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Say you work in your average anarchy... no appointed IT guy, no Office-Manager whatsoever, just developers working in free-for-all mode and a couple of non technical people around for admin (non IT) stuff. What would you use to keep track of

  • Hardware / Software inventory
  • Backups of OS images, Drivers, and all that
  • LAN configuration information
  • Passwords for all the systems

Currently I'm thinking of having some sort of wiki + web server on our only ''server-class'' machine, but then I fear I'd be the only one who would go through the hassle of adding information in the wiki...

So, have you been through that? What would you suggest?

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I'd also fear storing such important information on your only production server - yes it may be backed up, but you don't want the added hassle of restoring that data before you can get the documentation on the server configuration. –  kaerast May 30 '10 at 22:33
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6 Answers

I don't have the exact experience but I know many schools are in a similar position, I can recommend SpiceWorks to maintain an automated inventory of the Hardware and Software on the network, it is a free product and fairly trivial to set up.

As for system documentation I think your concerns about you being the only person motivated to maintain it are valid, I would also be concerned that if it is hosted on your only server it may be unavailable when you need it most (i.e. when the server fails).

A hosted private Wiki (perhaps hosted Sharepoint) to document everything is an option in addition to one or more external hard disk drives to store the OS Images and install media.

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We use SpiceWorks and we love it. Works great. –  Scott Alan Miller Apr 30 '09 at 19:42
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I definitely advocate a lightweight wiki. If there is a real need for recording all this information, then I think your fear of being the only person to add information will not be justified.

I recognise your situation from prior workplaces of mine, and at those places many people tended to end up with "critical" information in text files, in emails to themselves, on scraps of paper. While people tend to have little motivation to transfer that older information to a new wiki - you might be surprised how quickly they adapt to storing any new information on the wiki (especially with a bit of peer pressure applied).

I think I've installed or been involved with installing wikis for this purpose at four workplaces now. I would consider all of those installations a success.

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For configuration files, there is something to be said for keeping them under source control, and I tend to keep a paper log for each machine describing major configuration decisions (but then I rarely support more than one "server" at time, so that's not much of a burden).

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We use SharePoint at work to store collected items of documentation, as it gives us an easy way to store, organise and share(!) between the admins of the different systems.

It can integrate with AD so you can lock down area's (document library's or entire sites) to store sensitive information (service account password for example).

We use SPS2003, free with Windows 2003 - suitable for our needs and runs happily on as small VM so we don't have to maintain another piece of server hardware.

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We use Spiceworks, export its reports to PDFs and upload them to our Sharepoint site, which also has our user manuals. I don't have to run Spiceworks every day, just when there is a major change.

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I'll probably draw some ire for suggesting this, but for small/medium environments, tracking servers, workstations and licenses in simple spreadsheets works out just fine. You can even do some fairly decent trending/stats graphs for management reporting.

We're currently tracking ~400 servers on a single sheet, and it's easy enough to maintain. If you're concerned about DR, hosting the sheet as a Google Docs spreadsheet, or similar, is a viable option.

Outside of this we also use HP SIM for the majority of our hardware, since we're primarily an HP house. It's a shoddily constructed PoS piece of software and I hate it, but it's useful for tracking hardware status. We also have a spiceworks install fluttering about somewhere, but it's rarely used. Nice tool if you dedicate the time to it.

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