The LAOAE Principle

Least Amount Of Administrative Effort. From the moment that I first heard that term, I knew it was important. The first time you hear it, most people will think “man that guy is lazy”, and dismiss it.

Then when you are in the 35th hour of a 100 machine deployment with no help, scurrying to and fro like a hummingbird on meth trying to get installs going, you’ll pause to breathe and think to yourself; there must be an easier way to do this.

That is the point at which most people get their first peek at understanding The LAOAE (pronounced “layaway”) Principle.

The point of LAOAE is not to do less. That is just not an option for most SysAdmins. They’re too busy learning the latest Linux distro, the latest version of Windows, and how to make them play nice, web design, eMail administration, reading about the latest security solutions, learning about how to bypass the latest security solutions, keeping SPAM at bay, getting the phone system to work correctly, learning a new scripting or programming language, checking system logs to make sure everything is working, trying to consolidate servers with virtualization, replacing failed hardware, ordering new hardware, tracking orders, tracking licenses, inventorying hardware and software, checking backups, restoring the computer you accidentally DoD secure wiped, reporting stolen hardware, dealing with vendor calls, calling vendors, researching ways to ease the migration to the next version of (insert insanely complex software package here), and trying to get coffee so they can stay awake after having been at the office all night trying to restore the server that crashed at 1am, and they need to find a way to get it all done.

In short the point of LAOAE is to be able to do the job of 2 or 3 people, because no one outside of IT understands what it takes to get it all done, and they are not going to take your word that you need help. They are going to ask you to quantify the need, which will take more time that you don’t have enough of in the first place.

When following The LAOAE Principle there are some general rules of thumb that will help you in using LAOAE appropriately:

  • If you will do a task the same way more than once, find a way to automate it.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel.
  • Work smarter.
  • Document your network.

Automation is mostly about scripting. On Windows machines Batch files are good, VBScript is better, PowerShell is best (if appropriate). On Linux machines Shell scripting is good, Perl and Python are best. If you choose Perl or Python you get the added benefits of being able to use the same language on both Windows (through the WSH interpreter) and Linux. Personally I like Python better than Perl, and PowerShell better than either (but that’s just my preference).

Google is your friend. If you want to do something, chances are good that someone has already done it. If you can use someone else’s hard work in getting (whatever it is) done, all the better. Fits The LAOAE Principle nicely.

It’s amazing how many people do tasks the hard way. Mostly it’s because the vast majority of people never really stop to think about the task that they are doing, they just focus on getting it done. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about on a Windows computer:

Open the C: drive on your computer. Go on, I’ll wait….

…Ok, if you’re like the vast majority of people you just did the following:

  • Click the Start Menu
  • Click the ‘My Computer’ icon
  • Double click the ‘C:’ icon

A more efficient way to do that is this:

  • Press: “Win + R” (that’s the Windows key and the “r” key at the same time)
  • Type: “c:” (without the quotes) {ENTER}

It’s not much of a difference (maybe a couple of seconds), but I can do it the second way faster than anyone I’ve ever seen using the first way (and I can’t touch type).

Finally we come to Network Documentation. This is probably the one thing that most SysAdmins consistently don’t do. It’s a tedious task, and boring to boot. So what? You’ll be glad you have it when you need it. Good network documentation is absolutely priceless when it’s needed (like when all the servers are stolen, and you have to rebuild your network as fast as possible to get the business running).

LAOAE is not about cutting corners. It is all about efficiency. There are several benefits to following this principle beyond saving time. One of the biggest benefits is consistency.

Consider this:
One of the most common tasks that an administrator will do is creating new user accounts. If you create a script to do this for you, you will never forget to add a user to a group, or forget to assign a logon script to that user. Every account created using that script will be created exactly the same way. A side benefit to this is that any permissions that the user has will always be consistent, leading to tighter security.

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2 Responses to The LAOAE Principle

  1. Jeremy Gainsford says:

    On the topic of network documentation, and also LAOAE spiceworks. A thousand times spiceworks. Fully automated so so many of those tedious repetitive jobs.

    Also the one item missing from your list of LAOAE principles is /monitor/ your network. Problems are almost always easier to fix the earlier you catch them. (Yes spiceworks does a lot of this as well!)

  2. Just Joe says:

    Hi Jeremy,

    Ah yes Spiceworks. I am a user (have been since v2.1). I have it deployed in my production environment. Also, yeah monitoring is kind of it’s own topic. There are lots of products that do some things good, or great, but not so good for others. Spiceworks it good for minimal monitoring, but just won’t do some of the more elaborate monitoring tasks (or at least I haven’t been able to get it to yet). However if you don’t have monitoring set up, spiceworks is a GREAT place to start. Hmm, maybe I should do a post on Spiceworks…

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