IT over the holidays

As Christmas fast approaches, it is easy to focus on doing your day-to-day job, counting down the days until the holiday starts, and not consider what happens to the IT over the holidays.

If you work with in a smaller organisation, maybe you are already resided to the fact you will be on call over the festive period or will have to remote in to resolve whatever issues come up as part of your checks. If you work in a larger organisation, maybe it’s someone else’s responsibility and you’ll just clock out on your last day, leaving work at the office, in the hands of the skeleton staff.

In either scenario (or anywhere in between) it is worth spending some time a few weeks before the holiday to prepare the environment to be unattended, or otherwise not managed by your star team members, for a period of time. Before I had a child I normally worked over the major holidays, saving my holiday allocation for other times of the year. Most people expect to have the major holidays off though.

Whilst the below is not exhaustive, consider the following.

Some things to consider on the technical side:

  • Ensure your backups are scheduled and error free (you check them regularly anyway, right?), and you have sufficient capacity (space for cloud or disk storage or spare tapes) to cover the period.
  • Have key metrics or events logged and configured to send notifications or run remediation scripts (you are automating, right?).
  • Disable administrative accounts are not needed when people are not in the office. Obviously, don’t lock yourself out of the network, but neither do you need to leave admin accounts used by contractors who won’t be working active.

Some things to consider on the management side:

  • Apply a change freeze, starting at least a week before you break and end at least a week after you come back, where changes to the infrastructure are postponed until after the holidays to reduce the chance a change causes unexpected behaviour or failures. Obviously there are exceptions, but these should be carefully considered and of a critical nature. Make sure you get agreement from management to enact this and get it properly communicated to the business so they know why there may be a delay.
  • Some people view the holidays as the ideal time to apply major changes on systems that otherwise always need to be available. Ensure this is covered under change control (see previous bullet), is fully planned, everything you need is available, relevant support agreements are in place and you are able to rollback the work if needed (backups or replacement hardware).
  • If you offer IT support over the holidays, is this agreed (with you as well as your boss) and has it been communicated to the business to ensure expectations have been set? If you are in a team, establish a rota so the burden isn’t on a single person.
  • Is your Disaster Recovery (DR) and Business Continuity Process (BCP) up to date, distributed amongst the business and emergency contact details available to all involved?
  • Should the worst happen and you need to head into the office, do you have access? Key’s, codes, authorisation (are you on the list if you need to get past the security guard), security passes.

Hopefully this gives you ideas of things to consider that often trip up IT departments over the holidays, leaving the business exposed or causing major disruption, if only to your well deserved time away.

We hope you enjoy a happy Christmas and New Year.

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