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Is there industry wisdom, management and software tools (free preferably) for recording and tracking which users depend on what services, resources, settings and definitions centrally administered by an IT department?

My thinking is that some failures and outages can be attributed to users not being prepared/made aware of service changes they rely on.

Tracking of some things are established, e.g.: user accounts BUT other things are not, for example IP address subnets per location, environment variables, server URL addresses, locations of resources...

For example of dependency, when a user writes an application dependent on these things it can break if these are changed. The user may have to necessarily depend on these things and cannot build in contigency in the event these things are unavailable. Obviously if contigency and failover can be implemented then that is a consideration but resource to add this may be limited and there may not be favourable failover options.

Are there industry accepted processes and tools for tracking these things and making the dependents aware if they change?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I believe the general "wisdom", as you call it, is to actually know your systems. That means recording everything in some manner. This screams "database" to me, although I've also seen it done with spreadsheets (wannabe accountants!), wikis and even simple text files. You absolutely must start there because a tracking or monitoring system cannot be deployed without that knowledge. e.g. How can you report on a changed IP address if you don't even know what it should be, or report a service that has stopped but you don't know what it is or what machine it runs on?

As for tracking and reporting, you need to determine how to monitor all those things that require monitoring. I use Nagios for most such things, although no one system can do everything. Without knowing a LOT more about your systems it's not really possible to give detailed suggestions.

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+1 Accepted for Nagios and the database approach. –  therobyouknow Dec 21 '10 at 9:42

As John stated in his answer, the answer is to know your own systems. There are programs and utilities that can assist in auditing and monitoring your systems (such as Splunk or Spiceworks) but there isn't a program or utility that I'm aware of that is going to know that Jane Doe uses the CRM system to export data for creating reports in the SSRS system. For that kind of "awareness" you and the IT team have to know what systems exist, what they're used for, what dependencies they have, what systems depend on other systems, what business units or departments use which systems, etc., etc.

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+1 for Splunk or Spiceworks and the approach to gathering what to monitor. –  therobyouknow Dec 21 '10 at 9:42

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