Documenting IT

Last updated 10/2011 - This section is an archive and will not be updated again.

Here is the link to our page on Technology Plans for E-rate, which contains great information on how to document your library’s network, computers and technology.

Preparing for the future by documenting what you have today

This is a common problem we deal with here at CTLS:

The new library director, who has been on the staff for about a year, comes into work one day and gets reports that the library website is down.  We start looking at the problem and learn that the website is actually still there…at 204.202.20.53.  But the URL, something like www.mylibrary.org, is not working.  It was working yesterday!  No one remembers where the URL is registered, and the notifications to renew the registration were coming to an e-mail account that is no longer being used.

The real problem here is that good records were not passed on to the new librarian.  There are a million different ways to document your network, computers, software and services.  As we all have heard by now, the budget situation is hitting services to libraries very hard, so it is more important than ever to know what you have, where you purchased it, and whom to call if you have problems or need to renew services.

How to start?  There are a couple of tools I like to use:

1. http://www.belarc.com

Belarc advisor is a free product that you would need to temporarily install on each PC or server.  It builds a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware, missing Microsoft hotfixes, anti-virus status, CIS (Center for Internet Security) benchmarks, and displays the results in your Web browser. All of your PC profile information is kept private on your PC and is not sent to any web server.  I suggest that you install this on each, print out the results, and start a file of you equipment.  This product will also give you a good idea of what software you have installed, and what your network looks like.  Do uninstall this product once you have printed or otherwise saved the report, since you likely are not going to purchase a permanent license for Belarc.

2. http://www.spiceworks.com

Spiceworks is a complete network management software, helpdesk, network configuration & IT reporting solution designed to manage everything IT in small & medium organizations, such as our libraries.  Spiceworks is also a free product, and its license allows you to keep it installed so that you can monitor your computers and network.

So for starters, use one or both of these tools to get a better picture of what you have and how it is arranged.  Then start documenting accounts, vendor phone numbers, and passwords, and keep these all in a place that is secure but easy for you to access.

Back in March 2010 I wrote this article for the CTLS Newsletter–
Many of you have asked about backups, network documentation, etc.  I attended a TechSoup webinar that I think you might find helpful:
After the Crash: Minimize your Downtime

“Computers crash, viruses infect, and disasters happen.  But they don’t have to affect your ability to continue working if you’re prepared. There are some key things you should know about your computer system and your applications — and things you should do with your data — to ensure that you’re back up in a few hours instead of a few days.”

The recorded webinar is on the following webpage, and you can also access the slides, handouts, and background information here:

https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/schedule/display.do?udc=dcb0uhc2flav

In particular, note the “Template Network Documentation” download, in the right-hand column.  This documentation is very important for restoring you network, preparing technology plans, and for continuity when there are staff changes.  Contact Holly Gordon if you would like help with this document.

Also, a neat and free tool for drawing your network is my.origamy.com