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Communications Breakdown

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
Captain, Road Prison 36Cool Hand Luke

At my new job (see last month’s musing), we are tasked with a complicated project with our email servers. You see, our industry requires that certain email passing from our systems must be encrypted for privacy concerns. Not a big deal as we have servers in place to handle that. The trick now is one of our biggest clients wants us to only accept encrypted email from any of their employees– regardless of what email system that employee, well, employs.

Now, any email we receive from that client’s own email system is encrypted, so we’ve met a portion of their requirement. The rub is that if one of their employees uses an email account (like Yahoo! or Hotmail) that isn’t controlled by either party, then that email must be rejected by our servers with a reply email directing that employee to use an encrypted system. Now, it starts to get tricky.

No e-mail getting past me.

So, me and the other IT gurus here started pouring over the applications and servers that we already have and are trying to come up with some rule-set that we could program that would do what this client wants. Essentially, if we receive a non-encrypted email, we are to reject it and direct the sender to remit using an encrypted system. My suggestion for that rejection notice was the quote used at the beginning of this musing; unfortunately, it was met with a weak laugh and then everyone’s attention returned to the task at hand.

More recently, we had to pass through the dreaded daylight saving time change. Fortunately for me, a lot of the work had already been completed prior to my arrival. I did manage to update an application on a remote server in Alaska and also helped in updating shared calendars which are stored in community mailboxes. I have also helped to automate the process by which we report to management the ungodly amount of SPAM we reject from our various filters and other applications (we receive a total of over 5 million emails each week and more than 90% of those are SPAM — that’s insane!).

Looking toward the horizon, we have a major upgrade from Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 to 2007 that should occupy a lot of man hours to complete. We also intend to get our test lab more in-line with the production environment so that we can actually test the stuff we need to test before releasing it “live.” I’m sure that there are other things coming up, but just not on our radar right now because of the urgency of the projects we now have.

Just bein' Cool.

What exactly does all of this have to do with me (because we all know that this site is all about me)? Well, it’s just a small insight into the types of projects with which I am involved at my new job. Certainly, we have enough to keep us busy, but as all things in large corporations go our clocks are slowed by the inevitable barricades of paperwork and company politics until someone realizes that the deadline fast approaches and then we all practially kill ourselves to complete the project on time. Sure, being busy beats not being busy, but sometimes you just need a little down-time. Time for nothing.

As Luke said, “Yeah, well, sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.”

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