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  • #2249969

    What if the IT guy dies?


    by camy2079 ·

    I work or a company with approx 50 employees and we currently have one employee heading up the IT dept. At this time nothing he handles is documented; network topology, admin passwords, server specs, licensing info… in short everything IT related resides in his head only. So what happens if he dies one day, are we screwed? Generally speaking I would expect this type of info would be documented as a security measure. Therefore if it could not be handled in-house we could at least hire an outside source and keep things running smoothly.

    Any thoughts?

    BTW, for job security reasons presumably, he has avoided documenting or sharing this info. How can I tactfully request this information?

All Comments

  • Author
    • #3218811

      Just do it

      by techexec2 ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      [b][i]”So what happens if he dies one day, are we screwed?”[/i][/b]


      [b][i]”How can I tactfully request this information?”[/i][/b]

      Just do it. You simply explain what you have explained here. You’re the executive. You’re concerned about continuity. A function as vital as your IT infrastructure must not be hanging on the thread of a single individual successfully crossing the street every single day.

      This is not a problem with this staff member. It is a management problem. If I were the owner of your company, and anything ever happened to this person, or if he quit, I would hold the appropriate person in management responsible for it.

      Someone in management is not doing their job. If that person is you, I apologize for being rude (but I would say the same thing).

      All the best to you.

      • #3218137

        Old School

        by tags66 ·

        In reply to Just do it

        The guy is doing job, and probably has the documentation somewhere, he just not admitting anything. Job security been the motive.

        This is a management issue; ask him to produce the network documentation as a disaster recovery procedure. Look at getting another person to help him out. A part-timer from another dept if finance if a problem, and task them with the network documentation. At least them your will have a stand-in if the worst happens.

        Ask the questions: What happens went he?s on holiday or ill? Work stop? I would hope not who helps out then? What experience do they have? Cost or downtime verse extra employee?

        Once you got the answers, your will know what to do.


      • #3218064

        It’s policy

        by 2ktech ·

        In reply to Just do it

        The essential element of good documentation must come from management. To rely on any employee, no matter how good, to do this on his own will almost always fail or come up short.

        Managers must insist that employees write everything new up. They need to ensure that a logical structure exists on a network drive to add technical how-to and information writeups. If you have more than one tech, the each tech adds to or rewrites write-ups as things change.

        Then it is a matter of every time you do a task, and it is new or changed, you write it up as part of that assigned task, before closing out that task. The writeup is PART OF THE TASK, not an afterthought. Writing things up is PART OF THE JOB. It isn’t a luxury, it is an essential. If a worker can’t write it up then he is not a team player but is in it only for himself. That is the simplicity of it. People are hired to fill a responsiblity for a company. They have no right to hog information for that position, that company, and not keep that information safe and readily available to anyone in the company that appropriately need it. Anyone that can’t do this does not deserve to be employed by that company, unless the company simply doesn’t care. But if that is the case, then someone needs to look at the managers that don’t care.

        I work for a company with thousands of employees and when I started there were zero write-ups. I started it with every task I did, every install of a new software, etc. My manager never insisted on this, but I encouraged it and now – 9 years later we have a knowledgebase that provides documentation that is probably second to none, for our environment. As an opinion leader this has mostly worked, but it is really management that needs to insist on this AS PART OF THE JOB, and includes it in employee reviews. If you want professional people, demand that they do professional work. Otherwise get rid of the anti-team players.

        • #3202453


          by robbi_ia ·

          In reply to It’s policy

          Policy and then procedure!

          2ktech – noticed you’re from Erlanger. I’ve been there once or twice. Love the watertower in Florence, Y’all!


    • #3218732

      At the very least

      by roger99a ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      At the very least you need a list of passwords so you can access the equipment and find out what’s going on. And at least one other person should have Admin rights on the domain. Let him know his “job security” depends on it.

      • #3225906

        Strongly concur, but for Admins only! YES on documentation

        by sevenex ·

        In reply to At the very least

        This fellow Arkie concurs fully, especially when it comes to Admins. This is where I draw the line as I’ve chimed recently elsewhere in the forums about a former manager who insisted on his employee’s passwords and how I staunchly refused his request until he assured me if they were compromised for any reason that he had to allow me an opportunity to speak for myself – no exceptions, and he did. It’s NOT a manager’s business to obtain his employee’s passwords as that is a separate disaster awaiting to occur, and I can cite several reasons in a future post. As far as documentation on what’s what – that’s clearly a no-brainer and disaster waiting to happen. Management must step to the plate, rectify this, and make it company policy so this doesn’t rear a Medusa head in the future.

    • #3217481

      Can You Say Down Time?

      by sentdata ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Let’s say your boy get’s taken to a secret prison and can?t work? Don?t call Avlac! Get the passwords for everything, routers too.

      • #3217442

        Management Problem

        by now left tr ·

        In reply to Can You Say Down Time?

        Raise this with management above the IT Manager is a tactfull way, directly or inderiectly as suits.

        Could be the inability to carry out a request when said IT Manager is off sick / on leave.

      • #3218075

        A solution

        by cor ·

        In reply to Can You Say Down Time?

        We deal with this all the time as an IT consulting firm.
        Our approach is that we come in to perform a company wide security assessment. During that process we find out how severe the problem is if he got hit by a bus today.
        We then create a tactical approach to mitigate those areas of most importance. We have done under cover approaches where we place an IT guy in the company to find out the rest of the missing knowledge or in some cases we have taken over the whole department and made the company IT person report to us.

        There is always a solution to this.

    • #3217409

      Encrypted data is the only real potential disaster.

      by stress junkie ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Okay. I agree with all of the other posters so far. On the other hand when I was working as a contract employee I often came into situations where the previous system administrator hadn’t documented anything and nobody knew the system passwords. These things can be handled. It could cause down time but you aren’t completely dead.

      Documentation is a tough issue. I try to keep good records so that another system administrator could pick up where I left off just by reading what I have written. It is unbelievably difficult to keep the documentation up to date. Written records become inaccurate quickly in a dynamic environment. Sometimes it is really really difficult to keep good documentation up to date.

      On the other hand if business data is being encrypted with a system that only has one password and uses the password to encrypt the data then that data might be lost forever. Few businesses employ these types of measures even though they should be used for all confidential data. In this case you need to know the password for the encryption algorithm. You also need to know what encryption method is being used, how it is implemented, and how to restart your computers without the help of the system administrator.

    • #3217370

      It’s a common problem

      by maevinn ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      It’s not a good thing, but it is pretty prevalent. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, or if it’s the result of improper training, poorly understand needs by management, or what. But, yes, something must be done. There should be a single document that identifies EVERYTHING, and secured control for accessing things like passwords.

      A problem I’ve encountered frequently is one that isn’t intentional–people set up files or objects, and by default the creator is the owner. That person leaves, their account is deleted, and the file or object is suddenly locked out. It’s IT’s responsibility to make sure that PUBLIC resources are created and maintained in a fashion to prevent this!

