On behalf of my colleague and friend Marie DiRuzza (Assistant Director of Desktop Services at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and V.P. of Programs for HDI New England) I am reaching out to all of you to ask for your input: what's the best way to write a system outage announcement?
Marie's group at WPI is responsible for letting everyone on campus know when a system or network will be unavailable. They use a format for these outage announcements that's dictated by, in Marie's words, "an ancient (and free) posting system," which you can take a look at in the thumbnail, at left. She's less than happy with the outage announcement format and is looking for other options. If you've developed a method for writing system outage announcements or if you receive helpful, easy-to-read announcements from the service desk at your company, please let me know or post a comment. Of course, if you want to share a terrible system outage announcement, you can do that too.
I don't know how to tell Marie this, but I think her outage announcements are, in fact, quite good. They give the bare facts of the outage, the reasons behind the outage, and the details of the outage. The two-column format works because the left column presents headings for those who like to scan:
- How long?
- Groups Affected
And the right column presents explanations for those who want to read. When appropriate, the announcements include a Frequently Asked Questions section, so those super-interested readers will get all the detail they need. Take a look at a recent announcement: "myWPI Planned Downtime – System Upgrade (3/12/10)" or, if you feel the need, scroll through eight years of archived announcements (!).
-- Leslie O'Flahavan