take it out for a spin. Hell, yeah, that bike will do the
“Now, it’s a long race, so you’re going to need some supplies. We’re
here to help you,” says IT. And they are - it is a long race, and you
do need some supplies. You’re thinking maybe a couple of energy bars
and some water.
“First we’re going to strap this 30 gallon drum of water on your back.
Yeah, it’s pretty heavy, but you have a fast bike. Oh, and in the event
you need to take a break and get off the bike, you don’t want the bike
rolling away (?!) so here’s an anvil. It’s okay, though, you have a fast
bike. Oh, and we know the first leg of the race is basically a huge
hill, but later in the race you’ll want more high gears, so we replaced
all of the low gears with high gears so you don’t have to pedal as hard
later on. But you have a pretty fast bike, so it should be okay.”
You struggle onto your bike and it barely moves. No one seems to be
terribly concerned about this, though, because, crap, man, you have a
fast stinking bike so it has to be you causing the issue. And if you
“Yeah, um, I need some water, but I really don’t think I need a drum of
water - I only need a water bottle.”
“Well, you can give us back the drum of water, then.”
“Can you give me a water bottle? I do need water, just not a drum.”
“Um, no - all we have is a full drum of water. If you only want a
bottle, you’re on your own.”
The cumulative effect of the daily incremental backup, real-time virus
scanner, real-time disk encryption, and everything else that runs in the
background to help me out is killing me. I booted up this morning and
with the startup cost of all of these services, I’m surprised they don’t
send someone downstairs to personally punch me in the junk every
morning, too. I mean, think about it - whenever I read or write a file,
it goes through both a real-time AES 256 encryption and the real-time
virus scanner, neither of which I have control to configure because it’s
all centrally administered “for us.” I look sideways at this thing and
the CPU is pegged and the disk light is on solid for three minutes.
But, hey, if I don’t want to suffer the cost of the incremental backup
software (that runs for probably an hour each morning), I can uninstall
it. Is there any other backup mechanism? No - if I uninstall it, I’m on
my own. Or I could set it to run when I’m not at work… but, oh, wait,
you need to be connected to the network to have it run, and the whole
point of my having a laptop is so I can take it home with me at night
and work disconnected if I need to. There’s no time when I’m not working
on my computer that it’s connected to the corporate network. (Not that
it matters; I only have about a 30 - 50% success rate on completing a
backup at any given point anyway.)
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what the IT department does for me and
they’re a necessary piece of the puzzle. I just feel a little anchored
down lately by all the help, is all, and I don’t think folks consider
the overhead of all of these helpful-but-necessary services before
rolling them out.