      I do think that too many people want to be considered critical, can’t be replaced.

    • #3217357

      Document, document, document……

      by oldbag ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      When I first started at my current employer, there was not one spec of documentation about the network, passwords, or any other technical matters. No one even knew who the preferred vendor was for telephone system support or purchasing toners.

      While keeping complete documentation is difficult to establish and maintain, I have found that setting up and keeping my records has been a huge tool in ensuring everything runs smoothly. How can this person even trouble shoot simple network issues? I find my records invaluable.

      I don’t think job security is the motivation here. This may be a cover up for a lack of skills.

      • #3218024

        Or just lack of time

        by dnsb ·

        In reply to Document, document, document……

        Around here we try to document the network, workstations and servers but we often run into the problem of not having the time to do a decent job of updating this essential (IMHO) documentation. All too often draining the swamp takes a back seat to avoiding being eaten by the alligators. Then there’s one of my co-workers who is a genius when it comes to IT but has trouble stringing two sentences together when documenting what he’s done.

        • #3217879

          Yep – a lack of time…

          by craig.elms ·

          In reply to Or just lack of time

          I agree that it is probably an issue of lack of time to do it. If you are a “one man band” or in an undersized team then you’re often giving your attention (time) to fighting the fires. I have just come from an environment like that – where the functions that the PC & Server Support department had increased by nearly 3 fold over the last 3 years, but no increase in staff numbers… You just do what you have time to do (the most urgent things) and the rest has to wait (including documenation). Good documentation can consume quite a bit of time, but management were not willing to concede that – and when we did steal tracts of time to try and get some documention done, then management would jump up and down asking why we weren’t dealing with support issues. Catch 22.

    • #3217352

      It is good policy

      by w2ktechman ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      to force documentation on things like this. I currently am in a position where I need to document things/procedures, etc. I was told this
      In case the whole team wins the lottery tomorrow and never comes back, the documentation needs to be up to date, accurate, and legible for the most incompetent computer user.

      often screenshots are used, with good documentation. To answer many questions, all I need to do is email the .doc file and ask if they need help or have problems to let me know.
      I may get 1 response out of 30 that they couldnt understand it (usually they didnt even open it).

    • #3217346

      I wrote “How To” manuals for everything.

      by jneilson ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      I wrote some manuals describing how to run the network, backup data, store data, recover data and even one on how to move Oracle from one server to another. I included all system information, including all passwords and gave them to my boss.

    • #3217341

      Are you sure the lack of documentation isn’ because he’s swamped?

      by danlm ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      And he is so busy doing everything, that his down time for documentation is very short? And , please do not take this the wrong way. It does need documented.

      But, as you said. 1 person to support 50 people can take up a lot of time. Normal desk top support, network outages, client/server software upgrades, future purchase research, ….

      Just saying, this person must have a boat load on his plate at any given time. Maybe offer this individual some support personnel for documentation purpose’s. He does a review with his support personnel twice a week, and that person goes off to perform the documentation.


      • #3217977

        Too busy to document

        by techmail2 ·

        In reply to Are you sure the lack of documentation isn’ because he’s swamped?

        Been in the “only one IT guy” situation.
        Finally got an assistant and got him qualified to do everything.
        Now there are two of us and time to do the documentation – so they immediately promote him to do the work at another site and the docs still don’t get done 🙁
        Sometimes you just can’t win…


      • #3202449

        Too busy?

        by robbi_ia ·

        In reply to Are you sure the lack of documentation isn’ because he’s swamped?

        We have 2 people to support 250, in 5 county offices and 22 satellites. I’m also the business continuity coordinator for my employer. You bet we document. We find the time.

        Supporting 50 users would be a breeze in comparison.

        • #3202419

          totally depends on the environment.

          by ez_1putt ·

          In reply to Too busy?

          Different environments have different network/pc configurations.

          1 guy could manage 100’s of PC’s successfully with the right automation in place..but if you are a smaller org with less funds it could be a little harder to afford some standardization/automation tools.

          Sneakernet may be much cheaper and may allow you to get by with less people but it definitely keeps you more busy.

    • #3217173

      I’ve been in this situation, and just used my own skills

      by deadly ernest ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      to track down and document all the information. I made sure I had high level coverage before doing this, as to find some of the info, we had to cause problems to make the guy fix them, and show us some of the more obscure details in the process.

      he’d been given two years to properly document the system, required for accreditation. he didn’t do it, so I got shipped in from another area to document it. much I could find out by just examining the system, logs etc. Took some time.

      Once we got it documented, all the core root passwords were changed, so he couldn’t lock us out. And he was given secondary access passwords, so her could do his work. All systems were imaged, and the images stored where he couldn’t get at them.

      BTW he was lucky to not lose his job. His refusal to document, nearly cost the company one of their most profitable contract – couldn’t keep the contract without the certification, and that required full documentation.

      Another way to handle something like this, that I’ve seen done. The network needed a major upgrade, so the approach was taken to design and install the upgrade as a whole new network, full documentation was needed to purchase the hardware and software. The new system was put in place some months later, and turned on. The old turned off.

      As to getting the info off the individual, you can only ask him, and point out that he’s placing the company in jeopardy by not documenting the stuff. His continued refusal means that they have absolutely nothing to lose by sacking him, they’ll be no worse off. And can then afford to hire someone to do the job properly.

      • #3274561

        Great Feedback…

        by camy2079 ·

        In reply to I’ve been in this situation, and just used my own skills

        Everyone, thanks for the feedback.

        Someone mentioned demanding the info however his direct supervisor, the President does not understand the severity of this lack of documnetation. The problem is that I once handled this position (Since then promoted) and if something ever happened I would be the one brought in to clean up and put the peices back together. Thus the important on my end. I however am friends with this indivual and have brought the subject up only to be brushed off. Perhaps I have not been persistent enough… Someone else asked if he was to busy. This simply isn’t the case but to be honest I don’t care how busy one is you can always set aside some time to make a one page document with the critial info/passwords listed. At this point I’m down to 2 possible solutions. Aside from convincing the president that this info is needed my only other solution is to document as much as I can then present my template of infomation. Then ask him to fill in the blanks explaining that its for his benefit, mine and the rest of our staff in case anything ever happens.

        • #3218147

          Lack of Knowledge

          by juzerf ·

          In reply to Great Feedback…

          Most of the persons in IT are too technical & thus they do not have the skills for Documentation etc. A perfect IT Manager has to be a Business minded person with IT background.
          Just recruit another person on top of this guy. If he quits; it is easy to get technical geniuses in the market to do the work.

        • #3218133

          One basic item

          by tags66 ·

          In reply to Great Feedback…

          Get the root/admin passwords documented and place in a seal envelope and locked in a fire safe at least.

          Then make sure that there?s a procedure in place to change the password after the seal had been broken on the envelope. This ensures that the network manager knows the password and if necessary someone else went a problem a rise?s


    • #3274477

      What if he doesn’t die but..

      by dr dij ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      goes on ‘stress disability’?

