Techie's quick cure for a curious conflict caused a huge headache

A PC is a PC is a PC, and by any other name would not have taken down the intranet

Who, Me? Welcome, gentle reader, to the safe place we call Who, Me? where Register readers tell us about the times when their brilliance shone a little dimmer than was needed to reach a brighter future.

This week, meet "Bruce" who was once an IT Helpdesk Analyst for a "large bluechip healthcare organization" in Australia. That sounds a very impressive job title, but Bruce tells us he mostly spent his days "repairing computer issues, troubleshooting networks and installing and upgrading equipment."

On one of those days, he was replacing a PC in a doctor's clinic. Each machine ran a Windows standard operating environment, and each machine had an asset tracking sticker on the side. Usual practice when setting up a machine was to give it the same name as that printed on the asset tracking sticker. All fair dinkum so far, as we say in Australia.

But when Bruce strode up to this machine he discovered its name was already in use on the network. How that had happened was anyone's guess, but Bruce decided to fix that problem another time and just for now give the machine a temporary name. Any name. Whatever would do. First thing that popped into his head.

He used the name of the company.

Now, you might say that it was likely that name would already be in use by another machine on the network, but evidently it was not. The network accepted the name, the machine booted, and all was evidently tickety-boo, as we say in Australia.

Then, the call came. Bruce's boss had received a call from the CIO, who had received a call from the head of infrastructure, who had been called by one of the senior techies. They all had the same question Bruce's boss now put to him: "What did you do to the intranet?"

The entire corporation's intranet was down. Not just in that building, either. As Bruce puts it, this was "a company with 25,000 employees and 800 servers spanning 120 locations and three continents" and "no-one could connect remotely from outside the network, they couldn't access forms for annual leave, purchase order requisition forms, educational information and just about anything else you can think might be on an intranet."

We have a response to that sort of thing: "Somebody must've messed that up."

It transpired that the corporate disk image, on which every single PC in the company was based, had Microsoft's IIS web server enabled. That's a bad idea and it wasn't Bruce's fault that it was running.

What was Bruce's fault was that he'd given that computer, which the network was seeing as a web server because IIS was enabled, the same name as the corporate intranet. It makes perfectly good sense that the company name was the name of the intranet, of course. It's the first thing any employee would think of, right?

So Bruce, in trying to get past that little problem of the computer's name already being in use, had redirected thousands of employees' intranet requests to a single PC that, while it was running a web server, was not driving the company intranet.


That was relatively easily fixed by disconnecting the PC, which meant all traffic routed back to the actual intranet. Then it was just a matter of setting the PC up again with a unique name.

And perhaps deactivating the web server on PCs that didn't actually need one.

Ever done a little thing that made a big mess? Tell us all about it in an email to Who, Me? and we'll share your exploits with the world. ®

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