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I had to document the servers i use and i don't know what to use to hold the data. Could you sugest the best way to keep the server documentation? Do i create a data base that holds the harware and software documentation, or do i use wiki pages or SVN? Or if ther is a tool that holds the documentation could you please provide the link.

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A notebook? A file folder? A floppy drive? A USB stick? You can store the documentation any way you like. Find something the fits your needs and use that. –  joeqwerty Mar 27 '12 at 15:29
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There's no single tool that's perfect for everyone, and although there are some good new answers here, concepts and examples of managing sys admin documents are covered very well in the [documentation] tag. –  Ward Mar 27 '12 at 20:29

11 Answers 11

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I personally use a little program called The Guide, which I find a lot faster than using a wiki (which I also use). You can even embed Excel files right into the pages, as well as many other file types.

There is a portable version, so you can take it everywhere you go on a USB flash drive. I just wish there was a Linux client which could read the same files.

A wiki or Google Docs is better for collaboration though.

The Guide

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There really is no single best way to do this. It depends heavily on the environment, the people, the systems, the budget, and individual preferences.

Before you can pick what the "best" option is, you need to understand your requirements. Specific requirements, not just "where do I put my documentation?". What hardware/software do you have available now? How many people will be using this? What budget do I have for hardware and/or software? Is this just for server documentation, or will other technical documentation be included? Will other groups need access to the documentation? How secure does the documentation need to be? Once you've answered some of these, you can check out your options.

If you're a Microsoft shop, you're likely going to trend towards their tools. If you're an Open Source tools shop, you'll probably tend towards something Open Source. If you like the ability to make quick changes, a Wiki is a great way to go. If you like your documentation separated out in sets of files, then a file share or SharePoint might be the right solution. If you like lots of screen shots to go with your documentation, OneNote might be the right answer. If you want something Wiki-like but self-contained (Wiki-in-a-file), then TiddlyWiki is a great tool.

Among your many options (not a comprehensive list):

The most important thing is that you use something. Documentation is key. Also, make sure you keep it fairly simple and low-overhead. It's just as important to keep the documentation up to date as it is to write it up front. If updating your documentation isn't as easy as possible (and wrapped in policies to help ensure it says updated), people won't do it. You don't want people skipping documentation updates because it's a pain in the ass to update.

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Well, I don't know what your specific requirements are in detail, but I can advice you what to avoid (based on my personal experience).

Don't use office suits for documentation, such as OpenOffice or Word since they store their data in their own formats, such as .doc or .odt. This can be very painful when you switch to another documentation system later.

I can also advice you not to store your documentation in .txt files. Although they are easy to handle (can be moved without high efforts, can be searched etc), this is a very inefficient way to organize your stuff. Especially when you want to embed images or videos into your documents.

SVN is not a bad way for holding your data, but has disadvantages when you want to allow other users to access your data. Furthermore you need to do svn updates, checkouts etc. all the time. This can be annoying (I have SVN documentation repositories myself..).

The best way I have seen so far is either using a Wiki or a combination of a CRM (we use Sugar CRM) and the file system. I prefer Wiki systems when they have a versioning and user management system. This allows easy collaboration, you can do almost everything and you are free in the way you organize yourself.

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We have been using Device42 for server and data center documentation. Great tool and those guys are constantly adding features. Not very expensive either, around $250 for 100 devices.

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We use Wiki over here. Great tool especially if you're sharing documents for editing internally

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Folders with spreadsheets with info on each server, docs/pdfs of user manuals, contact info for OEMs/VARs/Support, etc.

Then get something like dropbox/sugarsync/etc. and make sure you are syncing it all to the web so that anything you update gets replicated. You'll like this in a DR situation.

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I will give my personal recommendation for OneNote. It's ability to quickly screenshot installation processes and changes (and then actually be able to search the text IN THE IMAGES) with win-S is a killer feature.

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I inherited a lot of documentation written in OneNote, and I found it terribly awkward. To each their own, I guess. –  Nic Apr 4 '12 at 6:36

What I have done is :

Documented each server in MS Word:

Documentation includes : a) Server Hardware details (Number of NICs, Raid Controllers, firmware versions of each card, bios version, number of physical disks and firmware versions.

b) Raid Layout : Type of Raid Level(s), Physical Disk Memberships in Virtual Disks, Windows Disk numbers (This helps me identify which Windows Disk is what on my server and raid level).

c) Network Configuration : IP Settings, Firewall Settings, incoming ports allowed, outbound allowed /disallowed.

d) Operating System installed : Version, Key used, Installation date, Page file location, any other driver dumps or applications I have kept on it, installed applications and there websites (if need be).

e) Server Support / Vendor Support : Type of Support, Contact Number, Service Tag.

I have used AD Topology Diagram to visualize our AD infrastructure and saved as PDF.

I then have a script installed called "Racktables" which is opensource, uses a mysql database - very easy to setup.

Which I use to Plot my Server Room RACKS and there servers, I then convert the MS Word files to PDF and attach to those racks.

You can also use SYDI Documentation project script to document your servers: http://ogenstad.net/2006/10/18/how-to-document-servers-with-sydi-part-1-of-3/

Hope that Helps Rihatum

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On the open source side of things, dedicated for keeping documentation on computers, software, printers (and how did it change with time) is GLPI.

For additional features, there's also a knowledge base, system to track which computers are connected where (on the network level). It has included ticket system for reporting/solving problems and help desk.

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NodeSystems is designed to hold Server Documentation. As a side effect, it also generates an interactive diagram.

Check out the online Demo Here: http://www.nodesystems.org/demo/

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Check out SCC (Server configuration collector) http://scc.qnh.eu/ that have clients for Win32, most Linux and other Un*x to get configuration information and keeps it updated with versioning for audits etc.

A previous company we've added a text file based on this to the server which is then parsed to help in "documenting" the specific server's function/owner etc.

But yes, there is still a need for a wiki/document share for the things like how-to add/remove disks on this or that system for the operators and support staff.

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