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I am creating this in ms word, to create a 3-ring binder with tabs, full of documentation of everything about our web server.

What are the main categories that I should include?

We have 2 servers, both windows, 1 for web, 1 for sql server, the web 1, runs iis7 and coldfusion.

I have no training as a system administrator, just stuff i have learned. Such as I'd rather have more information then no information, such as when we just migrated our servers, and we missed a ton of things, because there was no documentation.

So I want to do a thorough job? I wouldn't mind this as a wiki, but my boss and co-workers are not very familiar with wiki's and how to use em. I tend to be the anal one in our group, wanting to dot all the i's and get everything documented.

Any suggestions?

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I was more interested in what kind of information to store and document, then how to store it. I was planning on using ms word, then printing it in a 3-ring binder. So what kind of key information is useful? – crosenblum Aug 12 '10 at 16:53
up vote 5 down vote accepted

To an extent, what you include will depend a good deal on who you are documenting for. Are you documenting for administrators? For users? For programmers? All of the above? Just like when you are designing a site, you need to look at the use cases and solve them.

Things I would consider critical for documentation provided to me as a programmer and/or sysadmin:

  • how backups are created
  • how backups should be restored
  • how to set up the site from scratch (required software, install process, configuration, etc.)
  • list of dependencies (needs CF, SQL Server, needed by x)
  • documentation of any API in use
  • original requirements documents, change documents (if they exist)
  • information on how to create/use administration
  • process for changing access when a user leaves (revoke user access, change shared passwords, etc.)
  • any user/client/process specific customizations
  • any "gotcha" scenarios
  • any existing documentation for users
  • scheduled tasks and their schedules
  • processes that need to run regularly (index updates, defrag, etc.) as part of maintenance

If you are creating an electronic source, like a wiki, these would be good to have:

  • original comps and mockups
  • image sources
  • flash .fla files
  • links from existing site to requirements/change documents
  • a current copy of the release code, with the date/version/etc. updated with each major release or on a timed schedule (like monthly).
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I am documenting for myself, 1 other coldfusion programmer, and my boss, a former network admin. The company that does our web contracting/consulting, does the web hosting, but the day-to-day coding/administration is up to us, although we just recentally realized that lol. So now I want to make sure everything is fully documented, and then fully admined/monitored. – crosenblum Aug 12 '10 at 17:18
My list is far from canonical, but I think it's a pretty good start. Some of what you need to document will be dependent on your specific site and needs. Keep in mind that your requirements may change over time, and it's better to have documentation and not need it than the reverse. – Ben Doom Aug 12 '10 at 17:45

Maintaining the docs in a wiki is nice as it allows other users to contribute easily. You get "free" versioning and history to boot. Even if the users are wiki novices, there are WYSIWYG plugins to bypass wiki markup requirements. You can also tailor the wiki's CSS for different browsers. Very handy when reading the site on your Blackberry or iPod.

You can always print out the wiki's contents if you require bound hard copies. MediaWiki has plugins to create PDFs from wiki pages automatically.

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Nice point about being able to print a wiki to PDF (and subsequently to tree flesh) if you're surrounded by die-hard Luddites. – Skyhawk Aug 12 '10 at 16:33

Use OneNote for your documentation instead of Word

  • Multiple users can use it simultaneously
  • Export to pdf if desired
  • right-click "send to onenote" functionality has increased the value of our documentation.
  • tracking edits

These are just some of the features. For us, there are actually too many benefits to list.

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Please don't use OneNote. Some of us want to R the FM on devices which do not run MSOffice/OneNote, let alone open .ONE files. HTML is pretty close to cross-platorm. PDFs and plain-text would also work great. – jscott Aug 12 '10 at 15:46
OneNote allows us the ability to write notes on a tablet, maintain tabs, draw diagrams, add links, pictures, etc. All while standing at the server. That same tablet can be used to take notes during your meetings. We've found that your documentation is only as good as the information you put into it. OneNote allows us to do that on the fly and forces us to be up to date on documentation. Otherwise the wiki gets updated when someone has the time (if ever) and is usually drawn from memory. – GregD Aug 12 '10 at 16:03
I will concede that the likelihood of having documentation is inversely proportional to the effort required to create it. However I'd urge others to consider the importance of being able to access the documentation freely. I can take a picture with my phone and throw it in the wiki with some text easily. I can access the wiki from anything with a net connection and a web browser. Edit: I may disagree with your choice of app, but I am not going to -1. Your other points are correct. – jscott Aug 12 '10 at 16:39

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