Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

10/24/2011

Questions for Network Managers

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:06 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Getting ready for a job interview?  Be prepared!

I’m an old Boy Scout, an Eagle Scout, in fact, so I’m always thinking about “being prepared”, whether it’s a trip to the zoo for photography or a job interview.  Scouts taught me, among other things, to think about situations long in advance of being in them, so I can prepare for what I might need and what I might need to do if things go wrong.  There are thousands of ways this applies to being a professional geek, but, today, I’m going to focus on one way in particular: job interviews.

DICE ran an article back in November of last titled Interview Questions for Network Managers.  It’s good.  If you either are a Network Manager of some kind or plan to interview one, go read that article.  Seriously.  Of course, when I’ve been the interviewer in these situations, how the candidate got to the answer mattered to me as much as the answer itself.  The point of questions like these, for interviewer and candidate, is to display how the potential network manager thinks.  How we think about our networks and solve problems on them matter a whole lot.  I remember working with one guy who, basically, tried things randomly over and over until something worked or he broke it completely.  He never did understand the concept of changing one thing at a time to find out what was wrong so we could stop it from happening again.

In any case, I know a lot of my IT comrades are out of work out there and interviewing, so I thought I’d remind them of this resource to help prepare for future job interviews.
Good luck out there!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Man is the only kind of varmint that sets his own trap, baits it, and steps in it."
   --John Steinbeck

12/8/2010

Backup Plan Review

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

It’s almost the end of the year and most people are wrapping up projects and thinking about how they’re going to squeeze in their last vacation days.

But, not if you’re in IT.
No, if you’re one of the over-worked, under-paid technology “elite” in the corporate world, you’re working harder than ever right now.  While everyone else is taking time off, you, like me, are trying to get all the system maintenance done that requires everyone else to be off your systems.   Well, while you’re waiting for them to get out of the office so you can start your work, here are some things to think about.

When was the last time you had to restore a backup?  Have you ever even tried to restore any files from those backups that you worked so hard to get running right when you setup your servers?  Well, now is the time to try it.  Trust me on this, but you don’t know how good your backup is until you try to restore.  Now, you may not be able to do a full server restore on fresh hardware, but, if you can, do it.  That’s the only true test of your disaster recovery plan.  Barring that, though, at least try to restore some files from random places on the server, just as a check to make sure it works.

And, while we’re talking about backups, how is your off-site rotation working?  If you’re in a large company, you probably have a long-standing system for rotating backups off-site in case of a massive disaster, but many smaller companies don’t.  Generally, what I suggest to people is that there should be one full backup off-site, one coming back or leaving, and one on-site.  The most current, usually, should rotate off-site just after completion and be off-site for two weeks, or, really, off-site for one week and coming back on the second.  There are plenty of  services to do this, but even just taking them to the network manager’s house is better than nothing.  Just somewhere relatively secure that’s not the same as the site you’re backing up, just in case the entire building catches fire or is demolished in a hurricane.  You get the idea.

Now, something else to consider, if you run Windows Server is Active Directory.
Mostly, your backup program should be taking care of this, but sometimes funky change creeps in when you don’t expect it.  Back in the days when I was more than an IT department of one, I was a big believer in getting baselines.  Every once in a while, it’s nice to take a snapshot of what’s working so that when it inevitably breaks, you can see what might have changed to break it.  This is especially true of things like Active Directory.  Every year, AD gets more and more complicated and, as your network grows, your individual AD tree will get more complicated, too.  Now, assuming that things are running well, is a great time to take a snapshot of your AD tree for a baseline to use in the coming year.
Tech Republic has a good article on how to use a free tool from Sysinternals to do just that.  Check it out.

And, for those of you who don’t have an IT department, or are a sole-proprietor, don’t think you can just slide, either.
Chances are your clients are taking more time off and you’ll have some down-time, too, so now is the perfect time to review your backup plans.  Many of you may not have much of a plan, or much of a budget to get something working for you.  Well, don’t worry, Tech Republic has some creative suggestions for backups to fit most situations. Do yourself a favor and go check them out now.  Then actually implement one before the start of the new year.  Do it now, before you need to restore data from a crash.

Trust me.  Make sure your backups are running before you need them.  You’ll thank me later.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"When in doubt, don't."


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