The #1 Tip

The best IT articles and suggestions come from the grizzled front-line veterans, and the best grizzled front-line veterans are the ones who are willing to listen to the suggestions of their peers. Wesley David may not be grizzled, but he is on the proverbial front line, and has recently kicked off a series of articles with his “top tips” for what tools a SysAdmin should have on hand at any given moment. Of course, tips and tricks are not a new format, nor necessarily objectively true, but they are no less useful because of that. So rather than make this about what I think, I want to open the floor and make this about you.

Given that I had “tips for boosting network performance” in mind, I went to our own SysAdmins yesterday and put them on the spot, asking them what their suggestions might be. After they made it very clear that I was asking a slightly silly question, and that there was no conclusive answer to my painfully open-ended question, here’re some of their suggestions:

Not all cables are created equal; check them often: Occasionally a cable will be damaged, or sometimes you’ll just be plain unlucky and get a ‘bad’ cable. Either way, packets get lost.

Build in network redundancy: There are arguments both for and against deduping the data in your network, but multiple physical paths are always a good idea.

Make sure you Subnet properly: It shouldn’t need saying, but sometimes it does. To borrow a line from a Slashdot user, “Segment your traffic according to where the load is, not where the politics are”

Keep an eye on those broadcast-heavy apps: And don’t be afraid to engage in a little traffic-shaping.

Look at teaming / load-balancing your network cards: It just makes sense.

Make sure your switches are consistently configured: Not only will this make initial setup easier, but reducing network variables will make your life easier when the time comes to troubleshoot.

Educate your users: This one might be an uphill battle, but it’ll (hopefully) pay off in the end.

Naturally, you’ll be a staunch supporter of some of these tips, and consign others to the “unimportant” or “well, duh” pile, but I’m hoping you’ll also share some of your own pearls of hard-earned wisdom, because I don’t think #1 Tip is technical; it’s professional – Listen (debate) and Learn. A quick glance at the Slashdot comments thread suggests that for every SysAdmin tip, there is an equal and opposite opinion, and I’d love to hear some of both.