With all due credit given to the late Mr. Rod Serling, the very talented writer and creator of the original television series The Twilight Zone, see how one organization uses the concept to make sure the users on its network have computers that will behave themselves.
One of the challenges I face as a user support professional is finding the right balance between making sure my users don't introduce malware or unauthorized software into our environment and allowing them enough freedom and flexibility to do whatever they need in order to complete their projects.
I will admit that my company might be different than others. First of all, we're a relatively small company. Second, my users don't really want a lot of restrictions, and their needs are actually better met with a pretty open computing environment. We might have any number of vendors who bring in their versions of software that they'll make available for a specific task, or an engineer's research might take him to any number of Web sites that might be blocked by other organizations, and so on.
While some organizations might err on the side of being more restrictive, since we're made up almost entirely of professional engineers, ours errs on the side of allowing more freedom and flexibility. I'm sure I would think differently if I had thousands of users to support in a very large environment — just as the Networks and Systems group in the LITC (Library and Information and Technology Center) at Trinity college has done. And they do it with a dash of humor thrown in — Twilight Zone humor.
As stated on a Trinity College Web page:
When you return to campus this Fall, and open your web browser you may find yourself looking at a web page with skull and crossbones. Do not be alarmed! Your machine has entered the Twilight Zone..... The Twilight Zone, developed by the Networks and Systems group in the LITC, may be thought of as a prison for computers determined to be "vulnerable." If your computer behaves itself, you will be oblivious to the existence of the Twilight Zone network. However, if your computer misbehaves or becomes a hazard to other users, you will make your acquaintance with the Twilight Zone.
How does the Twilight Zone work? Here's a link to that Trinity College Web page describing the process:
Although I don't restrict my users in such a way, I'm sure others do — and I can certainly see why it's a must in a college environment.
I was further reminded of this recently with a trip to my doctor's office. I was one of the first appointments of the day, and I actually arrived before the office receptionist. Upon her arrival, looking at a line of people about six-deep to check-in for their appointments, she turned on her computer and waited ..... and waited ..... and waited ..... and waited ..... and after about five minutes of waiting, which probably seemed like five hours to some of the people in the line, she tuned to a coworker and said that she couldn't log in to the network and didn't know why.
After about fifteen minutes of doing nothing except watching and waiting, her computer finally logged itself in to their network. I have no idea about how their network was structured, nor did I know the cause of the delay, but I actually thought about the Twilight Zone at Trinity College. Could it be that her computer was being evaluated before the network allowed it to log in? Considering the sensitive information in that particular environment, I wouldn't doubt it a bit. In fact, I would hope so.
How about you? Do you have anything that resembles a computing Twilight Zone?
I broke down the answers to see if there were differences depending on the size of the company. I'm not sure how to define the exact differences between small, medium, and large offices, but define yours however you wish.
Please share your experience and wisdom in the following discussion.
By the way, my favorite Twilight Zone episodes were the time travel and space travel episodes, with A Hundred Yards Over the Rim being pretty close to one of my very favorites.