You’re sailing along. Calm waters, wind at your back when suddenly with no warning, the giant octopus shows up, flailing its tentacles about, fairly well wrapping you up and trying to drag you down to Davy Jones’ Locker. In 30+ years of working with computers, building web sites and meeting deadlines, I’ve had several close encounters with that 8-armed beast.

I won’t bore you with the details of failed power supplies, system crashes, software glitches or corrupt files, all as deadlines loomed. Rather, I’ll just tell you of the most harrowing encounter, the one that could’ve dragged me to the bottom if panic had been allowed to set in.

We built a small e-com website for a client who managed to promote herself and her product properly enough to get the attention of a very well-known woman who hosted her own daytime TV talk show. I worked on the layout and design and our contract programmer built the underpinnings for it using Visual Basic and Microsoft Access.

Everything went fine until she got on the show and a lot of folks decided they wanted to try her product. That’s when the site crashed. And hard. Unfortunately, our contractor had moved on to greener pastures 2 weeks before the show aired and when I called him looking for answers as to why it crashed, he explained that Access couldn’t handle more than a dozen concurrent connections. Hadn’t been a problem until our client’s on-air appearance, but it was certainly a problem at that point.

Since our programmer was unavailable, I had to either learn VB and pay outrageous licensing fees to Microsoft to use their SQL Server, or rewrite all our hooks using ASP to connect to a MySQL database that I would have to build. We opted for the second approach and two or three days later the world was right again. I’m told my complexion took on a lovely shade of gray during that exercise, but because we didn’t panic, we escaped from the octopus. It was close, but we beat that sucker back into the sea and sailed off into our metaphorical sunset.

All this to say that the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley and it’s sometimes difficult to prepare for every contingency. To the point, you may never see the octopus, but never lose sight of the fact that it’s there, lurking, hungry and powerful. But if you don’t panic, chances are you’ll escape intact.

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