Sysadmin Tales of Terror

Monday, 24 February 2003, 4:19 PM EST

The biggest challenge a system administrator ever faces is inheriting a networking mess: taking on a new job, or a new client, with a computing infrastructure that has grown without rhyme or reason. Lost passwords, little or no documentation, no-name network components, and cables snarled into alternate dimensions are just a sample of the evils to face and conquer. Then there are issues like multiple versions of operating systems and applications as well as strange odors coming from the electric panels. And you can't be sure the previous admins didn't leave a booby trap or two. Management is shellshocked and disinclined to hear more bad news -- or spend more money for that matter. What's the honest, hardworking sysadmin to do?

Plan A is run for your life. No one will blame you. But let's face it, you didn't come here to read that. I find it extremely satisfying to clean up nice big messes; it's a great challenge and a very rewarding one at that. Let's look at some strategies for dealing with such a situtation. While there are many possible approaches, these are some of the things that have worked for me.

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