      This happened to a school system I know of. The gal in charged was the only person who know the root / admin password for a unix system. She wouldn’t give it to anyone else. They ended up reformatting the system and re-installing!

      I had a simmilar problem at an electronics company. One of the engineers was in charge of a system and wouldn’t give the admin password to anyone. He went on vacation to Korea and we couldn’t maintain the system.

    • #3218138

      You Might Want to Consider Continuity Books for your Enmtire Organization

      by mark lefcowitz ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      You might want to consider contunuity books for your entire organization, if not at least your key folks.

      See my TechRepublic article at:

    • #3218124

      Take this seriously

      by problemsolversolutionseeker ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      You are right to pursue this – I was on a recent project where users had been using VB scripts dished out by someone who had since died suddenly. There were no controls on these scripts, and, of course, there was no documentation.

      We did a major install, not realizing that these scripts existed. All hell broke loose.
      This was the first time in over 20 years that I had been on a major project that was pulled back out! This easily cost the client six figures several times over.

      We rewrote the scripts and reinstalled them, only to find out the emulators on the PC’s were disparate. IT had to buy all of these users new PC’s and/or emulators as part of the political price. (I mention this to show the ripple effect.)

      Absolutely, you need to pursue this.

    • #3218123

      This is your job role

      by emar1000 ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Executive Management (Chairman, CEO, CFO, Partner) – As stated on your TR ID. It is obvious you are the man in charge. If he is the belligerent type of person remind him you are the boss. Of course being tactful should come first. But also make him aware that this is not an attempt to replace him. Give him a time frame to have it documented. But if he gives you a hard time, like another poster mentioned ?his job security depends on the documentation? period. Again make sure another person has admin rights.

    • #3218116


      by 3xp3rt ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      The best solution to document all of IT related work. For example at my workplace all I done (installations, configurations, accounts, and passwords) am documented and printed. Also those documents are writhed to DVD and tape. All this are locked in company?s safe.

    • #3218111


      by tech_monkey ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Kudo’s to you for realizing this in the first place. I’d have to say most executive mgmt officers are clueless to this matter.
      At my previous place of employment, the Net Admin came to me and asked me if i wanted to shadow him since he didnt have a ‘backup’.
      I would go to work 4hrs early, trained with him for 1.5yrs while doing my regular job there as a NOC Tech, but wanted to get into pc/network support. the time came when i found another job closer to home, and paid much more money. I informed the manager of this, and said i really didnt want to leave, and really wasnt about the money, just wanted a position performing pc/network,
      requested a position as his backup,
      and his coworker who was the email and web administrator and the pc and mac support departments.
      and asked what he’d do if anything happened to the Net Admin., his response was,
      ‘we’ll just hire someone more qualified’
      Considering their type of business, they jump thru the roof when there was any type of outage, they were willing to take their chances of not having a Net Admin.
      I left, and wouldnt you know it, the mgr hired a friend of his to be the ‘everyone’ backup for which i was looking for..for alot more money than i would’ve done it for.

    • #3218104

      I am in a similar position

      by jmirtc ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      I am in a similar position to the IT Guy you mention.

      I agree with what was said above. Everything should be documented.

      I took over the IT Dept. in March 06 for a small company of about 45 users.
      I was told all the passwords but none were written down.

      The only documentation was a Shorthand Note Book with a load of scribbles and IP address?s in it.

      It has taken me till now (8 Months) to actually document everything.
      All passwords are kept by the PA to the Chairman, so in my absence people will still be able to get onto the system.

      I am the only person in the company with Admin Rights and access to the Servers. However we also have a Contractor that comes in sometimes that can cover Hardware issues who also has Admin access and access to the Servers.

      Unless Your IT Guy has is seriously worried about his job then he should have no problem providing you with the information you need.

    • #3218090

      Making a Living

      by 1tnfrench ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      I have been making a living off this very circumstance.
      Non-documentation is potential suicide.
      If this individual is part ofthe executiv staff, he should know better. (Maybe you are not in the awkwardly unreasonable “need to know” group.)
      If this is a true issue, indicate that any and all disaster recovery/business continutiy plan REQUIRES this information is some form.
      Unless he is the ultimate decision maker. Suggestions about BC/DR usually attract the desired attention

    • #3218089

      I am the IT guy

      by stefang ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Same size company, I am documenting. It’s part of the job. What annoys me is when the documentation is controlled and evaluated by someone who does’nt know anything about IT. I assume that the document is for myself or someone with equal knowledge. I don’t need to know where to click and I dont need screenshots of every step of a process. Also, many things are already documented out there, but that’s not enough for some people, project managers especially. It is very time consuming and useless in most cases to rewrite and explain concisely all the documentation that is provided with a software or hardware product, and that you already paid for by the way. The IT systems are alive, what I like to do is to write sort of a story of the IT environment, split in different services if I have to. Then, throughout the story I add hyperlinks to tech doc for more precise references, or to web sites, even to the actual production system. This makes it interesting to write, and to read!!

      Hope this helps.


      • #3218063

        What I do is this…

        by jmirtc ·

        In reply to I am the IT guy

        In the company I work for, All users should have a basic understanding of how to use Windows. If they ask for any software (such as a well known brand of software that creates PDF files) Once installed I hand them the Manual and tell them to read it before calling me.

        It may sound harsh but after I started here I had 1 user taking about 90% (no joke) of my time just dealing with trivial stuff. I felt like I was this users personal IT Guy.

      • #3223654

        This sounds familiar…

        by gypkap9 ·

        In reply to I am the IT guy

        “What annoys me is when the documentation is controlled and evaluated by someone who does’nt know anything about IT.”

        I used to work for a company that was CMM level 2 certified. Our requirements were well documented, as were signoffs when an application went into production, but the only other document that was required was a “maintenance plan” that had lots of info about how each application was stored in the version control system, but nothing in it about data structure or how the application worked. Why? Because the QA manager considered it unimportant.

        If we kept such information, it was typically in a Word document that was not under version control, because QA saw no need for it, and didn’t want it in the version control system.

        Result: if someone left and didn’t document their applications (or the system), the replacement would just have to figure things out on their own.

    • #3218081

      Declare a documentation day….

      by brian.kinney ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      For IT, an absolute minimum would be to guarantee that at least one other person can run a backup AND a restore of your primary data services without ANY HELP. From knowing where the tapes are, to getting the server completely operational needs to be possible. If you have the hardware resources, run them through a disaster recovery drill.

      Find the people who you would entrust with the data, and would be responsible to recover from any disaster. Have THEM create a document saying who is their “backup” for each other’s specific roles. Then there is outside pressure as well to document, as two people’s jobs will rely on protecting each other’s work.

      Make them painfully aware of the consequences – ask everyone to answer the question “What would happen to the company if your co-worker died and left no documentation whatsoever? What should we do to protect the company, and in turn, our own jobs?”

      Please remember, losing the IT guy isn’t the only personnel “disaster” that can happen.

