Wherever you go and whatever you do, it is a given that some set of rules will be in force. Rules matter because they define how we get on with other people and what is considered normal.

If you want to drive, you need to know the rules of the road, and if you want to be socially acceptable, you need to know the rules of behaviour for eating in public and attending parties. The list is endless, and we learn many rules simply by growing up in a culture.

You can see from those examples that while some rules are written down and clearly laid out — for example, rules for games, writing, flying aircraft and sailing boats — there are thousands of rules that are not codified.

These informal rules are learned from experience or because someone was kind enough to lay them out for you. These are rules of convention that keep us from throwing away a million years of evolution and resorting to hitting each other with rocks.

Which brings me to the rules of IT. There are a number you must observe if you plan to have a career in IT:

Rule No. 1: Do not annoy the guys with money. That means everyone above you with any influence on your budget or salary. They are all your best friends or, at worst, close acquaintances no matter how annoying and loathsome they may be.

Rule No. 2: Always back up first. No matter how simple the task, if you change something, and you haven’t got a backup in the bag, you are flirting with disaster. This rule is covered by Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it will. And without a backup, it will. Particularly changing router tables.

Rule No. 3: The leading edge isn’t. No matter what you are told by the press, the vendors, the resellers, the integrators or anybody, the leading edge should be nowhere near your shop unless you have insanely huge piles of money and can avoid taking responsibility for cosmic-level disasters.

Rule No. 4: Document every