Recently, I’d been talking about system admin-type issues. Today, I want to continue that series of posts by stressing how important it is to apply appropriate system administration to your LIMS, ELN, LES or other system. This is especially important with big systems like the LabWare system.
When we consider the “big” systems, they require quite a lot of system administration. Additionally, that administration is quite a bit of work to do and dependent on having it done, properly. First of all, I can’t stress enough that having the right procedures in place and following them is a key. These systems have so many moving parts, between management of the database, staying abreast of updates, testing updates, promoting updates, and etc… that you must have procedures in place to follow and stick with them. Software rollouts must be carefully controlled, for example. I don’t mean that people doing development of the system can’t create their own system and try out new updates but these shouldn’t be too easily added to the production system, for example.
The main goal of good system administration is to make sure that bad things don’t happen to your system. One thing you can do is to make a list of the bad things that could happen. Try to assign risk to these possible issues and come up with ways to recover from them. Remember that you can’t depend on your backup as a solution to all your issues – really think this through because there are situations where waiting for backup and trying to restore an entire system just for one change isn’t necessarily the right procedure.
Also, be cautious of 3rd-party tools. I sometimes promote useful tools that are not coming from the software vendor. However, you do need to be careful of 3rd-party tools. As the most basic example, system administration and the moving data is not done from your Oracle or SQL Server database but usually from vendor-created tools. Where there is no vendor-created tool to do the job, looking afield to what other users have created is not a bad strategy but, once again, you must be cautious that these tools enhance the vendor-supplied tools, not override them – that they operate within a manner that does not go against what the given tools are meant to do.
Remember that every system starts out clean – it’s what we do to it that makes it maintainable and gives it the ability to be used for long periods of time. Bad system administration destroys any good you might have done, otherwise.