Naming Confusion

When I first worked in a corporation that had many servers, I had to learn the encoding of our systems. We had SUIS01, SUIS02, NAIS01, NAOP01, etc. Each name designated a location and department, but no information as to what applications were running. That was a separate thing to learn, which thankfully didn’t change often as procuring and setting up a new system was a relatively rare event.

However I also ran into a few systems named “Dorothy” and “Wiz”. The other administrators griped constantly about the unprofessionalism of those names. I’m not sure I think SUIS01 is better or worse than Dorothy, but that’s a separate debate. In both cases, we had to memorize what applications were actually running on which systems. Since all of them were managed by IS, regardless of the department that owned them, we were responsible for understanding the purpose of the server.

I ran into a situation recently where a company had a server called SalesSQL, which was there production server. The development server was SalesSQL_Dev, which is fine until you see someone opening SSMS, thinking they’ve connected to the right server since they see “SalesSQL” in the connection dialog and starting to execute code. Granted, even a rookie should be able to notice the “_Dev” (or a similar “Dev_SalesSQL” name), but mistakes happen.

I wonder sometimes if naming systems too closely to similar systems in different environments is a good or bad idea. I especially get concerned if shortcuts are taken with database names like “Sales” and “Salesqa”. I think it can be easy to confuse those systems when you become stressed or are in a hurry and are glancing at a small drop down box.

Ultimately I’m not sure there’s a good method for naming systems that prevents confusion, and ensures people are working in the correct environment. I have tended to use suffixes in my career to denote development and test environments as I can more easily differentiate a dev environment, but I wonder if I shouldn’t be using prefixes instead. Having to retype the beginning of a name (or delete the “dev”) in the connection dialogs might force me to do extra work to connect to a production system. That little extra bit of effort might be just the thing to reduce the chance of performing development work on a live system.

Steve Jones

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