November 28, 2002
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No matter how good your high-tech work or how complete your technology
procedures, time erodes all good practices. Just like water on stone,
the effects of time may work slowly, but they can effect your technology
projects in small, yet destructive, ways. No matter how much work you
put into establishing your “best practices”, without constant
attention, they can fall into disrepair quickly and completely…possibly
damaging your high-tech career as well.
It is a simple fact that, as a high-tech worker, many of the tasks you
perform are mundane, tedious and even boring. It is also a fact, that
often these are the most important tasks. Without constant attention to
these small tasks you can find yourself in the position of having to explain
system downtime, incomplete backups and, worst of all, lost data. As you
might imagine, it only takes a few such issues to lose your job or your
These mundane tasks often fall victim to the effects of time through creeping
inattention. Systems that are properly designed often function so well
that you are tempted to ignore them. You might not inspect backup logs
as often as you should. Perhaps you aren’t checking the web access
logs for signs of attack or missing files. Often, there are so many other
problems demanding your attention you can easily begin to ignore those
systems that just simply work.
Unfortunately, these systems can lull you into a false sense of security.
Nothing is worse than discovering that a system has failed just when you
need it most. This is especially true of backup systems. If you don’t
spend the necessary hours to confirm the backup system is working you
can easily find yourself unable to restore data when you need it most.
In order to truly rely on these systems, you have to do your homework
and insure that they continue to work every day.
There are several ways to insure that systems get the attention they need.
Everyone has their own methods, though, and will need to find their own
way. Below I have detailed a few techniques I use to insure that my most
important systems perform when I need them most.
One of the most useful methods I use to combat the effects of time on
systems is the establishment of a regular routine. Just like brushing
your teeth in the morning and taking the trash out each week, I use repetition
to my advantage.
When I was working for a small Internet content provider several years
ago, I usually tried to arrive an hour before most of the staff each day.
This hour was my time to perform all the mundane, yet extremely important
tasks. I would inspect log files, (especially the error logs), check tape
backups, insure all web services were up and running and a host of other
basic check. This routine eventually grew into a checklist that others
could use if I were out of the office.
I found that addressing these issues at the beginning of my day, when
I was most fresh and least likely to be interrupted, helped to insure
that the tasks would get done. Without a routine, it becomes too easy
to get involved with the crisis of the day, and let the smaller tasks
Another important way of resisting the effects of time on your systems
is the regular re-evaluation of these systems. Every major system, whether
it be backups, networks, or databases, should be re-evaluated at least
once per quarter. This active and concentrated review gives you a chance
to re-dedicate yourself to maintenance of systems, clearly focus on any
issues that need to be addressed and remove systems that are no longer
necessary. Without this regular re-evaluation you will soon find yourself
ignoring these systems and, perhaps even worse, maintaining systems that
are no longer useful.
Time is the enemy of all technology and therefore
your enemy as well. It breaks down systems, causes electronics to fail,
and lulls you into a false sense of security. Many systems can be ignored
for short periods of time. Although, if you don’t develop a routine
for managing your systems and revisit this routine on a regular basis,
you might just find yourself in the unenviable position of paying for
your inattention with your pride, your pocket book or your position.
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