back to article BOFH: The back-up backdown smackdown

"So is all the data gone?" the voice whimpers over the hands-free. "Did you take a backup like I told you?" I ask. "No." "Then yes, it's all gone," I say. "You either put a backup client on your laptop and back it up to the backup server or connect an external disk and use that - but if you use nothing..." "I don't …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Negative Event Probabilities

    I've believed that law exists for years now. Wonderful BOFH, as usual

  2. Professor Falken

    Best in a long time

    Icon says it all...

    "Age is no guarantee of reliability. Just look at senior management."

    /me is still giggling at that one...

    1. Fatman

      Re: Age is no guarantee of reliability

      I HAD to broadcast that link to everyone in the department.

      Still chuckling after reading that one, which reminds me of some scheming we did earlier this year.

      We arranged for a `promotion` of one of our most (in)competent SVP's to a position with one of our competitors. His last day, was the best day in a long time, and we all were "so broken up" over his departure [NOT!!!] While we were glad to be rid of him, what resulted in the following week simply amazed us.

      In true seagull management style(1), he took his `hangers on` with him. The word from their grapevine is that he has "struck again". Such a pity!

      (1)Seagull Management Style: An incompetent Mangler gets hired, and shortly after reporting to the new company; arranges for his lackeys to also "jump ship". There, they begin the process of shitting all over the new company until either they leave on their own accord (better shitting elsewhere); or they are chased away (fired!). Often, the victim company suffers financially from this experience. The best defense against a "seagull mangler" is a 10ga shotgun loaded with 4/0 buck, and used quickly in the event "shitting around" is discovered. The mess that has to be cleaned up by "blowing away" one "seagull mangler" is far less that the toxic sludge removal required after the "seagulls" have shit all over the company for a few years.

      1. TeaLeaf

        Re: Age is no guarantee of reliability

        Fatman - We had one like that arrive in 1995. We lost a great many good people, and we almost got screwed for year 2000 (nothing done, he told management everything was okay.) His boss told me that the only thing he regretted about the manager leaving, was that he quit before he could be fired.

  3. b0llchit Silver badge


    Makes me wish I got 5 quid per event. I'd be at more sunny places by now.

  4. Callam McMillan

    Made my morning

    It's a real shame that while these stories mimic reality in the problems discussed, attempting the same solutions as the BOFH would most likely result in a P45 and/or a prison sentence...

    1. Jedit Silver badge

      "attempting the same solutions as the BOFH would most likely result in a P45 "

      A good BOFH makes himself indispensable to the running of the system. Then, not only can management not fire you no matter what you do, they spend every day praying to the deity of choice for your long life and continued good health.

      Just don't teach your subordinates too much before your retirement date is confirmed. They may try for promotion the old fashioned way.

    2. /dev/me
      Big Brother

      Re: "result in a P45 and/or a prison sentence"

      Only if you get caught. Which is unlikely, if you're a pro-BOFH.

      The security guards will be pleased with access to youporn and .xxx domains, and so may have inadvertently recorded over the CCTV tapes some user claims holds the evidence of his abuse.

      And you can always casually mention to someone in upper management that you are working on long term resource usage analysis in order to compile your multi-year hardware acquisition recommendations and that you stumbled on the curious fact that /some/ users have gigabytes worth of data in hidden folders in their home directories.

      Upon being asked to investigate, which you will only reluctantly agree to after receiving a signed order to do so, what with you valuing your users privacy as much as you do, you then have carte blanche to shove donkey porn onto whichever user you need to get rid of quickly.

      Then, of course, your admin status on the proxy server, specially the write permissions on the log files, can be put to good use to get rid of said upper manager because it's bad practise to leave witnesses.

  5. phuzz Silver badge

    I wish I got a fiver everytime a user lost a file, and hadn't paid any attention to our advise about backing up.

  6. mark 63 Silver badge

    another good one!

    A masterclass in saying one thing and meaning another -

    being helpful whilst oozing evil = BOFH

  7. Chris Hainey

    Back on form

    My colleagues are all looking at me wondering why I have coffee coming from my eyes

  8. TRT Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    I didn't think this one was so good. "Age is no guarantee of reliability. Just look at senior management." WTF does that mean? They are older therefore more reliable? Less reliable? What?

    And the pain is all in the anticipation of an event anyway. OK, some of it is in the punch the PFY delivers, but resorting to physical violence when simply inducing sufficient paranoia to cause the user to immediately backup 5 fives and therefore run out of space in iCloud or GoogleWhatever or an expensive external HDD...

    Far better to get them to dig their own graves.

    1. Jess--

      Re: Meh.


      make the user back up 5 times to a locally controlled storage, then as part of a random sweep the backups are found to contain 5tb of donkey porn

      1. TRT Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Meh.

        Eeyore... eeyore... eeyort to have deleted his browsing history.

        Paris for obvious reasons.

        1. Isendel Steel

          Re: Meh.

          An up vote for that

    2. Marshalltown

      Re: Meh.

      Heh. When an ex-employer of mine decided to run an ISP as a sideline out of the same office where the main business was run, he hired a sysop who imagined himself the BOFH. However, we had designed, wired and built the internal network before he was hired. Next thing we knew the little Nazi was trying to take over all the computers in the building including the print server, which was critical to getting our work in the regular business done. We used to run a handy little DOS utility on his NT system that would access the system from a floppy. We would then simply run a listing of files and then shut down. Next morning he would have to go through a whole dance to get his system stable again. We kept telling him it probably had something to do with the printer server, but he was sure someone was illicitly accessing his system. Finally, he quit. Heh, heh, heh.

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Meh.

      "WTF does that mean? They are older therefore more reliable? Less reliable? What?"

