We are a growing IT operation that continues to provide additional offerings and support to a variety of customers. As we continue to sustain this growth, we have found that we need to have easy access to information and documentation about our various systems and software within our IT teams. We have three primary functional areas within our IT group that include:
- help desk staff (Tier 1),
- developers and programmers, and
- system administrators/network administrators/secuirty analysts (Tier 2).
Currently we have information for Tier 1 stored wtihin a wiki that is based upon MediaWiki and that has proven to be very successful for the help desk team. The developers and programmers have moved to Redmine for tracking their projects, issues, and project documentation. The admins (Tier 2) do not have a centralized repository of knowledge and rely upon MS Word files that are scattered about on network drives, personal machines, knowledge that is only available to a particular invidual since they have not documented it anywhere, etc.
The challenge that we have now is that we need to have a centralized location to record information and documentation for Tier 2. However, we have two other systems already in place. We would, ideally, like to have a documentation platform that would at the minimum work for Tier 1 and Tier 2 with the possibilty of adding the programmers into it as well. This platform would need to have the ability to keep certain content seperate. For example, there is sensitive information (how we build our severs, possible usernames, etc) at the Tier 2 level that Tier 1 does not have a need to know. Additionally, Tier 2 should be able to have access to the information at Tier 1 and above. We thought about extending our MediaWiki installation for this but ACL's and the protection of information from wiki users seemed to be hack jobs that were not well supported and contrary to the spirit of open and easy access to information which is at the core of a wiki. I am looking for ideas and suggestions that meet the above listed criterion as well as the following additional objectives:
- Preferably free or open source software (and a web tool) since we do not really have a budget for this
- A platform that does not contain a ticketing element since we have a seperate system that handles this for Tier 1 and Tier 2
- A platform that does not need the capabilities of project managment for Tier 1 and Tier 2
- A product that is flexible, easy to add documentation to that includes tables, easy markup, syntax highlighting, images, network diagrams, etc.
- Full text search capabilities possibly with natural language capabilities
- The ability to support file uploads and downloads
- Potentially have RSS or Atom feeds and e-mail alerts of updates
- Allow for LDAP authentication to be able to be integrated into an existing SSO environment
- A platrform that does not require a lot of development time or a lot of custom code creation
- Access control based upon user, role, group membership, per individual documents/pages or a set of documents/pages such that if you do not have access to that section of the site/document/page/membership then you do not see the link or content
- Preferably have a built-in editor to help make data entry and posting of documentation easier
- Built-in version control and auditing would be preferable
- The ability to export pages or a collection or pages into a PDF file
- The ability to scale well should we continue to grow and expand
- Maybe support the ability to track usage or perform analytics
- Used for internal use only and will not be customer facing or accessible
- The ability to support managing snippets of information such as how-to's, procedures, solutions, projects, server builds, network documentation, etc.
- It does not need social integration capabilities
- Possibly support the ability to have or add to it inventory of systems (servers and client machines)
- Allow for the importing of the MediaWiki information if we have to switch platforms
Additionally, there are many places online that talk about expert systems that allow for the creation of troubleshooting work-flows similar to a flowchart or a step-by-step wizard. Is this something that we should consider having as an option within our documentation platform? How useful would this be and is this something that would help Tier 1 execute their job better? There is also some information online that talks about the differences between content management and knowledge management. Is this something that we should consider as part of the requirements of a documentation platform?
I know that this posting is a longer one and I appreciate the help and feedback that you can provide. I am trying to make sure that I ask the right questions and cover the bases to help make a more informed decision as well as implementing a solution that will be viable for the long term so that we do not continue to re-do the systems that we just implemented. Thanks again in advance and I look forward to reading what you share.