      Not knowing where your customer, vendor, contracts, contacts, media events and other data are can be just as traumatic.

      Forgetting to rent a booth at the big annual convention where your company generates 30% of your sales for the year could be considered vital as well.

      Case in point: Eagle Computers Inc.
      To quote David Perry, the very last employee of Eagle Computer:
      The Eagle was smaller, lighter, quieter and a cooler design than the IBM PC, but two things really put the company out of business.
      First, the IBM bios case (eagle rewrote it’s bios as part of the settlement, but the delay the case brought caused all of eagles components to age one year–and after 1986 every computer Eagle sold was at a whopping loss. And, second, the president of the company died in a car crash the day that Eagle went public.

    • #3218069

      This is the sign of a poor boss

      by jdclyde ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      And you don’t even have to go to the extremes of the IT guy dying or getting fired.

      What if he ever is sick or takes a vacation?

      It is complete incompitence on the part of the boss to not make sure there is documentation, as well as at least one other person cross-trained as a backup to cover during vacations and sick time.

      As for from the point of view of the Tech, documentation is a pain, not very fun, and no one EVER wants to “waste” their day with documentation. If the culture is such that he has never HAD to take the time to document, why would he? It is hard to come back later and change this, but it should be done.

      So don’t automatically assume that this is for a false sense of job security. How well have YOU documented everything you do on a daily basis?

    • #3218065

      You are fired?

      by sqrfmdel ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      This is a sticky situation. I would like to believe that after talking to the IT guy, he would agree to do the documentation (and actually do it) and things would only get better for both parties. The sell is, that he is basically stuck for vacations, advancement, etc because he has created a single point of failure (which the manager has allowed to happen).

      If he fails to respond to your request, then possibly hiring someone else to “assist” him (a temp to perm position), might help. Once the new guy learns the system, you can let the IT guy go because of his failure to meet work expectations, and then get the new guy to do the documentation.

      Bottom line: The IT guy isn’t a team player, and the manager needs to find out why the IT guy feels threatened. Who knows, he might just have poor writing skills. If that fails, it is time to let him go.

    • #3218059

      Yeah, but…

      by icubub ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Aren’t all IT guys dead inside already?

    • #3218053

      well, what if YOU die?

      by bschaettle ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Consider what would happen to the company if YOU were to die. Does the company have a succession plan in place? Have you documented your critical business knowledge and forward-looking plan? If so, consider that this IT person’s knowledge may well be just as important to the survival of your company as yours, and take appropriate action.

      • #3218015

        Bet they had not thought of that one….

        by now left tr ·

        In reply to well, what if YOU die?

        all to quick to plan for others death but fail to overlook their own.

    • #3218052

      Just do it.

      by dr_zinj ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      0. At the moment, you’re totally screwed.

      1. Your business has no disaster recovery plan, and single point of failure for security.

      2. If your business can’t operate without the information system working, then this person has just become the most important, powerful person in the company.

      3. If you suspect that this person will react badly to being ordered to produce documentation, then you probably should bring in someone during off hours to do a physical analysis and document that way. Physical wiring/wireless nodes, PC and server makes & models, OSes, application software & versions, backup media & methodology (if any), etc.

      3. Copies of the license numbers and product ids should still be around the building/office somewhere, dig them out. Passwords may even be written down somewhere in his office/desk. I presume all office furniture and supplies are provided by the company, therefor you shouldn;t require a warrant to search at will. However, if the situation is really this bad, it’s entirely possible that the default admin ID and passwords are still on the systems.

      4. If you are willing to terminate his/her employment, then you can impose conditions that he/she turn over all the passwords to the systems. If he/she does not, then you can take that person to court for theft of both the entire value of the system, and the information on it, and for all business losses incurred until he/she provided the access codes.

      5. By the way, the value of your information on your systems is usually way undervalued by several orders of magnitude. That information is worth, at a minimum, the average pay of the person(s) who entered it, times the amount of time it took to enter. Add the value of the contracts/sales/materials/etc produced, possible legal costs if it’s not accessible (for instance, a suit from a patient for failure to produce a list of people who have accessed their medical record for the past 7 years), and you start looking at 6 figure numbers or greater really quickly.

      • #3218012

        Your item 4

        by dnsb ·

        In reply to Just do it.

        Good luck with that item. If you fire me, I’m outta there and I owe you nothing. As for claiming theft? What exactly did I steal? Was the system working when I left? Did I take the computers home with me? Did I remove a copy of the company’s intellectual property? Did I leave a daemon that locked everyone out of the system if it wasn’t reset on a regular basis? Did my job description include a requirement to provide support even after being terminated?

        Inquiring minds are eager to know.

        A bit of a sore point since I was in a similar situation at one time. I was terminated due to a lack of desire to spend my own time taking care of the owner’s home computer systems. The company then ran into issues despite the documentation which included a fairly decent mapping of the systems, the admin passwords for servers, routers, switches, etc. Their lawyers contacted me and basically threatened me with severe consequences if I didn’t fix the problems. My lawyer’s advice was don’t even talk to them unless they offer to pay for you to act as a consultant.

        • #3202523

          Ethical Behavior

          by dr_zinj ·

          In reply to Your item 4

          If as in the case you describe, the business fired you for refusal to perform outside the requirements of the job, then you’re justified in withholding that information until the suit has been adjudicated. i.e. they wrongfully dumped you and are bearing the consquences of THEIR behavior, not yours.

          If, on the other hand, you weren’t complying with company policies, and reasonable expectations of performance (what a jury would go on), and were terminated because of that, then the company basically has you in breech of contract and turning over those things may become the deciding factor on what kind of punishment you’re looking at.

          Again, in either case, if it goes far enough, it’s going to depend on what ordinary folks think is reasonable and in accordance with the law. And before it goes that far, you’re going to have to come up with a risk-benefit decision for yourself.

    • #3218038

      IT Guy 2

      by jim babay ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      The scenario here is the same. If something happens to me though, all anyone has to do is come over to my desk. All the passwords are on sticky notes attached to my monitor.

      • #3218017

        Great (NOT)

        by now left tr ·

        In reply to IT Guy 2

        Hacker Heaven….

      • #3217898

        You scare me !!!!

        by master_techie ·

        In reply to IT Guy 2

        because that is just the opposit we do here. My situation is little different but I totally understand the issue here. I work for a huge corporation with more than 100k employees accross the world. We are required to change the passwords on a regular basis. So writing the passwords on a sticky pad and place it on monitor is BIG NO NO. We get audited every year especially on security. We are all about documentation, documentation, documentation. Sometimes we go little overboard with documentation. I even add time for documentation when we do an estimation for a project; eventhough it is not required by my group. But I like to document what I do. I am a programmer by profession by if I get hit by a bus when I cross the road, the next person sits at my desk will be able to pick up right from where I left, with a little bit of reading. We programmers are infamous for anti-documentation in our code. But, I learned, long time back (right from the college) that some times it is like digging out gold, to find out that you have actually documented what you were thinking 8 months back.

