Data Centers

10 things I've learned from working in IT

When you've been in IT for awhile, you pick up all sorts of random knowledge. Jack Wallen shares a few highlights from almost 20 years in the field.

I've been a part of the IT industry (in one capacity or another) for nearly 20 years now. During those years, I've seen all sorts of trends, thoughts, and events come and go like the wind. I've experienced people with a vast range of skills and interests, and I've seen and heard dog and pony shows from more companies than I care to remember.

While I've held my post(s) within the IT industry, I've learned a few random things about the industry itself that I wanted to share with all the good readers of TechRepublic. So hold onto your seat, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

1: Companies always promise more than they can deliver

This is almost across the board. A company will promise you the moon, telling you that their product will solve every problem your company has. But sales pitches should never be believed. If you want to know the truth about a product, you find forums (like TechRepublic) where end users and other IT pros chat about products. The company I work for recently had a new backup solution vendor promise that its product would not have all the failings our current product had. And it did solve some of the issues — but it had plenty of its own. Remember, if it's too good to be true, most likely it's not true.

2: If you add third-party software to a Windows machine, all bets are off

In a perfect world, you could add any software, from any vendor, and everything would simply work. We don't live in that perfect world. I have found over the years that when you add non-Microsoft software to a machine, to differing degrees, you compromise the stability and reliability of the platform. If you really want the most stable Windows platform you can get, install only software from Microsoft.

3: It's not a matter of "if" but "when" your desktop or server will be compromised

Whether you use a desktop or a server, if you're using Windows, you will be compromised. This does not necessarily mean a hacker or something catastrophic. But you will wind up with a virus, malware, or more. No matter what antivirus software you use, you will eventually find yourself having to rid a machine of something malicious.

4: Most people don't really understand RAID

I can't tell you how many people I've dealt with who look at RAID as little more than a backup. If you need a backup, use a backup. If you need redundancy, use RAID. But even more important — RAID disks fail! If you don't pay attention to those failures (and replace disks as needed), you will wind up with a dead machine that will take hours (or days) to bring back to life. Understand RAID before you use it.

5: Backups are always forgotten... until they're needed

Most people don't even back up. And those who do usually assume it's "set it and forget it." I've been focusing on backups (for multiple clients) for a while now, and if there's one thing I've learned it's that backups can't be trusted. You must monitor them; you must babysit them. If you don't, one of these days you are going to need that backup and it won't be there.

6: The cloud will never replace the desktop

Just a few short years ago, rumors spread about this ubiquitous technology called "the cloud," and everyone pretty much thought it would take over the desktop. Some of us had visions of old thin clients making a comeback. The truth is, the cloud wound up being something used by the desktop. It will never actually replace the desktop. We need that desktop OS; otherwise, failure and lost data will become rampant. But no matter what the early expectations were, the cloud has turned out to be a nice addition to what we already had.

7: The Linux platform is still hindered by FUD

That's right: Fear, uncertainty, and doubt still plague the open source flagship platform. Most of those who rail against Linux do so out of either ignorance or fear. Linux fits in perfectly alongside both Windows and OS X on the server AND the desktop. And Linux will continue to gain traction in both personal and business usage. Although the biggest perpetrators of the Linux FUD have pulled back drastically, others still feed the machine daily. I can't imagine this will go away any time soon.

8: There's a huge disconnect between pundits and the real world

Most pundits live in this glorious cloud in the sky where reality has little to no bearing. Reality is that most businesses can't afford to upgrade every year, that people still desperately cling to old technology because it works and because they fear change, and that the newest and shiniest isn't always the best.

9: IT will give you gray hair

I've seen it countless times. People come into the business with nice jet black hair and after only a year or so, the gray hair starts sprouting. Why? IT is stressful. You have people's business in your hand. Your ability to fix problems is critical to end users getting their jobs done. Or worse — you're working with a company's QuickBooks data file and you have a business breathing down your neck to make sure it can continue. It's a rough business that will chew you up and spit you out. Thin skinned need not apply.

10: The second you think you understand something, you don't

Technology changes faster than the speed of thought. The second you've wrapped your brain around something, it completely changes and you have to start from scratch. Never sit still, never give up learning, and always know the second you close your eyes you will be behind the curve and someone else will steal your business.

Other lessons?

We've all learned something in this business. For me, the learning never stops. Every day, a new particle worth my interest worms its way into my brain and is cached for later use. Over the years, some of those bits and pieces have become worthless junk, but others have proven valuable. What lessons have you learned during your years as an IT pro that have stuck with you? Share them with fellow TechRepublic members.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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