What would you do if you could start over?

Since the beginning of the year (maybe since late last year) we’ve all heard the rumors and then confirmations that our company would be splitting into two separate entities and literally going their own ways. Wow! Doesn’t that make employees paranoid?
After two rounds of lay-offs earlier this year where we literally lost over 120 users in our part of the split, my group was told it would be responsible for all tech support and that would include servers, workstations and network.
We’ve been a small business unit IT group supporting mostly Macs and now we’re being asked to prepare to collect our marbles and go play elsewhere. Everyone in our group has extensive cross-platform experience with Macs, Windows and UNIX, so we’re confident about our roles and expertise, but we now get the chance to start over on so many things!
Our network has been handled by one group, our Windows Server team was another group and our own Mac group was mostly left out of any infrastructure decisions long ago because we weren’t “standard” or as most in the biz can understand: we weren’t “Windows”.
Now, we get to start over.

Our list of responsibilities is long. We need new ways to manage our network infrastructure including how we name our internal domain or domains. We need new ways to name servers so that the naming convention includes all types of operating systems (Mac OS, Windows and UNIX-flavored). We need new desktop management software and asset tracking systems. We need new E-mail systems and maybe a new data center.
This is a tech junkie’s dream! Make that a tech junkie’s *wet* dream!
Why is this so exciting to us? Apart from the résumé material our group actually has a broader perspective on what works in our technical world and what doesn’t work.
Our Corporate IT department has been the traditional Windows-centric dominant force in our company. I don’t mean “Windows-centric” to mean they’ve been brutally unsupportive of other platforms like Mac OS X, but they’ve had no inclination to consider that their decisions can negatively impact non-Windows users. Two examples:
1. Windows DFS — Our Windows Enterprise and Server admins decided to implement Windows DFS company-wide. That’s not a bad step but Mac OS X does not support DFS. Now, network home directories will no longer mount for Mac OS X clients and we have to translate all documentation coming from the Help Desk from “\\\\\domain.com\site” to “smb://server.domain.com/sharepoint”.
2. Server names — I wanted to follow our company’s “server” naming convention when installing a new Mac OS X server and so I asked the Windows Server team how to adapt their naming convention for my server. Their *adamant* response was that the naming convention was for Windows Server only and that we should not use their naming convention to avoid confusion. Avoid confusion? I was trying to *prevent* confusion!
Little things mean a lot and I’ve learned in my experience supporting Macs in Windows environments that so much depends on doing the little things correctly from the start. For us that means developing naming conventions that can be adapted to any new systems, trying to fully use directory services for authentication and information services, flattening complex systems that have organically grown out-of-hand and finding ways to simply track our assets.
We’ve learned a lot about how not to do things. I just hope we don’t repeat those mistakes.

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