Server naming scheme for your school

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I’ve spent a bit of time over the years and before writing this blog post about what would be right naming scheme for a small set of servers at your school.

Generally in medium and larger organisation you would have a single server doing a few smaller tasks and some servers just running a single application but this is different in schools with limited budgets as a server is required to do a lot more than just run DHCP or DNS or a single server application.

Looking back at one of my old jobs (when I was a trainee helpdesk administrator) I looked for a medium to large organisation of around 500 staff.  We had about 50 servers ranging from file servers, exchange 5.5 and servers for test, development and live websites.   It was important to help the support team, like me to have a good naming scheme for the servers but  the Network Manager for the organisation at the time had a different idea.

We had 2 FTP servers for external contracts to upload large files (rather than send them via email), the 1st was called Pickle and the 2nd was called Pickle2.  I still can’t think now how pickle and FTP link together but I guess the network manager at the time liked pickles.  The servers was running out of hard disk space so the Network Manager brought another server for FTP and called it Cheese.  So now we had 3 FTP servers called Pickle, Pickle2 and Cheese.  Very random!  I won’t go in Gromit and Gromit2!

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This same Network Manager put in a new file server (which was required) and called it Colossians.  Very quickly our number one helpdesk call was:

“I can’t connect to collosians” or it was “I can’t connect to Colossans”

Having the right naming scheme is important and when the Network Manager left a colleague and I decided we needed to get the naming scheme right and set out a plan.  There were 3 main locations in the organisations, Birmingham UK, Chicago USA and Delhi India.

The first part of the naming scheme would be the country, the second would be its main service and the third part be the number.

The new Exchange boxes were in the UK were called

  • BHX-EXC-01, BHX-EXC-02, BHX-EXC-03, BHX-EXC-04

The Chicago file servers were called

  • CHG-FIL-01, CHG-FIL-02

Your School

Some of these factors won’t matter to you but it is important that you have a good naming scheme for your school servers.  Now you can implement virtual machine and add them to your network very easily and quickly, it is important to have a good naming scheme for the different application and services that are going to run on your servers.  At previous schools I have worked we have had 2 different naming schemes but they made it easy for the IT staff to know what that servers were called and then easier for the teaching staff.

School 1

We started off with the first 2 characters representing the school name which started with H so HS (S for School), then a 2 letter character that represented the server.  Domain controllers were DC, Exchange EX, SharePoint SP, Exam software ES, the list continues and then a number for that server even if there was only going to be 1 server it was going to have a 2 digit number.

  • Domain Controller 1
    • HSDC01
  • Domain Controller 2
    • HSDC02
  • SharePoint 1
    • HSSP01
  • SharePoint 2
    • HSSP02
  • Exam Server 1
    • HSEX01
  • Application Server 1
    • HSAP01
  • Application 2
    • HSAP02

School 2

We kept it similar to this but couldn’t see the point in having the school name at the start so kept it to these

  • Domain Controller 1
    • DC01
  • Domain Controller 2
    • DC02
  • SharePoint 1
    • SP01
  • SharePoint 2
    • SP02
  • Exam Server 1
    • EX01
  • Application Server 1
    • AP01
  • Application 2
    • AP02

Conclusion

How ever fun it is to have funny and strange server names, in reality it can cause issues with teaching staff and your technical team.  Ensure you have a good naming scheme and you keep to it.  Document the application the servers run, put it up on the wall in the server room and your own working area.  The more the documentation the better.

I would love to have all my servers named after Jedi’s but I can’t remember how to spell all of them and when it comes to new staff starting, how are they going to get on!

2 thoughts on “Server naming scheme for your school

  1. It is also worth pointing out a small security issue with giving your servers meaningful names.

    If someone penetrates your network and gets a list of machine names, then it makes it very very easy and quick to know which machines to attach first (i.e. straight to the DC).

  2. Hi Alex: I am really enjoying your blog posts. I just found your site today. Above you talk about the importance of documentation. Do you know of where I could find a template for documenting items such as server names, server applications, server ip’s etc? I sometimes find it difficult in what to include in this documentation. Thanks again for your information on this site. Very useful and practical. Chris.

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