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Software developers have the concept of "dogfooding", which is where they personally use the software that they are developing, often on a regular basis. For some projects, the direct interaction it provides can be invaluable in debugging the system. So I ask the community:

What is the system administration equivalent to dogfooding?

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I hate it when I see system administrators leveraging personal exceptions just because they can. Of course you run the standard sysadmin image, use the same firewall rules as the users and so fourth to the point that you can still do your work anyway... anything less would be a serious issue imo ^^ –  Oskar Duveborn Nov 11 '09 at 14:59

8 Answers 8

up vote 23 down vote accepted

I don't think there'll be as clear an answer as for programming, but a couple partial answers come to mind:

Using a PC that's set up from a standard image the same as anyone else.

Running with user privs. most of the time, elevating only when necessary.

Another thought: Ask a close friend or relative to go through your documentation and follow it and tell you honestly if it's clear.

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+1 running with user privileges. (and question is now community wiki) –  Nic Nov 11 '09 at 6:38

Place the same trust in your backup system that your users do, and delete your home folder. If that sounds scary, or if you think it'll take too long to recover, maybe you need to improve your backup system.

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Ooooo, haven't done this one, not sure I'd do that much dogfooding... –  Ward Nov 11 '09 at 8:46
    
This is a remarkably good idea. –  Chris Magnuson Aug 12 '10 at 17:24
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Very good example of dogfooding...:-P –  Anand Jeyahar May 12 '11 at 15:55

Report an problem using the same issue tracking software as your users, rather than just fixing it yourself. If possible, get another sysadmin to handle the issue via the software instead of directly talking to you.

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In software development, "dogfooding" is just an overhyped word for what I think should be called "testing". Actually using the product? Like a customer would? Should be a very obvious step.

The term was popularized by Microsoft, but they are one of the companies out there for whom "eating their own dog food" is a bit more sensible than in other companies. If you make software for managing dental office management, it's a different situation than if you are developing, say, an operating system / word processor / web browser / mail server / software development tool ... something that a software developer would normally use on a regular basis.

But by the same token, it makes sense for sysadmins for a lot of the same reasons -- we are often maintaining the same systems that we use anyway. So whenever you can use the same script / restrictions / application / database / server / diskimage / network / whatever that your users do, you should do it -- that's dogfooding. Try everything once. After a while, try it again.

Also note that eating the dog food yourself too often is bound to produce bloat, in my opinion. This is not just a pun!

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Using a software product the same as a customer would is not applicable to a dev in many situations. For example, I develop financial reporting software but I don't use it because I'm not a financial reporter. –  squillman Nov 11 '09 at 12:48
    
@squillman: having been a developer i agree....but also gotta say, we use our ERP system for internal paperwork. –  Anand Jeyahar May 12 '11 at 15:58

Using Websense with the same blocked pages as end users.

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As has been mentioned, I think that good sysadmins should be doing this by default. As a systems admin, you should be building standardised environments and procedures that allow all users to work as efficiently as possible. That includes yourself. :)

Some behaviours which reinforce this:

  • Running as a standard user (be it on Windows or *NIX) and elevating only when necessary.
  • Using standard workstation hardware running the same OS build and packages that your users use.
  • Enforcing the same policies on IT staff (and developers) as normal users, unless there is a business reason to do otherwise. If the company standard is to use IE and IE only, then there should be no installs of Firefox on IT machines.

All of this allows you to demonstrate to your users that you practice what you preach.

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/me looks in mirror...does not run as a standard user, uses a newer OS and hardware, does not use the same apps and browser as users do. :( –  Doug Luxem Nov 11 '09 at 14:50

Use the same system image and workstation configuration that the users you support use.

Use a standard user account for logging on to your workstation and running your LOB applications (word processing, email, CRM, etc).

Never elevate your standard user account. Log on to the relevant system with the relevant credentials when needed.

I don't run any systems administration tasks from my own workstation or using my own user account. I have a separate management server for performing systems management tasks and I log on to that system with the relevant credentials, dependent on the task being performed.

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Dogfooding - (dôg-fūd-ĭng)


What happens to poorly functioning system administrators. Refer to this and this for further details.

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