Kearns' column: Server crash? It's your fault, pal

"We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Recently on Network World Fusion we introduced the topic "Tell us your NT nightmares" and heard from a number of users complaining about frequent reboots, crashes and other troubles. We also heard from administrators whose NT servers run very well. What conclusions can we draw?

Before drawing a conclusion from the dozen or so responses, I visited the Windows NT server support news site at nntp://msnews.microsoft. com and, sure enough, there were lots of complaints about things that don't work, frequent reboots and crashed servers. "Hey!" I thought, "maybe there is something to these NT nightmares."

Still, I wanted to be sure that NT was somehow unique in its problems, so I went to the NetWare support forums at nntp://forums.novell.com. Funny thing, but most of the people posting messages there were also having problems with things that don't work correctly, frequent reboots and crashed servers.

I could go on and visit the OS/2 Warp server newsgroups, as well as those for VINES, Solaris, AIX and just about any networkable operating system and I'd most likely find the same result.

What does it all mean? Are all operating systems inherently unstable or is there another explanation? Here's the conclusion I draw: The biggest problem with today's network servers is the system administrator. You, bucko.

Looking through the support forums for NT and NetWare, there are two major sources of problems -- something is not configured correctly, or there aren't enough resources to accomplish the objective. In either case, the fault lies squarely on the system administrator, not the operating system vendor. You have to know your network operating system intimately. You have to take the time to plan your network, servers and applications. You have to stay informed about developments, such as updates, affecting your system. You have to monitor your network's health and administer cures proactively.

It's your job -- do it right.

(Kearns, a former network administrator, is a freelance writer and consultant. He can be reached at wired@vquill.com.)

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