    • #3218026

      I’m am guilty

      by jim s. ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      I’m guilty of this to a extent, I am the only IT person at my company, tho I have made some documentation, I am guilty of not having complete documentation, it’s not that I am lazy, or I am afraid of getting fired or losing my job, it’s just that at times I do not have the time to document the entire network. I review it when I have time to spare, but I do have the most important info available to the higher ups that I work for, so then that perverbal bus hits me, they will be able to hire an outside source to continue on with their business. So I would tell them that you need for them to start making a manual that cover the critical systems first, then work their way to the least. For now, pray that he doesn’t step out into traffic

    • #3218018


      by now left tr ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      The IT guy is monitoring your web actvity and has now seen your post. Knowing he is to be outsourced is not a good thing…

    • #3217999

      Our IT guy DID die

      by blueknight ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      I’m a volunteer officer for a police department and our IT guy did die… on his way to C.E.S. in Las Vegas on his motorcycle he was hit by a car and killed.

      Everyone in the department liked him, BUT, as an IT guy he left a lot to be desired. He had his hands in so many things from the network and servers to desktop systems, telephones, you name it. He did have a backup but she handled primarily desktop issues and he didn’t share much of his knowledge at all.

      When he died, his knowledge went with him because it wasn’t documented anywhere.

      Fortunately, all was not lost… just chaotic for a while. A few IT techs from city hall came over and went through and hacked their way into each of the servers and documented everything including the network (some of which I knew because of my regular job). They also standardized all the desktops and install brand name machines
      to replace the cheap (and very slow) locally built PC clones.

      Currently we have a primary tech assigned to the department, but there are a few others at city hall, including the city’s IT Manager, who now know the “lay of the land” at the PD and have documentation.

      My recommendation would be to get your IT guy to document everything. Make sure he’s got time set aside in his schedule for such activities.

      I would list each area he is responsible for such as servers, network and desktops and software for example, then set deadlines for him to have full documentation for each of those areas. Then you review it to make sure it is both useful and complete.

      Make this part of his performance review also. Ask him to begin working on this as a normal request and discuss with him exactly what you’re after. If you see no progress, start getting tougher until you get results. And get a backup Tech in there too.

      As it is now, if he were to die, everything would go to $#!+ and remain chaotic for a while… but it’s not the end of the earth.

      You need the documentation not only for normal operations, but for disaster recovery and business continuity as well.

    • #3217984

      Tactful request

      by robyn.repeta ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      I would simply tell your IT guy in order to become compliant, all processes need to be documented, that way he won’t feel insecure about his positon there.

    • #3217961

      I’m not dead yet! I’m feeling much better!

      by mickster269 ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      In our business, we had almost the exact same situation. Except the single IT guy was me.

      While I do write everything down, store all the paperwork, etc – it’s all filed in my office/ desk. Last year, I got one of our programmers that I trusted and showed him where I kept everything. In this last year, anytime I had a project, installed new hardware, software, ANYTHING IT related, I made him aware of it, and also provided him paper copies of anything needed.

      2 months ago, when I tried to blind myself with my contact lens (see a previous thread)- I was out from work for about a week. While there were some minor IT problems while I was gone, everything was handled by my “human backup”.

      When I returned to work, he updated me on all that occured . And then threatened to create bodily harm upon me himself if I ever did that again (something about he doesn’t get paid enough to do my job (chuckles)).

      I have no concerns about Job Security, in that now NO ONE here wants my job!

    • #3217909

      Not if but when he dies..

      by jgunter ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      I would say he/she is like most any ole hard drive; it’s not if it dies but when. Also I would say that, as the Boss, you should have a sit down and discuss IT protocol as related to documentation. It is a must, but few really like to do it. But you must get an agreement from him to do the things you see as top priority. This would include goals, metric and review dates. If he takes it badly and threatens to quit then let him, and deal with his death now rather tan later. Give this some thought and plan for the worst then begin the discussion.

    • #3217896

      Work on the premise that he has died suddenly.

      by cs ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Fire him immediately for incompetence and escort him off the premises. If possible get some admin rights before you do that.

      Then get a good contractor in and pay him well to bring the untidy mess into shape. Once that has been done either outsource the work of recruit a new permanent technician to run the show.

    • #3217881

      Document, document, document

      by cheiring ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      I am in a similar situation. I work for a company of about 60 people and we have one Network Admin. He documents nothing and I should know because I am the person they hired to train as a back up for him. Just in case he would get hit by a bus.

      He has failed to teach me anything and the company is right where it started. I am actively teaching myself how to do his job. But he is unwilling to teach me anything. I have been here a year and I am current looking for other opportunities in my area.

      So if you are going to hire a back up to this guy then you better make sure he is willing to train them.

      I know I am young and fairly new to the IT world but I believe that you are only as good as your documentation. If you do not document anything then you are just keeping the company above water.

      The next guy that takes your job will have to undo everything you have done to understand how everything works. Just seems silly to me when people don’t document.

    • #3217872

      Continuance of Business (disaster recovery)

      by doogal123 ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Do you think that implementing a Business Continuity (disaster recovery) plan/audit would engage this person enough to spit out the information? Wouldn’t a DR recovery plan, by it’s nature, be complete enough to be done by someone other than the administrator (in my opinion) in case of the key person not being available? Wouldn’t it have to be tested by someone not totally familiar with the in house system?

      Tell the IT guy that to prevent curious hands from getting in the works (might be part of his motivation), all the documentation is going to be locked in a fireproof company safe.

      I would think that the admin passwords to a company network are indeed a valuable company asset, and NOT owned by the administrator. I would think he would be legally liable should he not give them to you.

    • #3225958

      Key is Management and….Time…

      by jeff.simcock ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      I have this same experience (in the IT guys role! and I assure you its not job security.
      It is a failing of management to acknowledge in the first instance the role this position plays and the time needed to perform this role. Its easy to create a position of IT guru and feed ALL your IT issues to him without any consideration of what the position actually does and what time they have to do it in.

      In my experience, I was just simply flooded with work to do, requests for new equipment, software, setups, support, “do this, do that…and yesterday if you don’t mind …Please!”.
      So I just did the work…without bothering with the NECESSARY documentation, work trails, etc etc.. I always thought I would come back to it..yes well…
      I did come back to it, after I resigned and negotiated with the company to do the documentation and assist the new PEOPLE (they employed 3 people do do my job!). I acted as a consultant IT Facilitator for approximately 3 months and then management decided that things were working so smoothly, that they employed me again fulltime…IT Manager!

      Anyway the moral of the story is:-
      Management needs to not only understand the role but appreciate the time needed to do the role.
      The IT guy has to convey to management the issues they are encountering, ie lack of time etc… and make them understand the importance of procedures, documentation etc..
      If they don’t – resign and re-negociate!! it worked for me!

