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What/how would you document to guard against 1-person failure point in IT?

By Understaffed ·
I am a single-person I.T. Department for a non-profit child welfare agency, managing 150 users, 100 desktops, 6 servers, and all aspects of technology. We have our email, database, app, file, and print servers, phone system (within a couple of weeks moving to VoIP), accounting and case management systems all in-house. The only thing I don't host or manage is the website, due to lack of time and flukey local utilities.

I have not been what I would call "diligent" when it comes to keeping change-logs when servers are set up and apps installed- I tend to keep the most relevant stuff in my head. This scenario, however, is a disaster waiting to happen. If something were to happen to me, 1) nobody in this organization would be able to fill my shoes even temporarily (social workers...) and 2) I would think a new person would have a hard time getting acclimated to the network, due to the lack of *settings* documentation. I did create a "LAN Book" that contains things like server names and hardware configs, LAN physical layout (which is quite convoluted), services and apps running on particular servers, and DHCP/DNS settings.

My problem is this: I built this network from nothing, and this has been my only work experience in the IT field, so I have no others to look to. I have been tasked with creating a manual that would allow someone to run the network in case I die in a car wreck on the way home.

What would you include, and where in the world would you start? To me, this seems like an insurmountable volume of data... I know that my CFO wants a domain admin account password kept in a safe deposit box, but where is the line drawn- do I include that the fiber between buildings is 6-strand 6.25 micron direct plant with SC ends, just so that person knows?

What say those in the trenches?
~Thanks,
~Dave

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Don't rewrite technical manuals

by sls2655 In reply to What/how would you docume ...

I have always worked in small shops and deal with this issue frequently. In writing our documentation, we assume that anyone coming into the department would have an IT background. You shouldn't have to explain the steps to add a user to active directory. I used the IT Operations Guide by Prosoft Systems International, LLC to determine the documentation I should have. The guide addresses several additional topics, however the chapter on documentation provided a great outline of what we should have.

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Document Everything

by warpindy In reply to What/how would you docume ...

My old IT Director aways told us told us to document every change and build on the network. As he put "Just in case you win the Lotto what do we need to know."In fact when I was hired I had to create new network LAN/WAN and DR documents. One thing we did was do a dry run on each document, say a email server build, to see if the documentation need to be changed and if was too complex. Our thing was to have document so see to rad that if the entire IT staff got rich a person from marketing could rebuild or keep the network running.

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Welcome to job security..........

by Sysadmin/Babysitter In reply to What/how would you docume ...

The fact that the CFO is still the point-of-contact to management says volumes.
As the '1 man' IT department supporting that many people, I doubt that you even have the time to do a detailed network manual.
However, I'm sure that the tip-of-the-iceberg request is ACTUALLY the start of creating and implementing a full disaster recovery plan.
If a disaster recovery plan is existing, it should have EVERYTHING that is needed to restore the system to a position where:
1-Prior Data can be accessed.
2-Workers can perform their duties.

Once a TRUE disaster recovery plan is implemented, you will be well on your way to the documentation level that is needed.
If you are unable to create a disaster recovery plan, ASK FOR HELP!!!!!
If your CFO cannot vouch for EVERY PENNY when financial reporting time comes, (REGARDLESS OF ANY DISASTER) You WILL be replaced!

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A Impossible Dream

by bigbigboss In reply to What/how would you docume ...

You have to face the fact that it is impossible.

Your organization, like most non-profit social agencies, is understaffed, period. You can't do all that and still document. However, your boss will not be able to understand, and if he/she understands, there is nothing he/she can do anything about.

So, face it. What do you wanna do ? Help those people well in the mean time, and document what you can when you have time, or, let them suffer and spend you next few years documenting ?

I guess it is time to prioritize.

You should at least document the stuff you personally would need to remember, and putting away passwords in safes. That's work ethics.

Your next part would be documentation, augmented with product manuals, targeting people with technical training and experience to take over your function. I will call you a superman if you can accomplish this with your workload.

Documenting till a non-technical person can do your job is impossible. But your boss won't believe it. But you shouldn't worry about it, as when this is required, it won't be your problem anymore.

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Knowledge Base (Wiki)

by mckinnej In reply to What/how would you docume ...

Yeah, I know a lot of folks have had bad experiences with these, but think of it as a wiki. In fact, wikis make great knowledge bases. What you're after is a log/journal that you can search and find those "lost episodes" by keywords, topic, etc. This is a contract requirement for my job, but I even do this at home with my server. It has saved me untold hours of hair pulling because the system is nicely documented. It doesn't take long either. I fill in my wiki at the same time I do my timecard. The whole thing takes less than 5 minutes. If you're doing something really detailed or complex, you might want to keep it going all day to catch all those details that will slip by at the end of the day.

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