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Are you using a wiki format? If so, which product? (MediaWiki, Confluence, Sharepoint etc.)

Have you create a knowledge base? (Problem/solution-oriented short documents.)

What challenges do you find with creating documentation that works, so you don't get the call when you're off on holiday?

For me, I find there is often a certain amount of organisational "inertia" involved with getting documentation done. It seems to be a different kind of person who can do a task, then think about how they did the task and describe it so someone else can do it - kind of forces to you "go meta" and not everyone is comfortable doing that.

Update

Answers so far include

  • Confluence
  • Flexwiki
  • Fogbugz
  • Mediawiki (with plugins such as fckeditor)
  • Sharepoint
  • TWiki
  • Word/Excel/Visio Docs
  • Documented Scripts

Edit: Aren't you implicitly documenting your network with your monitoring system? Nagios has always encouraged the use of the parents directive to reflect your network's structure, and the notes_url directive is designed to allow you to link to a wiki or other browser-based documentation. So here the "documentation" is split between the "living document" of the monitoring system and more detailed, offline documentation in a wiki. Since I spend a lot of time staring at Nagios it makes sense to put effort into making it as informative as possible.

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34 Answers

MindTouch Deki (also known as DekiWiki or "MindTouch") is my choice here, for a number of reasons:

  • it looks and works great out of the box, but is also easily extensible with extensions, scripts or templates
  • it uses a WYSIWYG editor, so users can't use "I don't want to learn wikitext" as an excuse to not document
  • all the data is stored in XML, which means every page can be operated on as an XML web service
  • easy-to-use API, operated on with REST (standard HTTP verbs)
  • fantastic scripting language, DekiScript, making mashups trivial
  • absolutely beautiful PDF output using Prince, the HTML/CSS engine from the authors of CSS

How do I use it? As a complete knowledge base, divided into sections for each department, with pages under that for anything that might need information stored about it!

Regarding network monitoring systems, you can download a Zenoss/MindTouch Deki mashup for placing live data from a Zenoss installation into MindTouch wiki pages for things such as configuration notes and other possible future mashups.

The open source edition is marketed as "Core", and add-on features in the commercial edition include connectors for services such as SugarCRM and Salesforce, and databases such as Microsoft SQL Server. Commercial customers also get access to Windows connectors (Outlook/Word etc) and a dektop application for manipulating the wiki.

Installation on IIS is as simple as installing MySQL and then installing a MSI. The MSI is technically only for the enterprise edition but there are workarounds for using it for the open source build. An alternative is installing the VM appliance (especially if you already have a VMware server infrastructure), in which case you really don't need any configuration at all.

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Try Redmine. I've used it for College group projects as well as Industry projects.

It includes support for wikis, documents, notes, svn (I believe they are working on git), feature requests, sophisticated bug tracking and everything is automatically added to gantt charts to monitor development.

It is a VERY nice platform where you can add different levels of users (devs, observers, users, etc) and share lots of information between everyone.

http://www.redmine.org

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MediaWiki here too. I am the sole IT support in the accounting firm I work for, so at this point I don't need to worry about collaboration. Even so, I find that a wiki works amazingly well for the kind of quick changes I make on a regular basis.

The one problem I have is that anything sensitive (ie. passwords) is stored outside the Wiki in more secure storage, but it would be nice to have it more immediately available.

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Documenta-what ? Wee don't neeed no steenking doocumentation !

It's probably an awful practice, but it's alas par with the course in most IT Organization. No time, no budget, no want to write.

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My experience agrees that only the better run organizations are doing a good job of institutionalizing what should be shared knowledge. –  Bernard Dy May 4 '09 at 13:44
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