      If you are in the senior management position, you are playing tippy toes with potential disaster! Use your management? skills and have a one on one with your IT guy and explain your concerns and ASK HIM what HE thinks can be done to resolve the issues!

      my 2 bobs worth….have a good…no… GREAT day!

    • #3225879

      Keep on praying to the GODS of doom!!!

      by mcfly ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      If the force is not with you, the gods of doom will. Take responsibility of your security and get it off one guy’s hands. Forget about him dying, he could leave your organization and spell doom to your security from outside! put it down in black and white (& pink and grey if you have to), that it is company policy NOT to withhold COMPANY INFO from the organization. Set up back up structures to cut down on down time, and also to implement a lock down if he is to leave (or die). Life’s not for us to give, it’s just for us to live!

    • #3225819

      Managed Services

      by jaymwells ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      There are lots of firms that will gladly manage pieces of your IT to alleviate this risk. If you have major concerns about that business model, then start with something mundane like patching.

      If your IT guy is a good one, he’ll be pleased to have the cycles freed up to focus on more interesting and strategic work. He’ll be happy to work on something that really differentiates your firm and creates value. Seen it happen many times.

      Even if he’s got good documentation, if he leaves the firm, you’re stuck until somebody who knows something can get hired and start working.

    • #3225706

      I worked with this guy … I was this guy!

      by bblacklock ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      First, is he actually not willing to provide the documentation or is he just too busy to write it up? Different issues require different approaches.

      Most of the posts have focused on legal or mangement tactics to get this documentation in place. Most of these seem to be relying on forcing the issue.

      Try another tactic … remind him that the person who is the only source of information on the system never gets a day off or vacation and may be expected to be effectively on-call 24 hours – 365 days a year. I did this for a while, it stinks.

      I document everything so that when the trivial stuff happens, anyone who can read the docs can usually resolve their problem without calling me! This means that the on-call cellphone doesn’t ring unless it is serious.

      Having the documentation in place at each office and in the network room or server room means that anyone who calls me for something serious can be walked through the basics before I jump in the car and drive in. This saves time and phone calls on my time off.

      Remind him that good documentation will simplify some of his support issues as the end user can often resolve their own problems.

      As for passwords (any passwords) they should be documented and locked up somewhere so that if he steps in front of a bus you can get into your systems without having to hack them. This is a job requirement IMHO and I would make sure that this is the first thing he does.

      • #3223693

        If you are insecure….

        by girlgeek12 ·

        In reply to I worked with this guy … I was this guy!

        Then there is no need for documentation. If you do a great job and have nothing to lose, why not document what you do? If there is only one IT person, the chances of them letting you go is close to none unless you totally screw up.

        I’m in a similar situation. I was brought on after they fired the last guy. I had limited documentation to work with. I have managed to make my way through the network using several utilities to access hardware. It has made my job a bit more challenging but it’s amazing to see what I have been able to find with little to no information. The organization I work for is small enough that there has not been any critical issues that arose during the discovery process. On the other hand, its tough when you are the only person handling the infrastructure. You literally eat, sleep and breathe IT cuz something is always going on. It would be nice to be able to have someone else step in you in case I was in a coma or something.

        If you are trying to find a diplomatic way of telling this guy he needs documentation, try a company wide policy of SOP’s. If its mandated from HR, that may be the motivation.

        • #3202588

          A bit of a contradiction GirlGeek12

          by no user ·

          In reply to If you are insecure….

          You said — If there is only one IT person, the chances of them letting you go is close to none unless you totally screw up. — Then you go on to say — I was brought on after they fired the last guy. — Hmmmmmmmm. Sounds like he needed that job security. You did not mention why he was fired.

          The bottom line is with out any documentation even a girl can step in and do it. Only kidding!!! The point is you took over and all is fine with out it. It is preferred to have and certainly makes life easier but it was not necessary.

    • #3223667

      Hire a consultant

      by rucb_alum ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      You need the documentation. If the current FTE can handle the task bring in a body (800905GEEK, whatever) to take the load off so that he can get the documentation done. Going over the procedures with the consultant will help to gather the data needed to write the doco. If the current guy can’t write, then have the rent-a-geek do the writing. If you are serious about business continuation, get it done.


    • #3223616

      May lead to downsizing, but also saves corporate dollars

      by trimac06 ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      As a techie who was recently downsized and demoted because I trained someone else to do my job as I was going on leave, I would say that the IT guy safeguards his knowledge by only sharing only the basics.

      However, I think he should document his work as part of his job duties, as documentation is important for continuity of the business. Also, it will save the company money in the future when something happens to the system or if they have to upgrade.

      Additionally, there should be another admin performing a similar role (maybe not as much as him, but being an administrator nonetheless), as heaven forbid it and one day, he actually dies. And the office would be forced to start over from scratch and spend huge amounts to reset passwords, etc.

    • #3223011


      by fight_boy ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      No good method.

    • #3222960

      Shame on him

      by lcave ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      He’s practicing job stupidity, not job security. How do you know your network is secure or that licensure is in compliance.

    • #3222898

      A Slightly Different Point of View

      by carlajford ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      After reading all the previous postings, I want to note the following points:
      – I totally agree with the need for documentation.
      – Any of the suggested reasons for the IT guy not doing documentation, lack of time, need for job security, etc. are possible.

      I would like to add one additional possibility: in the 40 years that I have worked in the field, I have worked with several individuals who simply cannot write documentation.

      My recommendation is to hire a good, emphasis GOOD, technical writer. There are some out there with the kind of experience you need. (I am NOT looking for a job.) For example, I programmed for 9 years, worked as an analyst for 12 years (both system and business analysis), was the project manager on several large systems and I have both formal and informal training as a technical writer. I have worked with several tech writers who have similar backgrounds. Technical writers like this are not cheap, but definately are cheaper than being caught in a disaster with no documentation!

      If you are interested in finding a technical writer with this kind of knowlege, check with the Society of Technical Communicators, STC.

    • #3139536

      Disaster Recovery

      by azbill ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      As a manager, one of your key responsibilities is to ensure that your business can operate under the most critical times. Sit down and speak with your IT Guy about his plans to keep the systems going in the event of problems. Put the responsibility on the IT Guy to document, protect the systems and his position. Make it a requirement as part of his evaluation or future in the company. If a disaster occurs and he is responsible for the documentation that should be kept in a secure location off-site, then he can retain his position. If not, he’s got to go. Probably the biggest fear you may have is the need for passwords to access the systems. Not a major problem, just a temporary slow down. Make documentation a part of the IT Guys responsibility and job. Take Charge!!!!

    • #3139307

      Worrying indeed

      by glennhughes ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      This may have all been said but I haven’t read all the posts.

      First of all this is nothing new in either large or small orgs. It is a combination of self preservation – if no-on else knows it they can’t sack me, laziness – I know I should document key information but can’t be bothered as it’s not the fun part of my job, poor corporate culture – the org as a whole has little or no processes to control/govern (which as an exec you should be managing!), personality – techies in general like to play/fix/build not document.

