If there was one area in IT that I tend to be fanatical about (some would say fanatical isn’t a strong enough word), I would have to say its naming conventions. For me, learning about naming conventions in school and then seeing it put into practice in my first real gig, really enforced the concept that naming conventions are important. I actually consider myself pretty lucky in that respect because I don’t think a lot of people have had the fortune of studying about the concept, let alone working for a company that had a decent naming convention. After walking fresh into two different employers and seeing the mess they made, and also working through a few mergers, I know that good naming conventions don’t always exist.
This post is going to be refreshingly short, and instead really serve as an introduction to a new series I’m going to start. The series will be a culmination of naming conventions for different things in IT. I manage a ton of different things, so there’s always an opportunity for a new naming convention.
Why do you need a naming convention?
Here’s the thing, you don’t need a naming convention, but you should want them. Not caring about names of objects not only makes your life hell, but also everyone that either replaces you or works with you. The end goal of a naming convention is to put a little effort up front, so you can save a ton of time down the line.
How does a naming convention save you time?
Let me give a few examples:
- Once you have an established naming convention for an object, naming the next related object usually requires little thought.
- It keeps you and your peers organized.
- It provides consistency, and consistency leads to intuition, and intuition basically means second nature. If something is second nature, you’re not really thinking about it, and thus saving time.
- Getting a little more technical, naming conventions allow you to search and filter predictably.
- Being able to do this, means you can now effectively use scripts with deterministic targets.
- Writing reports is easier
- Identification of what something is becomes easier
- When done right, they’re forward thinking so they can be easily updated to reflect new changes.
When naming conventions don’t make sense?
Almost never, I don’t care if you have one AD group for managing a single server. Now you might not need a super complex naming convention in that case, but you should still have something predictable.
That being said, Tags are slowly but surely becoming the new way to identify objects. It makes a lot of sense, and to some degree it does invalidate the need to have monolithic naming convention. Beyond that, even the best naming conventions will at times run into scaling issues. Tags are infinitely more flexible and I’m looking forward to their eventual ubiquity in every aspect of technology. Even with this, you should still keep in mind that tags are just as easily susceptible to bad naming conventions. Your tag names and categories should have well thought out standards to ensure consistency as well.
Naming conventions to me are right up there with regular maintenance, patching and other important but boring aspect of IT. You need a plan, and you need to stick to it. Don’t be one of those lazy IT people that can’t think further into the future than now. Saying you “don’t have time” is a load of bytes, there is ALWAYS time for a naming convention.
This post is also where I plan to host the table of contents for all naming conventions posts. If you think you missed a post, or can’t find it, track back here to look for it. I plan to include a link to this post in the end of every naming convention post.