Understanding the Benefits of ISA Server Documentation


Some of the benefits of documentation are immediate and tangible, whereas others can be harder to pin down. The process of putting the information down on paper encourages a level of analysis and review of the topic at hand that helps to clarify the goals and contents of the document.

This process should also encourage teamwork and collaboration within the organization, as well as interdepartmental exchange of ideas.

For example, an ISA Server maintenance document that details downtime for the SMTP Screener might be reviewed by the marketing manager who is concerned about the company's capability to send out emails to the existing and potential client base during the scheduled periods of downtime. The CIO or IT director should review the document as well to make sure that the maintenance process meets his or her concerns, such as meeting an aggressive service-level agreement (SLA).

Consequently, documentation that has specific goals, is well organized and complete, and goes through a review or approval process should contribute to the overall professionalism of the organization and its knowledge base. The following sections examine some of the other benefits of professional documentation in the ISA Server 2004 envi ronment.

Using Documentation for Knowledge Management

Quite simply, the proper documentation enables an organization to better organize and manage its data and intellectual property. Rather than having the company's policies and procedures in a dozen places, such as individual files for each department or, worst of all, in the minds of many individuals, consolidating this information into logical groupings can be beneficial.

A design document that details the decisions made pertaining to a ISA Server 2004 deployment project can consolidate and summarize the key discussions and decisions, as well as budgetary concerns, timing issues, and the like. And there will be one document to turn to if questions emerge at a later date.

Similarly, if a service-level agreement is created and posted where it can be accessed by any interested parties, it should be very clear what the network users can expect from the ISA Server 2004 infrastructure in terms of uptime or prescheduled downtimes.

A document that describes the specific configuration details of a certain server or type of server might prove very valuable to a manager in another company office when making a purchasing decision. The documents also must be readily available so that they can be found when needed, especially in the case of disaster recovery documents. Also, it's handy to have them available in a number of formats, such as hard copy, in the appropriate place on the network, and even via an intranet.

CAUTION

It is important to find a balance between making sure the documentation is readily available and making sure that it is kept completely secure. ISA Server 2004 documentation contains particularly sensitive information about the security structure of an environment. Placement of ISA documentation is therefore key: It should be kept in locations that are readily accessible in the event of an emergency, but that also are highly secured.


By simply having these documents available and centralizing them, an organization can more easily determine the effects of changes to the environment and track those changes. Part of the knowledge-management process needs to be change management, so that although the information is available to everyone, only authorized individuals can make changes to the documents.

Using Documentation to Outline the Financial Benefits of ISA

Proper ISA Server 2004 documentation can be time consuming and adds to infrastructure and project costs. It is often difficult to justify the expense of project documentation. However, when the documents are needed, such as in maintenance or disaster recovery scenarios, it is easy to determine that creating this documentation makes financial sense. For example, in an organization where downtime can cost thousands of dollars per minute, the return on investment (ROI) on disaster recovery and maintenance documentation is easy to calculate. Likewise, in a company that is growing rapidly and adding staff and new servers on a regular basis, tested documentation on server builds and administration training can also have immediate and visible benefits.

Well thought-out and professional design and planning documentation should help the organization avoid costly mistakes in the implementation or migration process, such as buying too many server licenses or purchasing too many servers.

Baselining ISA with Document Comparisons

Baselining is a process of recording the state of an ISA Server 2004 system so that any changes in its performance can be identified at a later date. Baselining also pertains to the overall network performance, including WAN links, but in those cases special software and tools (such as sniffers) may be required to record the information.

An ISA Server 2004 system baseline document records the state of the server after it is implemented in a production environment and can include statistics such as memory utilization, paging, disk subsystem throughput, and more. This information then enables the administrator or appropriate IT resource to determine how the system is performing in comparison to initial operation.

Using Documentation for ISA Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting documentation is helpful both in terms of the processes that the company recommends for resolving technical issues, and in documenting the results of actual troubleshooting challenges. Often companies have a database and trouble-ticket processes in place to record the time a request was made for assistance, the process followed, and the results. This information should then be available to the appropriate support staff so they know the appropriate resolution if the problem comes up again.

Organizations may also choose to document troubleshooting methodologies to use as training aids and also to ensure that specific steps are taken as a standard practice for quality of service to the user community.

Understanding the Recommended Types of Documentation

There are several main types of documentation, including the following:

  • Historical/planning (who made which decision)

  • Support and maintenance (to assist with maintaining the hardware and software on the network)

  • Policy (service-level agreements)

  • Training (for end users or administrators)

It is also critical that any documentation produced be reviewed by other stakeholders in the organization to make sure that it meets their needs as well, and to simply get input from other sources. For technical procedures, the document also must be tested and "walked through."With a review process of this sort, the document will be more useful and more accurate. For example, a server build document that has gone through this process (that is, reviewed by the IT manager and security administrator) is more likely to be complete and useful in case the server in question needs to be rebuilt in an emergency.

Documentation that is not historical and that is intended to be used for supporting the network environment or to educate on company policies should be reviewed periodically to make sure that it is still accurate and reflects the current corporate policies and processes.

The discipline of creating effective documentation that satisfies the requirements of the appropriate support personnel as well as management is also an asset to the company and can have dramatic effects. The material in this chapter gives a sense of the range of different ISA-related documents that can have value to an organization and should help in the process of deciding which ones are critical in the organization.



    Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration ISA Server 2004 Unleashed
    Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004 Unleashed
    ISBN: 067232718X
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2005
    Pages: 216
    Authors: Michael Noel

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