      If you articulate the impact IN BUSINESS TERMS not IT speak to your fellow Execs e.g. if he dies/leaves/forgets what he knows the impact to our business will be x, cost us y, this should get their buy in (most if not all of them) then task this person and others via their objectives/KPI’s whatever you use to deliver. Track with interim reviews and if they don’t do it don’t give them a pay rise.

      It’s a cultural thing which is up to senior management to drive and usually takes quite a time to implement. However you have a specific area to target so it will be easier to address.

    • #3202600

      Hey CEO try looking in a mirror to see the problem

      by no user ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      First off. NEVER WRITE DOWN PASSWORDS. That is the Golden Rule!!!!! The most vulnerable password is one that is written down. So I give him an ?A? for that.

      As for the Network diagram. I must first ask how big is the Network? Is it a dinky little Network up to maybe very modest in size? If it is then bring your camera in and take a picture hang it on your wall and problem solved. Small Networks are not worth documenting and I’ll bet he agrees. Network diagrams are over rated in general and really only apply to diverse, large or perhaps unique Networks.

      Now on to documentation. You say that you have 50 people and he is the I.T. Department. A one man I.T. department probably doesn’t have much time to change his mind let alone document.

      Ask yourself what the documentation is for. He already knows what to do. You did not mention if he has a backup. So if you do not have a backup for him then just who would be reading the documentation? If you have a backup then have the backup write down what they know. If he dies then you will be hiring another I.T. Pro and you will quickly find that a real Pro just doesn?t have that much of a problem stepping up to the plate and getting it done.

      The first thing that you mention is job security probably being the cause for not documenting. Being the CEO and mentioning that first tells me he has good reason to be concerned about his job security. Perhaps you should consider alleviating his concerns by giving him a bonus and a contract which guarantees his job security and with that require the desired documentation with the exception of writing down passwords of course. That will solve it all.

    • #3202592

      In case of my death, they are instructed to. . . . . . .

      by maxwell edison ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      …play Amazing Grace at my funeral and bury me at the local National Cemetery.

      • #3202583

        Good one!!

        by no user ·

        In reply to In case of my death, they are instructed to. . . . . . .

        Life is for the living and the dead have no worries.

      • #3202518

        not an IT guy

        by awhite ·

        In reply to In case of my death, they are instructed to. . . . . . .

        I am not an IT guy but I do all of the network admin work for the company I work for. It is a very small company with only about 20 people but still enough to cause problems if someone did not know what was going on. I have never documented anything but have seen the light on this subject and will begin documenting right away. Just a line to say thanks to all who have posted and made me realize things can happen even though we dont like to think of our own mortality.

    • #3202579

      Okay, another answer

      by maxwell edison ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      You can “tactfully” request the information by suggesting to him that such documentation would serve two purposes: one is to actually help him manage the network, and the other is to provide the documentation necessary should he become unavailable or incapacitated for any reason, either temporarily or permanently.

      I’m also a “one-man” IT department in a similar sized company, and I can’t imagine doing everything I do without documenting it. It actually helps me “remember” everything. My documentation isn’t a training manual, per se, where just anybody could pick it up and run with it, and I suppose not absolutely everything is written down, but should I meet an early demise, any decent IT professional should be able to come in and look through the files and my notebooks (3-ring binders), and quickly figure out what’s going on.

      I might suggest that in his next review you bring it up and make it one of his “goals” for the next year. If he squawks, it would be a good time to talk about his objections and your reasoning. If he out-right refuses, you might drop the hint that the lack of job security is exponentially better than the lack of a job.

      By the way, if he’s that concerned about his job security, there’s probably more going on than meets the eye.

    • #3202577

      Potential Solution to “Death of an IT Guy”

      by ben ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      I am on the board of a company that has a product/service that addresses this issue. They would agree that this represents a serious vulnerability. What is even more likely and equally as serious is that this person could quit and take this knowledge with them. This person can also hold your company hostage with his knowledge. How much would you pay to keep him from leaving?

      The company I mentioned above provides a combination of a pre-configured IT infrastructure designed to MS best practices and provides the platform for remote management. They provide on-demand and proactive support both at the system and the desk top level. There is a lot more to it than I have described. If you would be interested in talking to the CEO of the company, I can put you in touch with him and he can better explain how it works. The concept is that IT is handled seamlessly at a lower cost than internal IT, is predictable and you never have to worry about the “Death of an IT Guy”. Ben

    • #3202572


      by mpasaa ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      EVERYTHING should be documented period! That said, don’t expect the IT lead to document things that all admins should know. However, configurations, backup details, router/firewall configs, etc. should all be backed up.

      We keep all SYSTEM configurations and Documentation in a share accessible to all IT staff. Our security needs within our department are minimal in terms of who can see this info. Our goal is to share everything and NOT keep things secret.

      Remember, the network belongs to the company and not this one person no matter how important he thinks he/she is. He/She is not using due diligence as he should. His goal should be to make sure anyone could walk in there and take over if needed at least to a large degree. Every place has their company-specific applications and systems but if those are also documented there should not be that large of a learning curve. In reality, one would assume that more than one person is familiar with such systems. If not, the company is at fault.

      Also, we keep a password file which is encrypted and password protected in this same IT share. Suffice it to say, we have many, many passowrds set on a wide variety of devices and server configurations. In other words, if one password was compromised it would not automatically mean EVERYTHING is compromised. That is a matter of preference. If you think one username/password is sufficient make sure you document this information and keep it in a safe and change this often. I would avoid this and services on systems should run using specific accounts and not administrator or domain admin accounts.

      All router, firewall & switch configurations are saved as text files. We create 2 versions for each device so that when we make changes we always have a backup should our changes cause issues.

      At one location, we created a sealed envelope with administrator RSA key fobs, passwords,and some network documentation and gave it to the Accounting chief to keep in his safe. That way, should anything happen to the IT staff for whatever reason you would not be stuck.

      Another worthwhile effort which could greatly assist someone coming to your site is a Visio Network diagram showing your various VLANs, ISP circuits, server layout, switches, etc.. This takes a great deal of time to create but once created it makes working with the network that much easier. We use one here and update it as necessary. Even though we know our network pretty well we still refer to it especially when thinking about implementing new configurations. It helps to make sure our proposed solution will actually work and it is invaluable when working on Firewall and Router configs.

      With some thought and keeping some of this simple it isn’t that difficult to create a basic “document” detailing the various set ups at your site. Just give the guy time to do this as that was always the problem I had at other sites. Management wanted everything documented but never gave us the time to do it. Please be kind to IT…we have lives too 🙂

      Hope this helps…good luck!

    • #3202556


      by kyle.eastland ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Any IT guy that forgoes documentation for the sake of job security must know that he isn’t doing a good job, or that wouldn’t be his concern. At the very least the passwords should be documented and kept in a secure location, otherwise he isn’t doing his job.

