Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology


Knowing when to say farewell to a client

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I recently had the distasteful experience of having to tell a long-time client to find someone else to handle his IT consulting. We had (I thought) become friends over the years, though recently, tensions surrounding some server trouble over here (I hosted his email) led to difficulties in our relationship.

This had been brewing for some time, but by late December, the writing was pretty much on the wall. We got hit with a bad attack (apparently from a Chinese IP block) which actually took us offline for a little while (indeed, it caused a server crash: thank you, Apache; I needed that). While the server was coming back up, it decided that the JFS journal on the data volume was trashed, and anyone who routinely deals with journaling filesystems knows that when the journal has been damaged beyond recovery, it's a tedious process for the system to rebuild it, especially when there are tons of files and directories on the volume. Becoming impatient (we were then about 10 minutes into the outage), he became abusive with his texts to me, and demanded to know "how much longer?"

I tried to explain that I had no way of knowing, but that I was confident that once the disk check finished, we'd be back up and running (I did not at the time know that we had been under heavy attack or what had caused the system to trigger the Proliant's Automatic Server Recovery - ASR - which hard reset the box).

The system came back up within 45 minutes, but by that point, he was fit to be tied. Funny how, with a couple hundred people using this system from around the globe, he was the only one to complain (regularly, for several years). The abusive tone in his texts and the frequency of them - as if I didn't already have my hands full, trying to sift through firewall logs to determine whether there was something still underway, not to mention the fact that as he was so eager to retrieve a couple emails that I volunteered to recover them from the firewall and forward them to his alternate email address - produced such an anxiety attack that I really thought my angina had acted up. (Truly, it was only the lack of pain down my left arm which reassured me that it was not angina.)

Simply put, when a client gets to the point of treating a trusted professional as a lackey, it's time to go.

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