3 Golden Rules of Systems Administration

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The Three Golden Rules of Systems Administration

Others have come up with more Systems Administration golden rules, but I feel these are the most important. Checking what what I am just about to do against these rules (very quickly there are only three of them) has saved my bacon many times. So without further ado, here they are:

  • Know how to undo
  • Know how to redo
  • Know more than you need to

Catchy aren't they? But it is applying them in practice that yields results. All too often, a Systems Administrator has their back to the wall and a gun to their head in a room with a ticking time bomb. These rules have helped me move away from the wall, appease the gangster with the gun (aka the project manager) and feel calm enough to diffuse the time bomb.

1: Know how to undo

Always know how to undo what you are about to do

Always. It does not matter how many times you have done this operation - what is your back out plan if something goes wrong? Are all the resources you need available to reverse this action? If a process appears to be irreversible, then perhaps this needs a bit more thought.

2: Know how to redo

Always know how to redo what you just did

Rarely is anything done just once. Keeping a log of what was done and in which order helps the next time. Once it becomes a habit you will find it quick and easy to do.

Save the commands in a file in order, even if you don't create a script - you will have the raw materials for your script the next time you need to do it. At the very least, you will have instructions on how to do it.

I'll bet you need the scripts or document sooner than you think.

3: Know more than you need to

Don't live on the limits of your knowledge.

Read the documentation, read around the subject. Experiment. Feel comfortable with the technology.

If you live on the limits of your knowledge, your opportunities are curtailed and the jaws of defeat grow wider.


The Golden Rules of System Administration:

1: Know how to undo

2: Know how to redo

3: Know more than you need to

You will live a more happier and more prosperous life by keeping to these.

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