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Modern Workplace

Naming conventions

Ah the precious naming convention. Something that has historically been particularly important, and still is today but in a bit of a different way.

Lately this topic has come up in various situations, and I had started a post about this a few years ago talking about how we did it back then and the reasoning behind how we did back at my former employer. But then life happens and I’m now working in a completely different role.

How did we get here?

So, this whole topic has somewhat of a history. Naming conventions, or naming standards, have always been a hot topic with things almost viewed as you can do it in a correct way or a wrong way (this is extremely exaggerated). Naming things can be an art, where you compress things as much as possible to have as much information as possible in the name of things.

Let’s take computer names for an example, everyone has a standard for this and its roughly the same idea everywhere:

  • You want to identify in which country the device is [SE]
  • You want to identify which city, office, or business unit [STO]
  • Based on historical decisions, you want to separate laptop and desktop [L] / [D]
  • You throw in the word PC to identify it as a PC and not something else [PC]
  • You have a number sequence at the end [1234]

This would give you a computer name such as SESTOLPC1234.

Does this sound familiar? Many choices you made several years back are still present in the name since you haven’t managed to get rid of it due to different internal discussions never leading to a decision.

Same would go for your security groups and distribution groups, you have prefixes based on different objects. Same goes for your Intune profile names.

Does names matter?

So, the big question, does this really matter anymore? I would argue that it does, but not in the same way as it used to do.

At the end of the day, this is only a name. Having a diverse IT environment as workplaces are today, we can only control the naming of a subset of all devices (mainly Windows PCs). This means that your iPhones, iPads, Androids, and Macs won’t follow your naming convention since they simply do not support this fully.

The name is to help identify the device, but if you look at your inventory in e.g. Microsoft Intune, I would guess that most of your iPhones are called “iPhone” leaving your clueless anyway. All devices (except for shared) are connected to a user, so you are usually better of finding devices based on the user. The device also has a lot of meta data which is searchable, such as serial number, which is an effective way of finding the device since the device name is something that potentially changes during the lifecycle of a device.

Key take away

The naming of devices is maybe not as important as it used to be, but there might be scenarios where its useful. The most important thing to remember is that there are no right or wrongs, it’s all based upon the wants and needs of your organization and what makes sense to you. All the different device platforms in the office space supports this in different ways as well, so what is possible on your Windows device might not be possible on your Android devices.

What I usually do for Windows is to use a three-letter pre-fix and the serial number as a name. This pre-fix changes depending on the type of device. One setup could be like this:

  • OPC-1234567 where OPC stands for Office PC
  • SPC-1234567 where SPC stands for Shared PC
  • MTR-1234567 where MTR stands for Microsoft Teams Room
  • KIO-1234567 where KIO stands for Kiosk

Setting names like this is mostly to easily identify what flavour of a Windows device it is, but that would be even better to add as meta-data to the device or using e.g. scope-tags or device categories. There are many ways to add that information to the device, but using different pre-fixes are the simplest.

At the end of the day, device name is something that is more for convenience rather than functionality. Even if my computer is called “Olas computer” or “DESKTOP-Q2E3RE” it would be possible to add it to dynamic groups and find information about it.

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