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Is Playing It Safe and Asking for Permission the NEW Best Practice?

Updated on March 5, 2013

Safe Practices vs Best Practices

Should You Be BOLD and Ask for Forgiveness?

I know 50 IT Professionals right now who would say Best Practices are always better than Safe Practices. Maybe the best practices code is part of our DNA.

...What do you think? Is safe always the better thing to do?

What Would You Do?

Here are a few examples that could even be turned in VMware Interview Questions.

First Question:

You have just completed a health check and found 20 VMs that were powered off. These systems were just taking up space on the datastore.

You recall these servers were provisioned for a project that finished a few months ago.

They are left over clones of business critical servers that were P2V’d.

The PM wanted extras made to ensure there was enough capacity for the project.

Now they are just taking up valuable infrastructure resources.


  1. Follow up with the PM and see if the VMs can be deleted. Then delete them.
  2. Don’t follow up with the PM and make backups and then delete them.
  3. Follow up with the PM and let him or her know the VMs are still there. Then don’t do anything.
  4. Don’t do anything.
  5. Just delete them and don’t say anything.


If you chose answer (1), you’d rather be safe than sorry because this would be the “Best” thing to do, and still flows with some best practices.

Choice (2) is what most virtualization staff would consider best practices.They would rather ask for forgiveness than permission to do the “Right” thing.

Choice (3) put’s the ball in the PM’s hands but is not what most IT managers want. They want their team to take ownership. This is Safe, but neither Right nor Best.

Options (4) or (5) are opposite extremes and neither would probably be good.

Second Question:

You have been asked by a project manager to build an environment that doesn't follow your standard configuration. This environment is being requested based on vendor requirements.

The PM doesn't want to wait and test to see if your standard environment will work. He requires you to just build the environment as requested. ASAP!


  1. Do what you are told.
  2. Do what you are told but continue testing in your lab.
  3. Argue with the PM and refuse to go outside your standards.
  4. Just deploy the servers in your standard environment and don’t say anything.
  5. Talk to your manager about what’s being asked and get her advice.


This question is not as easy to answer because standards are standards for a reason, and I would have to side with the virtualization staff on not just building what the vendor wants.

That said, the “Best” thing to do would be to escalate the disagreement to the manager, answer (5).

I don’t know many IT staff that would choose (1), but it would be “Safe.”

Answer (2) is also safe and would still satisfy following best practices to test.

Answers (3) and (4) are both risky yet I've seen them both happen. Neither would satisfy the PM’s request and both could get the virtualization staff in trouble.


As you can see, it’s not always an easy choice between safe practices and best practices. Given the choice, IT staff will always want to follow what they think are Best Practices.

The challenge will be when anyone wants to work around them or their standards.

And finally, something I've learned over time. Businesses want “Safe” over “Best” 80% of the time.

Read more hubs: Start a Career in Virtualization & Becoming a High Performance Team

Joe Sanchez has more than 15 years of hands-on experience managing computer and infrastructure technologies, projects and leading staff.

Read Joe's top blog post VMware for beginners or check out his eBook: VCP for Hire on Amazon.

Your Turn:

Safe practices vs best practices are daily dilemmas, what’s your take?


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