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Ten Commandments of Computer Networks

“Blessed is the network manager who walks not in the council of the ignorant, nor stands in the way of the oblivious, nor sits in the seat of the greenhorn, but delights in the Law of the Network and meditates on this Law day and night.”

—Networks 1:1

And so it came to pass that these Ten Networking Commandments were handed down from generation to generation, to be worn as frontlets between the computer geeks’ eyes (taped on the bridges of their broken glasses) and written upon their doorposts with Sharpie markers. Obey these commandments, and it shall go well with you, with your users, and with your users’ users.

I. Thou shalt back up thy hard drive religiously

Prayer is a good thing, but when it comes to protecting the data on your network, nothing beats a well-thought-out schedule of backups followed religiously.

Ii. Thou shalt protect thy network from infidels

In the classic TV series M*A*S*H, one of the recurring characters on that show was Colonel Flagg, who hid in trash cans looking for Communists. Like Colonel Flagg, you don’t want to ignore the possibility of getting zapped by a virus, your network being invaded by hackers, or your data being compromised by an unscrupulous user.

Make sure that your Internet connection is properly secured with a firewall and don’t allow any Internet access that circumvents your security.

To counter virus threats, use network-aware antivirus software to ensure that every user on your network has up-to-date virus protection. And teach your users so they know how to avoid those virus threats that manage to sneak past your virus protection.

Iii. Thou shalt keepeth thy network drive pure and cleanse it of old files

Don’t wait until your 2TB network drive is down to just 1GB of free space before you think about cleaning it up. Set up a routine schedule for disk housekeeping, where you wade through the files and directories on the network disk to remove old junk.

Iv. Thou shalt not tinker with thine network configuration unless thou knowest what thou art doing

Networks are finicky things. After yours is up and running, don’t mess with it unless you know what you’re doing. You may be tempted to log on to your firewall router to see whether you can tweak some of its settings to squeeze another ounce of performance out of it. But unless you know what you’re doing, be careful!

Be especially careful if you think you know what you’re doing. It’s the people who think they know what they’re doing who get themselves into trouble!

V. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s network

Network envy is a common malady among network managers. If your network users are humming along fine at 100 Mbps, don’t covet your neighbor’s Gigabit network. If your network users are happy with Windows 7, resist the urge to upgrade to Windows 8 unless you have a really good reason. And if you run Windows Server 2008, fantasizing about Windows Server 2012 is a venial sin.

You’re especially susceptible to network envy if you’re a gadget freak. There’s always a better switch to be had or some fancy network-protocol gizmo to lust after. Don’t give in to these base urges! Resist the devil, and he will flee!

Vi. Thou shalt schedule downtime before working upon thy network

As a courtesy, try to give your users plenty of advance notice before you take down the network to work on it. Obviously, you can’t predict when random problems strike. But if you know you’re going to patch the server on Thursday morning, you earn points if you tell everyone about the inconvenience two days before rather than two minutes before.

You’ll earn even more points if you patch the server Saturday morning. Tell your boss you’ll take next Thursday morning off to make it up.

Vii. Thou shalt keep an adequate supply of spare parts

There’s no reason that your network should be down for two days just because a cable breaks. Always make sure that you have at least a minimal supply of network spare parts on hand.

Viii. Thou shalt not steal thy neighbor’s program without a license

How would you like it if Inspector Clouseau (from the Pink Panther movies) barged into your office, looked over your shoulder as you ran Excel from a network server, and asked, “Do you have a liesaunce?”

“A liesaunce?” you reply, puzzled.

“Yes. of course, a liesaunce — that is what I said! The law specifically prohibits the playing of a computer program on a network without a proper liesaunce.

You don’t want to get in trouble with Inspector Clouseau, do you? Then make sure you have the correct licenses for the applications you run on your network.

Ix. Thou shalt train thy users in the ways of the network

Don’t blame the users if they don’t know how to use the network. It’s not their fault. If you’re the network administrator, your job is to provide training so the network users know how to use the network.

X. Thou shalt write down thy network configuration upon tablets of stone

Network documentation should be written down. If you cross the River Jordan, who else will know diddly-squat about the network if you don’t write it down somewhere? Write down everything, put it in an official binder labeled Network Bible, and protect the binder as if it were sacred.

Your hope should be that 2,000 years from now, when archeologists are exploring caves in your area, they find your network documentation hidden in a jar and marvel at how meticulously the people of our time recorded their network configurations.

They’ll probably draw ridiculous conclusions, such as that we offered sacrifices of burnt data packets to a deity named TCP/IP and confessed our transgressions in a ritual known as “logging,” but that makes it all the more fun.

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