Documenting Windows infrastructure for an IT department


Technologies Used: Visio, SnagIt, Personal Brain mind-mapping software, Exchange 2003 & 2010, Remote Desktop, Google Postini, Active Directory, ActiveSync, Outlook Web Application (OWA), Sharepoint, Windows Server 2003

Dates: 9/2012 to 11/2012

Samples:  (Confidential, but I might be able to reveal short excerpts of these docs in person).

An IT company hired me to document email architecture for a major international media company.  This media company had three administrative groups for running Exchange in 3 different data centers. Two were running Exchange 2010, and  one was running Exchange 2003. But  all administrative groups shared Active Directory  Resource to allow all users and distribution lists. The media company used public folders, ActiveSync and OWA; the Exchange 2003 data center (which I documented most thoroughly) used clusters and Storage Groups on Storage Area Networks (SANs); it also ran servers for  message archiving, web proxying, faxing, Blackberry,  business continuity and antivirus. It also used Postini (a Google Enterprise app) for  email security.

The Exchange 2003 data center  was constantly experiencing  outages and needing to implement stopgap fixes. Also, the media company lacked any documentation of what the current system was like (because a key Administrator had recently left).  My job was to talk to  current Exchange administrators and outside Exchange experts to write a 12 page technical white paper recommending short and long term solutions to upper management. I also wrote a 25 page Technical Design Document which documented all major system components of the 2003 data center plus all the configuration settings for the Exchange bridgehead/frontend/servers, system policies, connectors and message formats.

An important part of my job was producing system architecture diagrams  to illustrate the ways that different components interacted with one another. These diagrams  could be used as quick references by management and support staff to understand the implications of any proposed action.

Writing manuals for clients

Tools used: Microsoft Office, Gimp Graphics

A recent employer (Enfold Systems) provided consulting services for web site management. My role was to produce end user manuals for individual clients to document advanced system administration tasks. These manuals were narrow in scope and needed to be completed within a defined period of time (usually less than a week).  Deliverables were usually 10+ pages and given to clients in PDF format.

Topics included:

  • configuring  a proxy and load-balancing solution on  Linux using open source software (Apache, Varnish, Plone).
  • setting up and maintaining a wiki, with usage & usability tips.
  • backup and disaster recovery in the event of hardware failure
  • other Windows system administration tasks: site migration, performance monitoring, user management.

Producing Instructional Web Demos

Tools Used: Adobe Captivate 3, Audacity, Gimp

Samples: See the Screencast Page

Screencasts  are effective ways to walk users and customers through configuration and daily use of software.  In many cases, they can convey the series of steps for configuring something more easily than a page of written documentation.

At Enfold, I prepared two different kinds of screencasts.

First,  I prepared two in-depth tutorials about how to use Enfold Proxy (an integration tool for Windows System Administrators).   The product itself had a good interface and was easy to use, but many system administrators  had problems with the underlying concepts of how Internet Information Services (IIS) worked with web applications.  To address this I prepared a tutorial screencast which covered the core concepts of how to deploy a Plone web site on IIS.    A second in-depth tutorial  covered  advanced topics about how to integrate different kinds of web content inside the same host on an IIS site.

Work Involved: These in-depth tutorial screencasts were several minutes long  and included audio.   I identified   a learning objective, created  learning scenarios,  wrote a script,  recorded animation with Captivate, edited audio with Audacity, synchronized   audio with slides and corrected continuity errors.

I also produced several simple screencasts without audio. These screencasts were used to demonstrate how to perform simple tasks in a content management system called Plone. Some  were shown at product demonstrations to clients. The goal was simply to show how Plone  focused on accomplishing simple tasks within the content management system.