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I am on a team that coordinates maintenance activity and some other activities for some servers in our company. Now that there are more people on the team and more servers under our care, it is getting harder to keep track of issues or tips related to the maintenance of certain servers.

I am wondering if there are any tools or methods out there that make the coordination of this type of information easier? I've tried some bug tracking tools but those are very specific to problems and bugs. Right now we send email summaries after each activity, but if a new person joins the team, they will not have that history. I also thought about a wiki, but that seemed awkward for this type of record keeping.

For example, I for servers a, b, and c I would like to track the fact that, before a reboot, services 1, 2, and 3 need to be shutdown prior to a reboot. If an upgrade happened on servers b and c, I would like a way to track the issues that arose during the upgrade. That way, some time later, if another person on the team is going to be involved in some maintenance activity for server "b", they can see all the history related to that server.

Any tips or solutions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

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7 Answers 7

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I've gone with two methods:

1) Wiki We're a google apps enterprise user and we use the "Sites" feature as our wiki. Locked down so that only domain users can see it, of course (you can get even more specific if needed).

Every server has two pages in the wiki. One page for specs, usage and key notes and one page is the activity log. The log is a table of Date, time, task and a reboot indicator. Ideally, nothing happens that doesn't get logged!

Side note: Google's "sites" thing makes the logging pages very easy to create using their "List" template.

2) WhatsUp Pro

I use WhatsUp to monitor my servers and devices. Where useful, I've added key information ("remember to start service x" or "make sure interface A comes up") to the free form notes field for the device. Then, when the on-call guy gets paged (via SMS), the text includes those notes. Very handy to have.

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I like the idea of the wiki, with 2 pages for each server. Thanks! –  BrianH Aug 24 '09 at 18:12
    
Upvote, totally agree with you. We use a wiki as well, (tikiwiki actually.) We're also using What's Up Pro, (new version is nice ain't it?) and I'm incorporating those notes as well. If nothing else, it's nice to know that someone else is independently doing the same as I am, thus validating my efforts. :) –  Greg Meehan Aug 24 '09 at 18:22

Just throwing another option into the mix. I've used tiddlywiki for a long time, but it is a client only wiki. There are some hacks to get it to sync with a server, but I haven't found that to be very easy.

The idea that I am working with now is to use a tiddlywiki to keep track of our team's activities with servers, and use Subversion to keep the tiddlywiki in sync with each other. That way we have an always available read only copy of our logs, and if we make changes we can commit to the Subversion repository.

I'm playing around with it, but right now this seems like the least expensive, easiest to implement solution.

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We use Spiceworks to keep track of all our server/workstation info and for requests sent in through helpdesk tickets. The best part is that it's free.

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A number of people supporting a number of servers in house is no different than the same people supporting the same number of servers spread around the country.

One man's bug tracking system is another's "Server maintenance history" :)

  • Depending on the system you choose, there should be a place to save information on each project (server) and under that attach cases ( maintenance incidents) of each server.

  • Nothing beats the spiral notebook and a pen (in my book) for jotting down what is happening before the notes get entered in the system in a more coherent and possibly organized way ( while working on something it's faster to write) - sometimes).

The first step is to realize there is a need for a "system" and get someone to pay for it.

As for a bug tracking systems, I'll avoid making the obvious suggestion to try :)

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I tried bugzilla if that's what you are talking about :) –  BrianH Aug 24 '09 at 17:46
    
Fogbugz is what I was talking about. –  dimitri.p Aug 24 '09 at 18:25
    
I had never seen that one - it actually looks pretty nice. Hmmm –  BrianH Aug 24 '09 at 18:41

It sounds like you need an internal ticketing system in-place that can also be used as a knowledge base for searching/linking past and related tickets filed under the same category.

We use "Track-It!" at my company to keep track of all maintenance, including operational requests. I'm sure there are some other better and/or cheaper solutions out there.

IMO, implementing a ticketing system is easy, the hard part is making all the admins/techs follow the process of creating a ticket and filling it out correctly, so it can be searched and referenced later.

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Track it does look great - but also looks expensive. Good tip though - thanks! –  BrianH Aug 24 '09 at 18:12

I'd use SharePoint, specifically Windows SharePoint Services. It's relatively lightweight, won't cost you anything, and can do some nice multi-dimensional views of data. At it's simplest it could be just a single list, grouped by server name and role, with a second view of it also grouped by role and then server name. You can also use some of the other list types for functions such as shared calendaring (it's the 30th, that cranky old box needs to be rebooted again), contacts, etc.

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Can you elaborate on the multi-dimensional views? I can imagine a list item for each server, but is there a way to "join" a table of notes on the server name? So I can see the list of servers, and then expand the "notes" section for that server and see all the notes someone has left for it? I'm assuming all of this would be completely searchable as well... –  BrianH Aug 24 '09 at 17:52

The best thing to have that I've found is a central location for your documentation that everyone knows of. I personally prefer a wiki because it is quick and easy. Other options would be a revision control system like Subversion, GIT, or CVS. Sharepoint and its document management functions might also work for you, but that would be a pretty weighty solution for just this issue.

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We do have Subversion, but that is a little harder to search. We could find some good standards for document names to make finding information easier. I've given a wiki some serious thought, but I just can't think of a good way to record activities for a maintenance session. I'd like to have everyone keep a log when they are involved with maintenance - that seems a little more tricky to do with a wiki. Those are good ideas! –  BrianH Aug 24 '09 at 17:11

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