Do you have a knowledge store? You should

So I'm transferring domains in preparation for a switch to a new Internet Service Provider. GoDaddy and countless other domain hosts (and web hosts) make it really easy for you to switch to them.

So I'm transferring domains in preparation for a switch to a new Internet Service Provider. GoDaddy and countless other domain hosts (and web hosts) make it really easy for you to switch to them. Obviously, it's in their best interest to do so. It's only easy, though, if you have all the information you need.

Our domains were all registered a long time ago. By various people. They've been renewed for extended periods by various people as well. Guess what? Said various people have a tendency to go elsewhere and take their knowledge with them. Like authorization codes for domain transfers provided to original registrants by Internic. Or dead personal email addresses listed as the registrant's primary contact.

People do come and go, though. It's the nature of the beast. Usually things go along quite smoothly for a while, even after they leave. Suddenly, though, when network problems arise and your realize that nobody knows the administrative account information for a particular managed switch, things get bumpy quickly.

Obviously, storing lots of information in your head (and your head alone) ensures a degree of job security. However, even the most highly skilled, secure-in-his-job systems administrator can run off to Argentina with his mistress. Or something like that.

While keeping all of the administrative account information for mission-critical servers on sticky notes in your desk so people can find them if you get hit by a school bus is hardly a good idea, the concept of a shared knowledge store is vital to ensuring that critical systems can function in your absence.

We administrators don't even need to get hit by a school bus to be reminded of the importance of a secure repository of information. How many accounts do we use, manage, open, and otherwise administer? How many systems do we roll out? How many networks have we built? All of these things need documentation, even for our own reference. It's the rare geek who can remember where she put her driver's license, let alone remember the FTP account information for a website she established a year ago for a teacher.

Few people dislike documentation as intensely as I do. However, I'm finding that creating documentation of what we do and how we do it on the fly is vital to the continued functioning of the countless technological systems we touch every day, whether we hang around and maintain them long-term or not.

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