Server Naming Conventions
and Best Practices

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Server Naming ConventionsIf you were to ask any member of your organization’s IT team about server naming conventions, you will be told that the experience is never a pleasant one. After all, members of this team would only be more interested in solving hardcore IT problems. Nevertheless, all servers need a name and somebody must step into the limelight to do this unattractive yet critical task.

Below are a few tips on server naming conventions and best practices to guide you.

The difficulty of the Task

How would you like to be given the task of naming servers? It may appear a simple task but that can change within a second. In fact, it’s much easier and faster to deploy a server than it is to assign it a name. The difficulty is in the fact that most system admins are in charge of a ton of servers. Ones creativity in assigning names – to anything – can only go so far! Nevertheless, the admins have to assume this role and perform the naming ceremony.

Use of the Server

It’s important for the name of the server to include its purpose. What is the server for? What is the server’s main task within your organization? Define its purpose clearly. Thereafter, make sure that the first part of the server’s name features its purpose. In fact, you can just allude to the purpose in this part of the name. Therefore, define the purpose so that it gives you a clear guideline on what to do regarding the naming convention.

Name your Servers Thematically

Themes are a great way of naming servers. Here, you have a free reign. You can choose whatever theme you consider easy to remember. Themes offer a bit more entertainment thus ensuring that your task of naming servers, as the system admin, doesn’t get boring or monotonous. However, it’s important to recognize the fact that themes, such as Greek gods and goddesses, work well when dealing with a small number of servers.

Naming Based on Numbers

Arguably, the best and most diverse way of naming servers is by using numbers. You can never exhaust all the numbers on Planet Earth! Numbers run to infinity. What is more, you reduce (or eliminate) your likelihood of repeating numbers, which can be a huge mistake in naming servers. Moreover, you can mix the numbers up to come up with different combinations. With this system, you can name up to the umpteenth server with little room for confusion.

Selecting a Naming Criteria

Before settling down to start assigning a name to each of your servers, it would be great for you to start by coming up with a criteria. The criteria acts as a guideline or a roadmap. It points you towards the right direction. Once you hack the criteria, you will never have any difficulty naming your servers. You could use the same criteria even when the organization decides to change its servers. Generally, the naming criteria should feature the following:

  • The server’s location
  • The server’s service level
  • The server’s role
  • Sequential number

Let’s explain the criteria further. For starters, naming based on location works well when you limit yourself to 3-digit abbreviations. Two, in talking about the service level, examples you can use here include prod, qa, think dev, and so on. Three, the server’s role is usually explained by words such as database, mq, web, and nh-pweb among others. Lastly, sequential numbers, which are critical for multiple servers, have to be a maximum of 2-3 digits.

  • Essentially, what we’re talking about here would be:
  • Country Code
  • Location Code
  • Unique Site Code
  • Device Role
  • Service Level
  • Sequential ID

Based on the above criteria, a typical server name would be “USNDFDBR003”.

Choose a Scalable System

The scalability of the naming system you choose is worth looking at. A scalable system is the perfect solution for large organizations. Your organization or business may be small today but that doesn’t mean it will never grow. Within a few months or years, it could increase in size. Is your current server naming convention cognizant of this fact? If not, you may want to examine the scalability of the naming system to ensure it will serve your organization over the years.

Observe the Length of the Name

Lastly, it’s important to maintain the names within a specific number of characters. In this regard, you would need to limit the name to roughly 15 characters. Anything longer than that could prove problematic to you. However, you will encounter server names that are longer than this. In such cases, the servers are those whose owners will probably never use them in Windows. Microsoft is notorious for truncating names for the sake of backward compatibility.

In summary, you need to recognize the need for hyphens, location variables, application and environment in server naming conventions and best practices. In addition to those ones, you can never proceed if you fail to take time to determine if the servers question are clustered or merely a standalone. With these basics in mind, you will not have sleepless nights trying to name your servers. In fact, the whole experience would be more enjoyable.

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