A while back I wrote about documentation in a blog entitled Canary in the Coal Mine. The presence (or lack thereof) of documentation can serve as an early warning system on the health and stability of your tech support. Since that time, I’ve had a lot of people ask me what I specifically mean by documentation. Is it things like IP addresses and passwords for critical systems? Yes, but that’s just the beginning.
At Waident the average 20 to 50 person company has 70 pieces of documentation and our larger clients have in excess of 200. Even our smallest clients have close to 30 pieces of documentation. These are the instructions that, if your IT person got run over by the proverbial bus, you would need to know in order to smoothly transition your IT support to a new person (or team, as the case may be).
Here are some of the most common items we document for our clients:
- 3rd party contacts and agreements – Telco, key business apps, copiers, printers to document whom to call and what is supported
- Key business applications – How to’s for recurring activities (adding new logins, updates, etc.) and troubleshooting tips when issues occur
- Common end user “how to’s” – Step-by-step VPN instructions, Outlook web access directions, Remote Desktop setup, etc. to guide end users through using standard business applications
- Networking – IP addresses, logins, domain names
- Expirations – SSL certs, domain names, 3rd party maintenance agreements
- Checklists – New hire, terminations, new machine ordering
- History – New hires, terminations, change logs for upgrades
- Visuals – Pictures of server room and key equipment, network diagram
- Data – Ongoing reports (helpdesk tickets, virus/spyware health, Windows updates status, server health, and many more), test backup history, firewall configuration backups, quarterly strategic meeting notes
Do yourself a favor and ask your technology support team for all of your documentation. If they look at you blankly or only give you a few pieces, watch out for that speeding bus bearing down on you. You’re likely in for some pain.