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Business Advice for a New NetAdmin

Posted on 2012-04-05
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Hello everyone - Recently I was promoted from a desktop support tech to a network administrator due to circumstance and although I'm very supportive of my promotion I lack the fundamental knowledge necessary to keep me afloat.  What this question is based on is purely open to the degree that I am willing and asking for any of you who feel like participating the chance to suggest a structure to follow.  I can provide any information upon request as to what equipment we are running in my facility and what our current practices involve.  I'm looking to basically start ground up in reworking our structure - I will leave all base systems intact until a full plan has been organized and a direction has been chosen.  Right now we are in a working state where we function basically as we should be but our former network administrator has thrown several wrenches into our machines upon his departure and this has caused many sleepless nights trying to piece everything back together.  Right now we're running an Active Directory system on windows server 2008 r2 - we use a VMS system with tape backup and we have an Exchange Server 2010 running.  Right now specifically we're having trouble with our backups - trouble being the sort of thing like we don't know HOW to back things up properly or schedule what we need with our software to automate it.  The software we use for backup is CA Arcserve and I'm unfamiliar with it to almost every degree.  We have made lists of WHAT we want to backup but still struggle with getting it done.  We've been able to make a successful backup so far to get us "current" but we're not there yet by any means.  I just placed an order for another Dell SAN to give us another layer of backup protection to work in conjunction with our current means and this will be another issue I turn to  you guys for when it arrives - but for the time being please let me have it. What would YOU do if you were in my situation?  I love my job and I love my promotion but as I mentioned above I'm very wet behind the ears when it comes to this sort of thing and all the trial by fire is beginning to dry some of that moisture up I'm still completely lost. HELP.  I'm new to EE and I'm not sure which forum to place my question so I made it pretty broad and I'll award each answer by relevance to my particular situation based on helpfulness and idea content.
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Question by:Cashco
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by:IT-Monkey-Dave
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From what you say, things are running ok, but backups are questionable.  I would try to devote some of your "quality time" to getting to know ArcServe and get your backup regimen in order.  Because if something happens, the first thing you will be asked is "Why didn't we have a backup?".  ArcServe can seem a little daunting at first but it's really not that difficult.  Set up an automatic GFS rotation scheme, carefully selecting what is to be backed up of course.  Work out a reasonable media retention plan so you have enough backup history to work from to feel comfortable.  For example, full backup once a week, differentials or incrementals the other 6 days; retain daily media for at least 6 days; retain "n" number of weekly media and monthly media.  Perhaps 3 months worth.  Of course if you work in an industry that has stringent media retention requirements, keep that in mind.  Keep at least 1 recent full backup set offsite.

So basically I would get a handle on the backups as my first priority, and squeeze in other learning as you can.  Of course anything that breaks is your first priority.

What version of ArcServe are you on?  Do you have the Exchange agent running on the Exchange server?  Pay attention to Exchange backups, make sure it's complete.
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by:Cashco
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Thank you.
Arcserve is R16 and I honestly couldn't tell you if we have the Exchange agent running - I'd assume so but who knows at this point with the way things have been going. I'm so lost - lol
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by:IT-Monkey-Dave
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ArcServe R16 Online Documentation

Maybe start with the Implementation Guide

On the Exchange system, go to Control Panel, Programs (or Add/Remove Programs) and look for ArcServe Exchange Agent, or CA ArcServe Exchange Agent.

When you say the previous admin left behind some "issues", can you be more specific without giving away any confidential info?
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by:Cashco
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The previous network administrator either deleted or removed ALL documentation of machines and wiped all records of his involvement with projects and stuff so we are literally forced to learn every aspect of our new jobs on the fly.  As you can imagine this has put us in a place where we are expected to use this stuff without knowing how to use this stuff.  Thank you very much for the documentation - i'm currently trying to hoard every piece of useful data I can.  I will get back with you shortly on the exchange agent.
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by:Cashco
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exchange server installed programsThese are all the installed programs on the exchange server - looks like there is a CA ARCserve backup agent running there.
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Previous admin sounds like a real class act.

"CA ARCServe Backup" my be the standard Windows backup agent, not the Exchange-specific agent.  I no longer have an Exchange server here to check that on.  The ARCServe Exchange Agent is a separate license that has to be purchased and installed on the Exchange system.  Your CA License Certificate will tell you what products and agents you have licenses for and the quantity of each license.

Thinking about this more, I may be very out of touch with the backup requirements for Exchange 2010.  I'm thinking I read somewhere that the ArcServe Exchange agent is no longer necessary.  Hopefully someone will chime in on that.  Sorry I can't be more help on that issue.
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by:Cashco
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Everything is appreciated - Thank you very much. Hopefully others chime in on the situation - but yes, the former net admin was awesome (sarcasm intended)
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by:OOsorio
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Cashco, I would suggest you rely on manufacturer support if possible. You might have a support contract with CA. Call them, give your company name and take it from there. They can provide instructions , walkthrough and provide a link to documentation. This aspect is to critical to let time pass, it has to be solved immediately.
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Network Admin:

-Your FIRST GOAL, should be to MAP the entire network topology.. OTHERWISE, you are shotgunning any type of troubleshooting. The experts on Experts Exchange sometimes have 25 years of professional experience in a business based architecture.  So, after mapping the network and knowing where EVERY cable goes, you will reduce the amount of time it takes to trace back problems. Map every wire, switch, wireless access point, Server, and router. This topology suits two purposes. It gives you a visual on the network and how it is used. It also gives your help the means to quickly figure out the network (the term "Help" will be explained later).

-THEN, go onto the switches and routers. Export your Router and Switch configurations to notepad (a word document),print it out and put it in a binder. LEARN from that configuration..

The Network topology and router/switch configurations conclude a strong network knowledge.

HELP Defined:

Finally, Information Technology is the central point to the entire business' commerce. The business can pay you overtime expenses and many man hours to not promise a proper configuration of the business network. So, the opportunity costs to overcome problems on the network is big to this business. It's probably best to bring someone in to help you, don't you think?

To save yourself time and money for the business, I highly suggest getting a consultant/contractor. Make it YOUR business to bring someone in that has explicit knowledge of the domain services that your company provides. This is what separates a good IT manager from a die hard technician. At some point in your career, you will have to decide on bringing in help and getting the job done, rather than go through the school of hard knocks and hose up the business enterprise.

It sounds to me like you were not dealt a super raw deal from this "network Admin".. Otherwise, you would have NOTHING. Anyone that has any knowledge as a network Admin could complete knock you down with no means but to completely start over. So, this person probably didn't mess with you as much as you might think.

As a network admin, I suggest you go through Cisco Networking boot camps (ICND1 and ICND2) to get an understanding on how to interconnect switches and routers, then configure them.
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