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Our intranet is running an in house developed ASP.NET application. In our team I am the only technical person so this means my role is everything from development to server administration to "the printer isn't working".

In a couple of months once a major rewrite is finished I am taking a couple of weeks holiday and we need to get someone in to cover for this period. I am at a loss of what skill set we should be looking for to cover over a short term.

Being a major upgrade there will of course be bugs, though it will be up long enough to deal with any that are particularly worrisome and/or common. From this point of view I'm thinking that given the short timescales getting in a developer would be the wrong choice (small bugs can wait, big bad bugs that area left would likely be the sort that experience and time to learn the system would be needed to fix, I am of course insisting on a laptop and VPN to deal with this if it happens).

Looking this way I'm thinking that someone with server administration skills would be the preferable route (able to keep the servers up if they go down, restart services if needed etc), though it still leaves a lot of leeway in the specifics to look for. Also despite the above opinion on getting a developer, being able to look through the code to pinpoint where a bug is interacting with the servers could of course be useful.

Half the problem is of course that there's lots to cover with nothing in particular standing out as the big area to focus on. Here's a breakdown of what we have, any advice or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  • In house ASP MVC2 application, includes some custom JavaScript on the front end
  • Legacy ASP Classic (some areas of the intranet that aren't yet upgraded, running in tandem with the MVC application)
  • Mediawiki install running on Apache and MySql on Windows
  • Servers are running Windows 2008 and SQL2008
  • Powershell backup scripts
  • Simple C# reverse proxy (the intranet uses Windows authentication, we allow an external organisation access to the intranet so this proxy acts as their gateway and authenticates as a known generic user)
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Given the setup, I'd strongly suggest you not to book anything for those holidays that cannot be cancelled with a full refund. –  ZJR Mar 3 '12 at 0:47

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I think your instincts are correct - find someone to handle server admin and the occasional user-level tech support, and leave the programming changes until you get back.

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I agree - it's only two weeks, there's not much a developer could do, but a sys admin will be invaluable. They may even be able to leave you some scripts/automation tools. –  ChrisF Nov 16 '10 at 19:06

One thing would be proven ability to quickly pick things up. I'm sure everyone would say they're a quick learner, so in this case having the candidate describe a specific situation where they had very little time to learn a new system would be good.

Combine that with looking for applicants who match most of your technical requirements and you should be able to narrow things down some.

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Here are a few areas that I'd consider trying to nail down some details about:

  • What kind of ramp-up time do you want for this position? Is this someone showing up the day before you leave, the week, or the month? While you do have a few technologies, there are likely to be some applicants where I'd almost want to give them a task that would happen while you are away,e.g. restarting a server or assisting with some support request possibly. There is the side of how soon is your vacation, but also when would you want this person to start? If someone was looking for a job now and you didn't want them to start for the next 6 weeks, this could be an issue.

  • What kinds of administrative tasks would this person have? For example, is there a daily backup of a database? Are there server configuration changes to implement? Is this temporary position just to cover cases where the server has to be restarted or could there be more complicated work to do like trying to optimize the performance of a server?

  • When you get back, what should this person's role be? Is it as simple that they were brought in on a contract basis and only required for the short time of the contract or is there more that could be done here?

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