The Practice of System and Network Administration

by Thomas A. Limoncelli and Christine Hogan

This is an important book. It provides an exhaustive analysis of the problems and practices of maintaining an extensive IT infrastructure from the desktop computers, to the network, to the server room. It covers staffing, discusses the “help desk”, budgeting, inventory management, and security. For those who are perplexed about Active Directory, there is an excellent discussion of name spaces and DNS. This is a book for the techies, their technical supervisors and their managers. Managers: if you want to know what the hell your computer support staff are supposed to be doing each day, it is in this book.

From the Preface:

… These six pinciples are recurring themes in this book.

  • Simplicity means that the smallest solution that solves the entire problem is the best solution. It keeps the systems easy to understand and reduces complex interactions between components that can cause debugging nightmares.
  • Clarity means that the solution is not convoluted. It can be easily explained to someone on the project or even outside the project. Clarity makes it easier to change the system, as wellas to maintain and debug it.
  • Generality means that the solution solves many problems at once. Sometimes the most general solution is the simplest. It also means using vendor-independent open standard protocols that make systems more flexible and make it easier to link software packages together for better services.
  • Automation is critical. Manual processes cannot be repeated accurately nor do they scale as well as automated processes. Automation is key to easing the system administration burden, and it eliminates tedious repetitive tasks and gives [System Administrators] more time to improve services.
  • Communication between the right people can solve more problems than hardware or software. You need to communicate well with other SAs and with your customers. It is your responsibiltiy to inititate communication. Communication ensures that eeryone is working toward the same goals. Lack of communication leaves people concerned and annoyed. Communication also includes documentation: document customers’ needs to make sure you agree on them, document design decisions you make, document maintenance procedures. Documentation makes systems easier to maintain and upgrade. Good communication and proper documentation also make it easier to hand off project and maintenancde when you leave or take on a new role.
  • Doing the basics first means that yo ubuild the site on strong foundations by identifying and solving the basic problems before trying to attack mre advanced ones. Doing the basics first makes adding advanced features considerably easier, and it makes services more robust. A good basic infrastructrue can be repeatedly leveraged to improve the site with relatively little effort. Sometimes we see SAs aat other sites making a huge effort to solve a problem that wouldn’t exist, or would be a simple enhancement, if the site had a basic infrastructure inplace. This book will help you identify what the basics are and show you haow the other five principles apply. Each chapter looks at the basics of a given area. Get the fundamentals right, and everything else will fall into place.

Available at Amazon

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