You are proud. Fresh out of university, you have landed a cushy job at a medium sized firm as their new systems administrator.
On your first day at work, you find an envelope on your desk addressed "To the new systems administrator".
Inside the envelope you find a short note and three smaller envelopes. The note says:
Congratulations on your new job. For your benefit, I have left some advice for you that I learnt from my seniors. There are three envelopes here - open them in serial order whenever you face a problem that you cannot handle by yourself.
You note that the three small envelopes are indeed marked #1, #2 and #3.
You find that the system you inherit works but there are various funny inconsistencies that you quickly fix. When you are done tweaking the system, you lay back and congratulate yourself on managing to squeeze that little extra out of the network. Satisfied that everything works fine, you relax into your new position.
Time goes on ...
Something stuffs up. You cannot figure out what it is but network services go down. Your boss is all over you complaining about your ineptitude and your inability to handle problems. After he leaves you alone to go figure out the problem, you remember the three envelopes. You open the first one and find a small note. The neatly printed note says:
Blame the previous systems administrator
Realizing that this is indeed a wonderful excuse, you go back to your boss and tell him that the previous systems administrator left a security loophole/misconfiguration that you did not find when you took over. Your boss accepts this and walks off, reminding you to fix the problem. You overhear him say "grr... lousy sysadmin. Good thing I got rid of him when I did."
Phew! Well, anyway, you finally manage to find the problem and fix it. Everything now runs hunky dory as before.
It happens again. The servers are down, the network is down. You can't for the life of you figure out what the heck went wrong. You went over all possible problems after the first mishap and double checked everything. This time, the boss is late coming to work but already the other workers are getting on you and questioning your experience as a systems administrator. You reach for the second envelope before the boss arrives.
Blame the hardware
Ahhh.... phew! saved again.
Explaining that the old hardware was to blame, you manage to beg the bosses for money to upgrade the system, replacing the slightly aging servers and the old routers and hubs with spanking new, state of the art boxes, whilst buying you time to figure out the problem (it turns out it was indeed a hardware problem but you hardly mind that you overordered new hardware - you did want Quake 3 to run faster anyway).
Having lived through two nightmare scenarios, you've double-checked and triple-checked the system, subjected it to all sorts of stress tests and even gone through setting up a redundancy fallback system. You promise yourself that you will never have to open that third envelope.
One fine day, as you are happily sitting at your desk, playing your latest online multiplayer RTS game, the complaint calls start trickling in ...
The problem mounts. You can't figure it out. It should have been covered. There were backups and redundancies, goddammit! Eventually, the entire network goes down ... nobody can access the file server(s), nobody can send email, nobody can schedule appointments. Worst of all, the hot-blooded new young CFO comes storming in to your office complaining that he can't play online games anymore.
This time, you go through everything. Three times. Hacking this. Patching that. Substituting this and that. This is a company that requires some computers running 24/7.
Frantically working, you manage to make some headway but the solution seems out of your grasp. After a couple of days of trying, your bosses seemingly getting angrier by the hour, you finally cave in and reach for the third envelope.
Ripping the envelope open, you read the previous systems administrator's personal handwriting...
Prepare three envelopes...
I heard this joke from a friend of mine and rehashed it here with my own editorial flair.