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Document Archiving Blues.

A friend of mine was the senior systems administrator at a company that was responsible for building components for gas pipelines. A few months after being employed he was informed by his manager that he’d need to take a week long course so that he could learn about a document archiving program that was going to be used to archive engineering schematics related to the components the company manufactured. My friend had been booked into the course because although the server that had been purchased to host the database and the document archiving program was extremely expensive, it had not been put to any use in the previous six months because no-one, except the guy that started the project (who had left six months before). The server was connected to an expensive high throughput scanner. Finally the actual document archiving software that my friend was to learn about was expensive and it sat on top of another extremely expensive proprietary database solution, the license fees for which had to be paid annually. The license fees were up for renewal the week that the course was to run. My friend asked if it was really worth paying all this money given that the server clearly wasn’t being used and the people who actually archived these documents seemed happy with what they had. His manager assured him that this project was considered vital to the company and that no expense would be spared to make sure that it went ahead. The expensive software license was renewed.


The company paid for my friend to fly to another city, stay in a great hotel and attend the course. They even covered his eating expenses and gave him a small entertainment allowance. He sat through the week long course and learned what he could about the document archiving solution and how it could be of use to his company. The day that my friend returned from the course, he took a look at the existing server configuration and realized that it needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. Knowing that he didn’t have the ability to do this properly, he asked his manager if they could bring out someone from the vendor for a day to quickly bring the server up to a standard where it could be used properly. Bringing someone from the vendor out would cost at least a thousand dollars in consultants fees, but my friend’s manager approved it without any argument. Two days later, the consultant came out on site and the server was ready to start archiving engineering diagrams.


By the end of the week the archiving project was cancelled, the server reformatted and put to use as a domain controller. If the company had cancelled the project a month earlier, they wouldn’t have had to send my friend on the expensive course, pay the license renewal on the software nor pay for the consultant to come out. The company’s excuse for canceling the project was that the existing arrangements for archiving engineering diagrams were considered exceptionally good by the people who actually used them. The same point that my friend made when he first found out that he had to go on the course.

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