      Please, TRT. Go take a walk. Right now. Pick up some important looking papers and amble past senior management. If they are offsite, then look at the senior management of Barclays instead.

      Really, the answer ought to have been very very obvious.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Meh.

        I quote:

        "I don't understand how this could happen. The laptop's less than a year old!"

        "Age is no guarantee of reliability. Just look at senior management."

        i.e. Just because something is new, doesn't make it more reliable.

        Yet the senior management quip seems to indicate that just because something is old that doesn't make it reliable.

        The comparison doesn't make sense to me. If the quip had been "Age is no guarantee of reliability. Just look at the YTS intake" that would make sense.

        I know what he's saying about senior management (although it's good in my department, in the institute as a whole, it is dreadful beyond belief!), I just don't think their failures are correlated in any way shape or form with age. I think the phenomenon of executive management is better explained away using the phrase "shit floats".

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Meh.

          You know, you're giving your age away there. YTS was a Thatcherite thing. It was subtly renamed in '89, and dicked around with a lot in the decades following...

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Meh.

            I have no qualms about giving away my age. I'm an old fart. I was techhying back in the days when a fix for windows not opening involved a screwdriver and a can of WD40.

            I taught computer skills to YTS-thugs in Liverpool and Manchester in 1985/86 when the winters were so cold that your piss froze as it hit the back wall of the metal urinal trough in the training centre. And if only I were exaggerating.

  9. The New Turtle

    Back up to standard.

    1. Chika

      Indeed. Tar very much!

  10. Simon B

    PMSL, fantastic! 1st smile all day courtesy of THE BOFH!

  11. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    That's another reason to lurve Fridays

    yeah, innit.

  12. davidp231

    Happy BoFH Day!

    Best way to cheer up after a bad morning!

  13. Andrew Moore

    Users and their backups...

    I love how users seem to believe it is the fault of the IT people when they lose their data. Even when it is on devices that belong to them, personally. I used to do support for Psion back in the CM/XP/LZ days. They were great devices but the internal storage was bog standard battery backed up RAM. Which is where a majority of people would store their contacts, diaries and other important data. And never spring for a Datapak or a Comms cable to backup the data. Eventually they would let the battery run down or crash (anyone remember the great TRAP errors?) and all data would be gone. At that point they would ring tech support and demand their data back. I even had one person demand that I come round to his house to retype all his contacts in while he dictated them to me.

    Eventually, I developed a coping technique, it went something like:

    User: "I have lost all my important information"

    Me: "That's no problem, if you grab your last backup, I'll talk you through restoring it"

    User: :I don't have a backup"

    Me: "I thought you said your information was important."

    1. E_Nigma

      Re: Users and their backups...

      Users will be users, but that sounds like a serious design, bundle and instructions flaw.

      Try selling a smartphone that loses all the data whenever the battery runs out and see how well it does in the market (even with some magical automatic cloud backup/restore that never fails). And even if one can say that it was normal at the time, a company makes a device that loses all the data whenever the battery runs out and doesn't even bother to bundle a cable without which users can't do backups?! Also, did it have a huge warning on the packaging saying (in all caps, which I won't use for the sake of good manners): "All user data is lost each time the battery runs out!"? It out to have had.

      1. Andrew Moore

        Re: Users and their backups...

        It was repeatedly pointed out in the documentation. Plus the system gave plenty of time with its Battery Low errors. Once you popped the battery you had about 30 seconds to put a new one in. Also the units could continue running (if you ignored the warnings) until the screen got so faint you couldn't read it and not lose data.

        As for how well it did on the market- It sold bucket loads. There will be a high number of people reading this who would put their hand up to owning one as their first portable computer. There's a couple in the cupboard right behind me which I take out from time to time and have a play with for nostalgias sake.

      2. Raphael

        Re: Users and their backups...

        I take it you never used any old PDA's?

        Windows Mobile devices all they way up to 6.5 used to do that. if you let the back-up battery go flat it would reset to factory defaults. (some had a place to store a back-up of your contacts so it could restore them after the reset).

  14. Gil Grissum

    Simon, you absolutely RULE!! YOU are MY HERO!! >:-)

  15. E_Nigma


    This one sounded like it had potential, like in the old days, with a whiny (and dumb) luser and the explanation that sounded like something that came out of the Excuse Calendar. But then the conversation got too drawn-out and the ending was done in a very unspectacular "'I'll have the PFY mess you up' ... 'and in comes the PFY after messing the user up'" fashion. I guess Simon wanted to do this one right, but saw the time and said: "What, pub o'clock already?!" Which reminds me...

  16. Paul Wells
    Thumb Down

    At the risk of being serious...

    ...shouldn't the BOFH automatically schedule the back-ups?

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Re: At the risk of being serious...

      Have you *met* the BOFH?

    2. Marshalltown

      Re: At the risk of being serious...

      Not for a user's private lap top. That's their look out. He was extending a courtesy just to warn the user.

    3. Rick Giles

      Re: At the risk of being serious...

      For a workstation? Never done any backups have you.

    4. JR

      Re: At the risk of being serious...

      How did a (L)user get in here?

  17. PhilBack
    Thumb Up

    Excellent episode!

    "Age is no guarantee of reliability. Just look at senior management"

    This one made my day for sure!

  18. stanimir

    splendid chapter

    not too many comments for otherwise a very pleasant read.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great story

    Shame someone couldn't spare 2 minutes to proofread it.

    I mean, I know it was Friday afternoon and everything but that is no excuse for bad English.

    1. Pyros

      Re: Great story

      Of who's--Simon's or the (l)user?

      Money's on the obvious. :D

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like