NA Practices

Practices and Procedures For Volunteers in Network Administration Team

Compiled by Steven Chan
Version 1, April 4, 2003
Version 1.1, Sep 1 2004

This is a description of how the network administration volunteer team works and is addressed to newcomers. It is best read when you first join the team.

  1. Technical Resources.

    a. Subscribe to network-admin list You are also subscribed to the [email protected] mailing list. You should immediately scan the mail archive for past messages and the shared web space, where important notes and instructions for the team are stored. The list is used to ask for help or advice from other team members, or to pinpoint new issues relevant to the team.

    b. Be a Resource to Team Members The most important resource is your fellow team members. You need to get to know who they are, what they know, and what they are currently working on. You may find yourself paired with another team member, or working beside one to resolve a job. The quicker you know who knows what, the easier you may find it to resolve your own job. It is recommended that when you first join the team, you find a job that is underway and observe what is happening.

    c. Know Where Parts Are Spare parts and donated equipment are mostly kept in the basement storage rooms. Some parts are kept in the office storage room along with a few tools. It is your responsibility to become familiar with the inventory and the tools, so that you know what is possible when trying to, for example, fix a broken computer.

  2. Choose a job from the Help Desk drive.

    a. Find a Job you Qualify for Look through the Help Desk and find a job that suits your current skills and knowledge. Jobs are divided into several areas. The areas most suitable for members of this team are marked ‘na’ (network admin) and ‘pa’ (public access). NA jobs are those concerned with maintenance and development of the office network. Some of the PA jobs also have to do with setting up public access sites elsewhere in the city. You should also look in other areas, as you may have the necessary skills and the interest to tackle one of those jobs.

    b. Take Ownership and Team Up When you choose a job, you should take ownership of it. You should try to pair up with another team member, especially for a job that is complex. Often ‘two heads are better than one’, but it is also a safety check because you may become unavailable during the middle of the job and so your partner can continue with it. But try not to pair up with someone who has a different schedule than you, unless the work can be done at home, because the cost of trying to get together may outweigh the benefit of having two heads.

    c. Make detailed documentation as you progress While working on a job that is taking a long time, for example, over several days or weeks, you should post comments describing your progress so that others can follow what you are doing, giving them an opportunity to contribute something. When documenting, remember to put enough detail so that if you’re hit by the bus the next day, another volunteer can look at your RT comments and know exactly what you’ve done and how you did things. You should post at least 1 comment per week.

    d. Let people know when you can’t finish If after taking ownership of a job and you feel you can’t resolve it, for example, because it proves to be too difficult for you, you should give up ownership, or better yet, give ownership to someone who has agreed to do it in your place.

    e. Document how you did it When you resolve a job, you should post a final comment describing what you did and how you did it. You should also mention who you worked with. If the job involves making changes to the network, you should update the network diagram and replace the current one pinned on the wall. If you resolve a quick job that was never in the Help Desk folder, you should create a job description in the project document, take ownership, describe what you did, and resolve it, all in one go.

  3. Signup for a 2 half-day or 1 full-day shift as a network admin person.

    a. Network Support shifts Start every shift by completing Network Admin  Checklist. Once your submit your checklist report, it will update the Checklist Status. When you come in for your shift, you should introduce yourself to the current help desk team, especially since the help desk volunteers come and go and may not know who you are. You should station yourself at the network admin desk, which is outside the helpdesk room and in the public access foyer.

    b. Support Staff Needs You will support any technical needs of staff related to their computer or to the office network, such as helping them burn CD’s or use the fax server. If you are called to a broken computer, your first priority is to replace it with a spare unit, before spending any time on diagnosis. There should be a spare computer allocated for each room in the office. If you need to disassemble a computer, you should be mindful of not leaving bits and pieces in the public areas of the office. At day’s end, you should pack up your work and move it to the office storage room; you should tape a note to the computer describing the work and your contact email or phone number.

    c. Workstation Check-Ups You will look for signs of trouble in any of the work stations, including the lab and public access site. You should make sure any and all of these stations are functioning, especially if there is a public workshop scheduled later that day or the next.

    d. Server Check-Ups You will check the office servers for signs of trouble, by using the web-based administration tool or a shell account associated with each server.

    e. Firewall Check-Ups You will check the status of the Internet gateway, including the ADSL modem and the firewall server. If there is a loss of the gateway, you should find out if the problem is with the ADSL provider or with the office equipment. If the firewall is at fault, you should either reset it, or switch to the alternate unit. If the loss is for any length of time, you should go around to everyone, including public users, helpdesk volunteers, and staff, and inform them of the status.

    f. Use Spare Time to Increase Knowledge If all is quiet on your shift, you should spend your free time working on some projects or raising the level of your current knowledge of the office setup. A final chore is to maintain a tidy space in your desk area and in the office storage space where tools and spare parts are kept.

  4. Attend weekly team meetings. (cancelled, starting July 2004)

    (cancelled, starting July 2004) a. Attend Wednesday Meetings We meet every Wednesday at 1:30 in the lab or in the boardroom if the lab is taken. You need to attend this meeting and report on your activities within the past week. Another reason to meet is to review projects in  progress in terms of priority and accuracy. If you cannot make a meeting, you should email a notice on the network admin email list.

    (cancelled, starting July 2004) b. Start the Meetings The meeting is usually conducted by the staff technical co-ordinator or the staff public access co-ordinator. Other staff people may also attend the meeting if they need to talk about a particular job, for example, fixing their broken computer. If no staff person is available to conduct the meeting, the team should just hold the meeting itself.

    (cancelled, starting July 2004) c. Give Training Workshop If you have added or changed something significant to the office servers or to the network, such as a new feature or a new procedure, you should give a ten-minute workshop to the team after the formal part of the meeting. You may need to repeat the workshop in the following week if you feel not enough members of the team was present.

VCN network topology