Any riots in the clouds?

Earlier this week, I overheard an interesting and unusual support call being handled at a company which provides business systems. On the face of it, you might enjoy this topical little story, but it might also get you thinking, as it did me, about some rather more substantial issues.

This customer was calling because he wanted to take his business system home!

His system is used by multiple users to run his business; it was supplied and is supported by this company. He wanted to shut down the computer at his business premises, disconnect it, put it in his car and take it to his home.

Why? Riots, that is why! In the last few days, there have been riots on the streets of several cities in England and this customer was concerned for the safety of his system.

Despite this being a most unusual request, the customer was being given clear descriptions of a variety of issues, the procedures involved in dealing with them, and the remote technical help that could be provided. But the support engineer was lacing his advice with gentle suggestions that this whole exercise was not generally a good idea.

As background information was retrieved by the engineer, it was revealing that this particular customer’s general-purpose PC-style computer had been supplied over six years earlier and had not been shut down for over a year; now the gentle discouragement was turning into firmer dissuasion from this course of action. The customer was told about various risks due to the expected quantities of dust in the machine and the fragility of electrical connections and the likelihood that his computer would fail to start up again.

By the time the call had finished, other people had already looked up maps of the recent street riots in England and the relative location of the customer’s premises, which revealed that it was, indeed, in amongst it all. But by now the technical support person’s description to his colleagues of the inadvisability of this action took on a rather more colourful complexion! He rapidly generated images of the effects on the internals of this computer as gorillas manhandled it, bashed it into walls and then it bumped along in the back of someone’s car! He had no difficulty in imagining fragile connections breaking, blankets of dust moving about in there, the internals of hard disks being upset, and he did not like it at all. He made clear his opinion that damage by the customer was guaranteed, but damage by rioters was not, and the customer should leave the **** computer where it is, and leave it running! He was already working out when to expect the call for help to shutdown the system and when he would need to deal with consequently failed system. I was half expecting him to start preparing an order for a replacement system and scheduling a visit to install it!

You might not be surprised that my thoughts were that this was yet another example of the advantages of providing these computer systems using “cloud” based services, and how the disadvantages of this approach continue to be perceived as major obstacles for many people. But, more on that on another occasion.

As it happens no call for assistance with the shutdown was received before the end of business day, and the support engineer drew the conclusion that the customer had opted to take the advice given and leave his system alone. Let’s hope that the rioters also left his premises and computer system alone too.

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