Help! 11 places to get help.

Where do you go when you don’t know the answer to a problem?  Most admins know a few places – but not many seem to go after all that are available to them.  See which of these you know and use:

  • Local instructions.  Corporate adminsitration teams often have their own documentation, and even if there isn’t any on paper or on any digital media, your coworkers may be able to help.
  • Previous experiences.  If you’ve been recording your technical successes and recording documentation et al, perhaps there is something in there.  If not – well, then, you lose, don’t you?  So start recording today!
  • Books. There are many books about system administration topics that may help.  Certification books are often good for technical materials as well.
  • Google. A search on Google (or your search engine of choice) may turn up something somewhere.
  • Personal Network.  Do you have a friend that is a wizard with these sort of problems?  Ask them.  If you don’t have a friend like this… find one!
  • Vendor Support and Documentation Pages. Often, the documentation and support pages from the manufacturer may include pertinent information.  Many of these will not be found in search engines, but can be found by performing a search at the manufacturers web site.  HP has the ITRC; Sun has SunSolve as well as BigAdmin.
  • Vendor Forums. Many vendors (such as Apple and HP) have forums that allow users to help each other. Do not neglect these! They are often searchable as well.
  • Usenet. Most (perhaps all?) systems, especially UNIX and Windows, are represented on Usenet newsgroups.  These can be a source of information, and can be searched (or used) through Google Groups.
  • User Groups.  User groups, whether national or local, can be a nice place to find resources to help.  There are Linux user groups (LUGs), Macintosh user groups, HP groups such as Encompass.
  • Mailing lists. This is similar to Usenet, but via email.
  • IRC.  Internet Relay Chat provides realtime communication with professionals that may be able to help.

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