/ BLOG / Best laid plans gang aft agley

No matter how much you prepare, no matter how much work you put in beforehand, no matter what you do you cannot always have everything covered. This weekend myself, Dave and Chris were on-site performing an upgrade for a customer (several server upgrades, some new hardware, some switching of roles, upgrade to Exchange 2007 from Exchange 2003, replication of Exchange using SCR, file replication using DFS, implementation of a load balanced terminal server cluster, etc.). It was quite significant to say the least. Luckily we had done a lot of prep work beforehand so that we didn’t have to do as much; Everything from new OU structure to new group policies for software deployment, to the virtual servers already being built and ready to be added to the domain.

Sadly several things bit us in the arse; Several GPO settings aren’t accessible from a 2008 server that were available on a 2003 server (I’m specifically thinking the 2003 R2 Printer Deployment - no matter what we did existing settings wouldn’t actually show up), an older server we wanted to use as the virtual server host was playing up when we moved the virtual servers to it, which resulted in a complete change of plan, the virtual domain controller idea was binned at the main office end, and the idea of using a small virtualised 2008 server for the print server wasn’t 100% successful thanks to an older Toshiba Studio 311C that we had forgotten about, and some barcode printers. The ISA 2004 to 2006 upgrade went like a dream, however (don’t ask).

Despite this when users came in this morning we had few problems - some issues with some of the accountancy software, some issues with printers not being set as the default (which their invoice/despatch note formatting software uses), and weirdly some users picking up old polcies that just wouldn’t die until the the profile was binned (thank you file and settings transfer, you did save me some time there). When you consider that there was almost no reasonable chance of going back to how things were originally in a reasonable time-frame, and that that the margin for error was obviously so small, it’s impressive just how well things went despite the changes in the original plan.

It also goes to show that even if you have to bin several days of preparation and planning that still pays off regardless. Constant testing with users through out at each suitable stage is key, no matter how much of a pain in the arse it is. Our plans for smaller customers tend to be a bit thin on the ground, but this is usually because it’s the same old routine over and over again. Whilst this means we know what we’re doing it does mean that we could get a bit complacent; having a new, more interesting, larger project like this certainly reminded me a lot about the importance of a good plan, good prep work, and being paranoid (to a certain extent).