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Linux Admin Do's and Don'ts

written by: KateG•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 2/22/2009

Even the all knowing system admin needs a reminder from time to time on how to be ready for anything. Check out this list of Do's and Don'ts for Linux system admins. After all, it is much better to be reminded now then it is to forget at a critical moment.

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    We all make mistakes with our technology from time to time; when those mistakes are small we can usually recover with ease. Larger, or more expensive mistakes are better off avoided. For no one is this more true for than the system admin. To help you avoid making one of these major mistakes we will take a look at some basic do’s and don’ts that can keep you from ending up a part of the company bloopers reel.

    Do know your best documentation sources and forums.

    Everyone needs a little bit of help or information from time to time. Knowing where to get it before something goes wrong can help you to save precious moments when the CEO is breathing down your back because the server is down and no one can place orders.

    Do backup regularly.

    Saving what you have already invested time and resources in is always a good idea. Make your backups frequent and complete.

    Don’t use unstable or generally untested versions of software at work.

    This one can be hard to resist but unless you have no other choice pass them by. You need things at work to run flawlessly and less than stable versions just can’t deliver that.

    Don’t forget to encrypt your backup.

    You may never need to worry about a security breach with your backups but it is much better to be safe then it is to be sorry.

    Do compile it yourself when you can.

    If you do it yourself then you know it’s done right. Sure, it will take some extra time, but it will be well worth it.

    Do use a journaling file system.

    There are several good options (like ext3) that you can use. It seems like a small thing now but if you have to reboot when you didn't plan for it this will save you a lot of time.

    Don’t try to go it alone if you don’t have to.

    This one ties into your sources and forums. If you are unsure or if you haven’t done something before, than you should look for some guidance. If you are not already active in the community groups for your business software you should get involved now.

    Don’t trust your memory

    Or that of your co-workers, staff or boss. Always keep documentation for your configurations on hand and in writing. That documentation should also be handy. A copy in hand is always more useful than a copy in the filing system at the head office. This is Murphy’s Law insurance. When you are under stress and things are falling apart, it is inevitable that things will be forgotten. Written documentation will help you to keep your head on straight.

    Don’t trust the Windows admin to know about Linux.

    If for any reason you share duties or terminals or a room with the Windows admin, be wary. Even a well meaning one can do damage. Think about it: do you really want them tapping Ctrl-Alt-Delete to log in? (Note: You can actually disable that if you want.)

    Now that you have some ideas of what you should and shouldn’t do, go forth and enjoy your work.