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BOFH: Unfriendly ghosts
The expense of defence
"But why can't we visit the site?" the Boss bleats one morning when we shoot his idea of seeing the ghost facility down.
"It's a defence site," I lie. "They host defence computers as well as stuff for companies like us. They're probably not allowed to show people through their server rooms."
"We should just turn up unannounced and say there's some server problem that we have to fix urgently that can't be fixed over the network," the Boss suggests.
"That would assume (a) that we can create some legitimate sounding problem requiring a site visit, and (b) that we even knew where their site is," I counter.
"You don't know where our servers are?!" the Boss gasps.
"Of course not," the PFY says. "It's part of the contract. If we knew where our servers were, we could theoretically compromise the security of the country's distributed IT defence systems."
"Exactly what defence data is held at these sites?"
"We could tell you, but then we'd have to kill you."
"Perhaps we'll skip that bit then?"
"So we don't have to tell you?" the PFY says.
"Look," the Boss says, ignoring him. "We pay good money - no, VERY good money for this external hosting arrangement, and I'd like to know how it's being spent. I'm not paying top dollar for hosting when our critical services could be operating out of the back room of some office building! I want to see what we're paying for!"
"They don't let you visit," the PFY repeats "It's a security thing."
"Then perhaps we shouldn't pay!" the Head Beancounter responds, entering Mission Control from his lurk-point outside. "That's a financial thing!"
I realise now that this is a setup and the Boss has been committing IT treason in actively conspiring with the Beancounters to find some unmet SLA in our external hosting service contract, so as to derail the 'external hosting' gravy train of the PFY and myself...
"Maybe we can get some photos?" the PFY suggests.
"We'd want to see the facility," the Boss says.
"Both of us," the Beancounter adds.
"I'll make some calls," I say.
Half an hour later the PFY and I have a rough plan of them being hooded (for 'security reasons') at night (to 'coincide with shift changes') bundled in the back of a van and driven around local streets for half an hour before being brought up through the freight elevator to our ghost facility.
To disguise the server room a little, the PFY's going to flip all the floor tiles upside down, remove the rack doors and slap lots of anti-terrorism posters everywhere. We've also lined up a bouncer from a local pub to dress in khaki and 'act military', dropping the occasional bit of IT patter. To complete the picture we've asked the Boss and Beancounter to supply scans of their passports 'for ID verification and validation purposes'.
. . .
A day later and the Boss and Beancounter are ushered out of the freight elevator looking slightly dishevelled - thanks to the PFY's high speed negotiation of a couple of the city's parks.
"So this is it then?" the Beancounter asks angrily. "All that money for this?"
"State of the art facility, this," our bouncer says.
"It's no better or worse than we have in our own building!" the Boss snaps.
"It may as well be our building," the Beancounter fumes. "We're being ripped off!"
I'm wondering if the PFY can hear any of this, watching us - as he is - from the CCTV monitor beside the Halon release in the next room...
"And we pay all that money for THIS?" the Boss snarls as our security guard departs 'to do his rounds'.
"It's a state of the art room with redundant UPS, Environme-"
"I don't care if it's got state of the art bloody environmental monitoring with round the clock surveillance..."
"Actually, it has," I murmur.
"...we're being ripped off! This is never a defence facility! I worked in defence and they'd never use this sort of equipment."
"There's no log book!" the Boss says triumphantly.
"There's no log book - we didn't sign in and out - I'm sure that's part of the contract!" the Boss says triumphantly.
"They got photocopies of your passports."
"Yes, but we didn't sign in and out - it says they'll do that, in the contract!" the Beancounter says happily.
"So you're going to void the contract over a technicality?" I ask, rubbing my jaw thoughtfully.
"YOU BET!" the Boss says.
"And we'll go back to hosting it ourselves?"
"Hell no!" the Beancounter says. "The current on site facility cost us a fortune - there's no way we're going to expand it to house these servers! No, we've found an excellent hosting place in Luton which is dirt cheap."
"You're going host our servers in Luton?" I ask, looking at the CCTV camera, thinking about that scene at the end of Wag the Dog.
"Yes. Only it's cheaper if we provide the technical support - so one of you's going to have to be relocated to Luton."
"Luton?! Yes. Yes, I'm sure we can work something out," I say, creaking the door open. "I'll just let the security guy know we'll be leaving..."