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BOFH: Blackmail and fine wine

That's how they Roll

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Episode 40

"So which of you is on call over the break?" the Boss asks.

"Why are you asking?" the PFY asks.

"Just thought it might be an opportune time to do a bit of housekeeping, you know, security audits... er..."

"Our firewall has Intrusion Detection built into it," the PFY explains.

"So we're safe then?"

"As safe as a domain with Windows 98, 98SE, ME, 2000, 2003, XP and 2007 can be."

"Not to mention the Macs in the coloured pencil office," I add.

"True. So 'not very' is probably the answer you're looking for," the PFY responds.

"Don't you think this might be a good opportunity to do something about it - and maybe get on top of a couple of other small jobs as well?"

"You mean gather all the ancient and fruity crap into a pile and set fire to it?" the PFY asks.

"I was thinking more along the lines of faking a break-in and chucking everything in the nearest skip."

"I MEANT upgrade everything to a safe operating system and... tackle a couple of other jobs while the upgrades are running."

"Ah. Well... We only have 15 days over the break - so that's the Windows updates out - and you'd never pay the overtime for it to be done properly."

"Yes, overtime..." the Boss mumbles. "Tricky..."

"What's tricky?" the PFY asks, smelling something in the wind...

"Given the current financial situation..." the Boss starts.

"Yes, go on?"

"...the company's... er, suspended... um, overtime..."

"Suspended overtime!" the PFY gasps, before I can get to it. "Next you'll be telling me there's no on-call allowance or Christmas bonus!"

"Funny you should mention that..."

"You're kidding!" the PFY sniffs.

"Not at all - these are hard times and management have decided to tighten belts..."

"Yes, yes," the PFY says, "but what has autoerotic strangulation got to do with overtime and Christmas bonuses?"

"Not to mention on-call allowances," I add.

"Senior Management have taken a pragmatic approach to cost-cutting by trying to reduce the larger expenses whilst keeping the company running."

"So they'll be taking a pay cut - being one of the largest expenses."

"Not exactly..." the Boss responds evasively.

"Returning their excessive bonuses from previous years? Implementing a Senior Management salary freeze?"

"Er..."

"They gave themselves a pay increase, didn't they?"

"Running a company in these harsh financial times isn't easy!" the Boss blurts. "There's a lot of pressure. Hard decisions have to be made..."

"Yes," the PFY nods knowingly. "The Clos du Mesnil '95 or the Clos du Mesnil '92 - It's a tough choice at the best of times. I'm surprised they didn't outsource the decision to one of their wives, college chums or 'nieces'."

"Ah. Yes. Speaking of outsourcing..."

"You're not... suggesting we end the outsourcing of our server room and servers?!" I gasp, watching 'the life to which I have become accustomed' draining away.

"I'm afraid so. They've done the numbers and remote-hosting our services is far more expensive than doing them in-house. We're going to have to cancel the contract."

"But there'll be penalty payments," I wheeze. "And we'll have to buy servers!"

"And get someone to extend the server room," the PFY adds.

"Yes, well, we sort of hoped..."

"!" the PFY says.

"Wait a minute," I say. "You're not suggesting we... buy some servers with no money, extend a computer room, install and migrate the entire company's computing, all in the Christmas break?"

"Well, I was hoping more that you'd be able to do it tonight and have enough loose change to buy me this car," the Boss says, holding up December's Posh Roller magazine.

"I'm sorry?" the PFY asks.

"Well, it's a funny thing," the Boss says. "I was looking over the building plans with a view to extending my office and happened to notice that the server room, mirrored though it is, is substantially smaller than it appears on the plans. Imagine my surprise when some gentle probing with a sledgehammer this morning revealed a hitherto unknown server facility with a hidden doorway to your office. A surprise dwarfed by that which awaited me when I looked up the directors of our server hosting outfit at the companies office. Telling senior management I could shave about 30 per cent off our IT spend was just the icing on the cake. Unless of course I don't get my new car - in which case it'll be close to 90 per cent..."

"But that's... blackmail!" the PFY says, looking aghast. "Anyway, how do we know that you've not passed this information on others who'll blackmail us as well?"

"I've told no one - this is between you two and me."

Oh dear.

"No one, you say?" the PFY says. "And I suppose you'll be wanting cash, not a cheque?"

"What do you think?"

"OK, OK," I say. "We admit defeat. We do keep some cash in the office."

"In the tape safe," the PFY says, "at the back of the office..."

. . .

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