This is the story of Stacy and John.

Stacy was a secretary. It wasn't a glamorous job; nobody won an award for being the best secretary, or even got much recognition save for a paperweight or gift card once a year on "Administrative Assistant's Day" as a sort of grudging nod to the necessity of having someone paid to greet visitors, answer phones, and schedule appointments. But it was Stacy's job, and she was good at it. She was attentive. She was organized. She had neat handwriting, a pleasant voice, a good memory, and a professional manner. It wasn't demanding work, leaving her free to daydream of being a pop star—and it paid well enough to pay for singing lessons. Her instructor said she had talent, and maybe in a few years she could try out for American Idol.

John was IT support. It wasn't a glamorous job; your biggest perk was finding a fresh pot of coffee when you came in. But it was John's job, and he was good at it. John did his best to educate his users, and make sure that they understood how to use their computers, the network, and mission critical software. It might be a small network, without a lot of fancy administration tools and lots of manual steps, but it kept their business running.

As always in this new digital age, Stacy had a computer. She'd prefer a tablet, but her company was a little old-fashioned, and anyway she guessed that typing would be easier on a keyboard, but her cousin Mike got a tablet last year for his birthday and it looked so much easier just touching the icons she wanted than trying to figure out where everything was hidden in the Start Menu, right? Stacy and her computer had a bit of a love-hate relationship. She loved email, and she hated the impersonal touch Word gave her memos, preferring to hand-write them when she could.

Stacy spent a lot of time on Facebook. That was where she'd heard about Mike's new tablet, and about her nephew's first words, and about a really awesome singing audition at the mall that turned out to be a scam but wouldn't it have been cool if it was real? So she got a lot of emails from Facebook, and she dutifully opened every one to see what her friends were trying to tell her.

Today's email was no different. It said right in the subject line: "Urgent message from FACBOOK!"

That's weird, she thought for half a second, but I guess Facebook must be trying something new?

So she opened the email, ready to see what was so urgent.

"You have received a private message with an attachment!." the body said.

Odd—she wasn't expecting an attachment. Perhaps it was a video? Her friend Tracy said she'd recorded her performance at karaoke night. No, that wasn't Tracy's name; it was some stranger. Curious, Stacy scrolled up past the Facebook logo and blue header bar and right-clicked on the attachment. She selected Save As from the menu, just like John from IT showed her.

She chose to put it on her desktop for now, and watched as it downloaded ... only to vanish.

Had she done it wrong? No, that was exactly what she did for the memo her boss sent her last week to print and post around the building. Well, give it one more shot: right-click, Save As.


What followed was a protracted battle between the secretary and her definitely-not-as-cool-as-Mike's-tablet desktop PC. She tried saving it in another folder: no change. She tried renaming it in the Save As dialog: no dice. About to give up and call John, she finally noticed a piece of information she hadn't previously uncovered: whenever she tried to save it, a little bubble popped up by the clock, telling her the attachment was blocked.

Aha! thought Stacy. Whatever this Norton thing is, that's what's blocking my attachment!

She right-clicked on the icon, and there it was: a nice, handy Disable button.

Stupid Norton. This is from Facebook, let me open it!

Triumphant, Stacy downloaded the file to her desktop. Once she saw the icon, she knew what to do; John had taught her how to open those as well. She right-clicked on the icon (Computers are easy, just right-click on everything!) and clicked Extract Here.

But victory was snatched from her pearly white jaws: "This archive is not valid."

That stupid Norton thing broke my attachment! Stacy seethed, teeth clenched. I'll just have to write back.

From there, she clicked Reply. Her message was drafted hastily, but not impolitely:

Dear Mr Sanderson,

I have received your message with the attachment, but the antivirus program broke the attachment. Could you please send it again to my personal email?

[email protected]

Thank you,
Stacy Johnson

Several days passed. The incident slipped from Stacy's mind, filed away under "strange occurrence" and ignored in favor of more pressing needs, like why the catered lunches for the upstairs conference were instead re-routed to the basement where IT worked. Until, on the following Wednesday, after her computer had rebooted to install updates, it didn't show her her desktop. Instead, it gave her a terrifying message:

Pay $100 or you'll never see your files again.

A call was placed hastily, and John summoned up to her desk.

"Okay, no problem. Do you have a backup?" he asked Stacy, smiling, but she could see the worry in the creases at the corners of his eyes.

"Backup?" she asked, sheepishly.

John sighed. "Remember, I showed you, that's what this is for?" He tapped the black plastic box on her desk, and she remembered instantly: she was meant to run ... something or other, every day before she left, to copy her files to that external device.

"Sorry, I guess it slipped my mind. Well, not exactly, it's just, it took so long, and I had things to do ..."

"Okay, no problem. I think I set up a weekly backup when I was here last ... huh."

"Huh" was never a good thing with John. Stacy hunched her shoulders, embarrassed to have dropped the ball on what was apparently a super-important task after all. Well, everything her boss said was important! She didn't think John's stuff rated quite as highly as the company newsletter or answering the phone or making photocopies or ... well, just about everything, really.

"Yup. You don't have a backup in months," John reported. "Okay, okay, no problem."

Over the course of the next three days, Stacy learned that it was, in fact, a problem. Such a problem that 3 technicians moved her machine to their basement, leaving her with a "loaner laptop" which of course didn't have any of her files and could barely open a dozen Word documents at once. Practically Stone Age technology!

Thankfully, the brunt of her boss' wrath came down on the technicians for not working faster rather than on her for forgetting to run a backup.

Stacy promised herself she'd never forget again—she'd do it first thing in the morning, and before lunch, and before she left, every day until she made it big in her singing career and left this job. John even promised her she could have space on their network server to back things up to so she didn't have to remember to plug in the little drive he'd given her. This would never happen again!

And that's the story of how Stacy brought down the website by filling the content server with 6 terabytes of backups.

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