I’m the registrar and one-man IT department of a small school. When I took this job we were saddled with a hacked up implementation of a really poor commercial product serving as our database/front desk software. I settled into the job and learned to hack at it further. The shortcomings of this pile of, umm, stuff, were legion. But, at the end of the day, it did, technically, get the job done. Eventually however, namely when we opened a second location hundreds of miles away, its underlying architecture could no longer be worked around. There was simply no way, sane or otherwise, to sync two instances of the system. In seeking a replacement, the market failed us. The only products that even came close to meeting a majority of our key needs cost many times what we, as a non-profit, could ever hope to pay. So I convinced the powers that be that I, never having actually undertaken such a thing, could build it from scratch.
The amazing thing is, I did. While performing my regular full time (and often more) duties, I managed to build this thing and put it in place within six months at both locations. I then spent the next six months getting it running with less and less fiddlin’ of the bits by yours truly, and developing a synchronization system so that multiple instances of it could compare notes every night. Lately I’ve been fine tuning that and getting it up and running on its own two feet.
All of this coincides with the launch of a system that we had a local web shop put together so that other schools can pull student records from our web site. The official go-live date on that is tomorrow. On Monday I tried to log into the system to replace test data with the real thing. I was unable to, but I figured the FTP client I was using wasn’t using the same SSL protocol or something silly like that and went back to my bug fixing.
Yesterday morning I got a call from our other school saying that one of their key admin machines no longer accepts any valid password and they have no net connection. Had the machine dealt with pretty quickly, but we are still without a net connection there and have now resorted to IP over FedEx.
This morning I still couldn’t log in to the FTP server, so I fired off an inquisitive email. The response, alas, did not thrill me:
We had to turn the secure FTP off as it caused a lot of problems with all of the other regular FTP sites on the box. You're probably going to have get a dedicated server, be it physical or virtual, to get that going. If you email our IT director, he will set up a test site for you on a different box so you can make sure that you'll be able to work with secure FTP from your end. If that works out, he can help you with setting up the dedicated server. I'm not sure the contractual ramifications of that, so I'm ccing the Account Executive for your project on this email
No peasants were heard to rejoice.
I was about halfway through my reply when I received an email from the account executive in question:
They are setting up the secure FTP on a different machine, so we can test it out. It will be ready later on this afternoon- I'll let you know when you can try testing.
Total elapsed time between the two emails? Seven minutes. Gotta love the 21st century.
But man, days like this make me wish I’d listened to my high school guidance counselor.