    • #3202545

      Just tell him to do it

      by jfp ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Having just taken a new position at a similar sized company and in the same type of role heading the IT dept, I have been overwhelmed by the lack of documentation and passwords. I have to pretty much discover everything for myself. I am documenting everything as I go, so that if something does happen to me, or I go on vacation and need someone to cover the routine tasks while I’m gone, things will go smoothly.

      IT people who don’t document are showing their lack of experience, since documentation does not cause a lack of job security.

      As presumably the IT persons boss you have every right to expect an employee who is a department onto him/herself to make sure that everything they are responsible for is documented, not just the IT guy. This documentation should be part of your business continuity plan.

    • #3202516

      Document using a wiki

      by john quillen ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      I’m coming into this thread late and have not read all 77(!) posts. But I searched the thread for “wiki” and didn’t find it.

      We used a wiki, Confluence –, which is commercially supported open source.

      We maintain most all dept info in cross-linked pages and tables with all of our customers, projects, hardware, software, etc. Anyone can edit anything (though access controls are provided)

      So, if anyway disappears – or is even out for a week or two, we have enough context to keep most anything running.

      It took a little while to get everyone to contribute, but once we did it became somewhat addictive.

      We even use it to track project status and in 1x1s with staff.

    • #3202440

      IT Guys

      by eatont9999 ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Firstly, IT guys NEVER die. If our physical body stops responding, we simply request for the Matrix to make us a new one.
      Secondly, if you hire an experienced IT professional, he/she should be able to figure it out by reverse-engineering the situation. If that fails, there is trial and error, and then there is “Screw it, I’ll make my own.”
      It is usually easier to have documentation, but getting it from your guy may take a little strong-arming. You can first ask nicely, then firmly. If no results, you can throw some geeky logic at him using an if-then statement like: If you do not start documenting procedures, then you will be replaced (this is assuming you have the authority to replace him).
      If that does not seem like it will work for you, you can hire an “assistant.” Just make sure he does documentation. Once your new-found assistant is acclimated and can run the network to your liking, get rid of the old IT guy.
      You may not want to start this above procedure unless documenting is critical or you would like to be rid of your current IT person for other reasons.

    • #3202427

      Disaster Recovery Comittee

      by old-timer ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      What if the office burned down?
      Make up a Disaster Recovery Commitee (for real). And commit to a plan; then burn it on a CD and store it off site. No DR plan – no holiday bonus and no vacation until it’s done.

      • #3202369

        You are on the right track

        by no user ·

        In reply to Disaster Recovery Comittee

        Risk Assessment, Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity, Impact Analysis, Security and all of the other Plans are company wide not just I.T. In fact do to regulatory and other requirements I.T is often neither part of the process nor desired by the company to be so and is often intentionally separated for security, accountability, check and balances and other reasons. It makes it difficult at best to formulate all those plans when you are forbidden access to the information necessary to create those Plans. It is certainly questionable to subject I.T. with the Task when we don?t have the authority to make the company decisions involved. Not to mention they just don?t want you to know the business of other departments and the confidential company business. It is a community effort. A team based Task force is certainly in order.

        There are a lot of small Networks that are not sophisticated to the point of preventing a competent I.T Pro to figure out or step in and take over. I certainly prefer all the documentation I can get but it is not always absolutely necessary. I document well and in volume however it is in a constant state of change and I can?t keep up. It routinely comes down to making a choice between having it documented or installed and working with documentation coming when I can make it fit in. I too am a one man I.T Department and I do a 1 ? to 2 ? person job and it has always been that way.

        Regardless of the benefit and in some cases necessity of having them, Network Diagrams, Documentation and all of those Plans. The benefit of having them has been greatly exaggerated and their requirement grossly abused. The problem is they have a blank check and all the authority they need to enforce compliance. I call that job security.

        I think that the CEO has some issues that have been left out and in doing so has painted a completely one sided picture. I?ll bet the one man I.T department has his reasons. Job security looks to be right on target.

    • #3202376

      Till death do us part ?

      by bigbigboss ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      You can ask the guy to document, but you will fail. He is probably too busy, with only 1 person for a company of 40, and there is no incentive for him to do it.

      To start with, if you can only afford to have one guy doing all the IT stuff, and that’s all the IT stuff you need done, you should outsource it, and not have IT department at all. And, of course, put the documentation requirement in the agreement when you out source, and you should specify that there must be more than one person working on your company.

      You can have two or three people doing this job part time instead of one person doing it full time. But that takes more money than out sourcing.

      If you want to outsource now, talk to the out source company and see how they can help you to get things in shape.

      If you choose to have more than one person working on IT in your company, ask your current IT guy what needs to be done to rectify the problem. With more help coming, he may be responsive to your request.

      • #3202366

        You almost got it right

        by no user ·

        In reply to Till death do us part ?

        The outsourcing option implies a threat to a guy who is doing more then should be either required or expected by one person. The man is giving more then he is paid for and threatening his job if he wont do even more is over the top. I question that outsourcing is cheaper, in some cases it may be. It is neither cost effective nor practical to have on site staff during business hours, after hours maintenance and updates while being on call 24/365 which includes on site after hours support and be cheaper then one full time person on a salary. Everything else is right on, you hit the nail on the head.

    • #3202334

      Why is everyone so negative?

      by roger.smith708 ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Why not turn it around on the IT guy and ask him if he won the lotto what would he do in respect to his job – if he says he would be out of there then you have an in to start documenting everything.
      There is also an alternative to the problem and that is to get an external support company involved – especially if there is only one of him – to cover for all support when he is on holidays and sick leave or for level 2 and 3 when he is too busy. This will allow for someone else to document the system and report back to management with a complete network system.
      As a pure disaster recovery and Business continuity problem it also means you have a single point of failure that you need to do something about sooner than later.

    • #3202312

      Let the IT guy answer your question!

      by quintilo ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      If you’re the boss, then simply ask this IT guy the question. I’m sure he’s got the answer! If he doesn’t care to respond, then better start looking for a replacement.

    • #3290371

      Just a suggestion…

      by darinhamer ·

      In reply to What if the IT guy dies?

      Others here have suggested the same thing, but I have always said that if I had a small business, I would not hire an “IT guy” until I had enough work to justify two positions, not just one. For all the reasons you and others have stated here, I just wouldn’t want to have my IT resources dependent upon just one person.

      So what to do until then? Outsource it. Get a good agreement with a good company. Don’t want to get rid of your IT guy? Outsource IT, but then put your current IT guy in charge of the SLA or outsourcing contract. Let your IT guy be your VP of info services (kind of sounds like a promotion doesn’t it?) then set him free making sure everything is being taken care of by the outsourcer, and have him doing some IT strategic planning for future growth. Also, make sure he is working with your vendor to have appropriate disaster recovery/business continuity plans and that they are being tested. AND, he should be auditing the compliance of your IT vendor.

      Anyway, that is just a suggestion. But this might help your IT guy be more useful to your company in the long run and also help mitigate some of the risk that you have currently. You might need to train your IT guy in new areas, such as to be more of an IT manager/director/visionary, but the investment could pay off for both of you in the long run.

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