The myth of best practices for networking

Best Practices aren't the best teacher

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Best practices face a challenge of acceptance when applied to any task or job function. In networking it’s clearly difficult to declare anything a BEST practice because there are always so many variables. Questions about what is best often lead to an answer of “it depends.”

A recent thread on Reddit/Networking ran a vicious 24 hour rant after some well meaning poster asked for a “book/course/etc that outlines /lists what should new network designs/infrastructure should be?”

Ouch. Cue the joke posts about buzzwords and BPAAS (Best Practices as a Service), and Dilbert-world references about “best practices” being how pointy-haired bosses worldwide define a network project scope. These are the same bosses that push back when a best practice network design is too complicated or too expensive.

Eventually the discussion turned professorial as the community tried to counsel the original poster that it’s all about designing to requirements for usage expectations (number of users, type of connections, security concerns…) and maintenance.

There’s also a certain beauty to a simple design. I’ve seen networks designed by CCIEs that work like trash because it is over engineered and too complex for lower level administrators to maintain.
– mryauch

Towards the end of the discussion, the value of best practices was called into question. If all one does is read a list of best practices, what’s lost is how those ideas became considered the best — it’s the idea that experience is the best teacher.

You need to understand the reasons as to why certain technologies are considered bad practice and if you don’t understand those reasons, you shouldn’t be in a position to make decisions based around those technologies.

So what are the lessons learned here? In networking, as in any complicated job where experience plays a key role, you’ll need a thick skin when looking for simple answers from smart people to complicated questions. You will be harassed, but eventually those with experience will return to the role of teacher. The only real best practice is that experience is the best teacher.




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