Relying On Technology

When I arrived at work this morning, I tried to open Outlook only to have it pop up and tell me it couldn’t open. A long, rambling error message spouted on and on about the fact that Outlook couldn’t open because it couldn’t communicate with the Exchange server. First of all, I’m lost as to why Outlook can’t even open when it’s unable to communicate with the server. How does that stop Outlook from working altogether? Regardless, I couldn’t access the Exchange server through the Webmail interface, either, as the entire server was down.

Anyway, the problems ensued from there. Today was a wake-up call as to how much I rely on Outlook while I’m at work. Here are some of the things for which I use Outlook at work (which I was unable to do for the entire day, today):

E-mail

This one’s pretty obvious, but it extends from simple messaging. In my office, we use e-mail for basically everything. E-mail is an ideal way to ensure that you always have a paper trail. Change requests for the Web site are sent through our e-mail. Unfortunately, even simple requests of which I was already aware could not really be completed today, simply because the new text was in the e-mail (which means I couldn’t copy and paste it from the message or download any attachments that contained text). Essentially, that meant that I couldn’t perform very many Web site updates, today.

When we send items through the courier, we always send an e-mail message ahead of time to let the intended recipient know that something is on its way. We then print out the e-mail message and put it in the envelope with the item we were sending. Because items have been lost through the courier, we don’t dare send anything without first sending the “heads up” message. Therefore, I wasn’t really able to send anything through the courier, today, either.

Calendar

All of my appointments are stored on my Outlook calendar. Since I couldn’t access my Outlook calendar, I couldn’t check my appointments. Unfortunately, I did miss one meeting this afternoon because of the debacle. However, the meeting was being hosted by the people that were in charge of working on the e-mail server, so it’s possible that the meeting was cancelled. It’s not like they could e-mail us to let us know it had been cancelled, so I guess I’ll find out when our e-mail comes back up.

Fortunately, I have a cached copy of my calendar in Evolution here at home, so I have printed out my schedule for tomorrow and Thursday (I don’t have anything scheduled for Wednesday or Friday), just in case we still don’t have access by then.

Tasks

I use the task feature in Outlook all the time to keep track of pending deadlines, items I am in the process of implementing and more. Without access to the Exchange server, I have no way of determining what tasks were due, today (although, since I couldn’t e-mail anything, I wouldn’t have been able to notify the requester that the task had been completed, anyway).

I also use the tasks to keep track of changes I’ve made. For instance, if I am working on implementing a new feature in the content management system (CMS), I’ll start logging all of the changes I’ve made to the code on the development server. Then, once the new feature has been tested and approved, all I have to do is open the task and see what changes need to be made. Without access to my task list, I was somewhat afraid to make any real changes to the development server copy of the CMS.

Voicemail

On top of all of that, the majority of the office uses VOIP telephones that are apparently dependent upon the Exchange server. While this did not directly effect me (since my office is in a satellite location, we still have old-style landlines), the rest of the college was without voicemail. They were unable to check any messages they may have received over the long weekend and anyone calling the college was unable to leave any new messages.

As I said, this was quite a wake-up call as to how much I really rely on the technology I use at the office. It would almost have been better if the power had simply been out all day. At least, then, I would have had an excuse to take the day off. Instead, I spent most of my day chasing my tail trying to figure out how to do my work without completely losing track of everything. I ended up spending the second half of the day simply reviewing writing samples that were submitted to our office a few weeks ago. I’m hoping that we will be able to get back on track tomorrow, and that nothing will be lost.

And that, my friends, is why I’m a developer and not a network engineer.

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