Everlasting Maintenance

Water, Everywhere! AARGH!
Water, Everywhere! AARGH!

Yesterday, on the east coast, we experienced the nice phenomenon of ice rain. Coming from a country where black ice and ice rains are pretty normal, it usually does not impress me too much because I grew up with it. But that is fine, where most houses build on the ground, not with a floor in the ground.

And here we have a beautifully restored 107 year old house, on a little hill. Not even slightly aware that one of our drains got clogged up, froze shut over the last couple of days, and then with the amount of icy downpour completely overflowed and created a hole near our house. Even that should not be so much of a problem, were it not for the frozen ground, that did not allow the water to drain on it’s own. The result was water pouring into our basement. Between the cracks of the cinderblocks that we suddenly noticed.

Looking back on it, after we were able to solve the situation with a series of fixes; replace the drain pipe extender with a new one, a longer one as well. Fill up the hole with sand, and to temporarily relieve the grounds of rain, cover the ground with a bit of tarp slanted down from the house. $50 of stuff and 5 new buckets were enough to keep the water out and allowing us to use our wet-vac to empty the 100+ gallons of icy water that was covering the basement floor.

It is what we all would like; just a moment that your house, or car, or anything, simply is in perfect working condition without problems. But we all know, that is not going to happen. Especially when things get older, they simply require maintenance. And fix one thing, another one pops up. It will never be done.

Recognize this? It is just like running your (web) production. It sounds so perfect; a site or program is just code. If the code runs now, it should be running tomorrow. Even if the code – hypothetically – is absolutely perfect, it will break down without the proper care.

Ask any developer who built anything about going back to an old program that is still up and running. There is always this feeling of not touching anything that is not broken. It is simply because of the maintenance. Just like an old house, every once in a while you need to take a peek and spend some time making sure if your production is still running fine.

This is also where a lot of companies make a huge error in their thinking process; being a company building websites. I have been there, and it is painful. With websites, unless you are involved with large scale corporate websites, just earn barely enough to keep a business afloat. So you need more productions coming in on a recurring basis, which simply will add more and more to your portfolio. And in the beginning, this is all perfectly fine, but over time, wishes will change of your clients, a server update might interfere with a technology you created – whatever it is.

It is part of the job, but even I will not say that I have no problems with maintaining productions. It is a tedious job, and I always fear it a little bit. Of course, it comes with the territory, and I will do it with a smile, but that doesn’t mean that that smile is always a real one. Even if when the sites were originally created it was in my own opinion well written code, going over it again a couple of years later, it feels weird, old, dusty, like going into an old attic.

If an issue arises doing maintenance on an old production, it is where the patching comes into place. Just to keep things going forward and being a solid solution to the problem. It might sometimes be not worth it to do more to it. I hear companies mention, or professionals tell that you should not patch, but repair. Fix the issue, do not just make the issue appear to be away.

True, in a perfect world, that is completely right. But a patch is not always a wrong thing, and it needs to be worth it to go with a rebuild or a extensive fix. If a patch does it’s job without problems and it can be done within `5 minutes, compared to a rebuild that might require hours or days, especially on an older production, that might be worth it.

To keep the water from flowing into our basement any more, replacing the drain pipe extender and filling up the hole with two bags of sand was enough. $50, and there is no problem. The fix is to completely waterproof our basement, install a french drain, and possibly rebuild our basement. That, while the inspector mentioned that there is no need to do that at all since everything is completely stable. $50 or $25,000. Same effect without any problems to the bones and foundation of the house.

Call me crazy, but the $50 solution sounds like a great deal.

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