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Top tips to help IT managers get their networks holiday fit

Taking a break from the responsibility of ensuring the 24/7 availability and performance of mission-critical networks is rarely on the cards for IT managers. As a result, going on holiday can prove a stressful experience – especially if you have a small IT team or are solely responsibility for keeping networks up and running.

But minimising interruption to your own personal downtime is important. After all, you need to make the most of your hard-earned vacation time. That means taking steps to ensure precious holiday time isn’t spent endlessly checking work emails or managing emergency calls from colleagues.

The good news is that by tackling some basic housekeeping tasks in the run up to your vacation, you can ensure your networks are ‘holiday fit’ -- so that unwelcome work intrusions don’t take the shine off your holiday in the sun.

Tip 1: Get your backups in order

If you’re a fan of online file sharing services, make sure your backup strategy has fail-safe measures in place. The aim of the game is to make certain you can recover from user error, should someone accidentally delete a file.

Whether you go for a second cloud backup solution or a local storage option, the backup mantra always applies: the more copies of data you have, the safer it is. Make sure the backup solutions you opt for offer the ability to ‘go back in time’ and display the state of files at various past recovery points.

Tip 2: Map your infrastructure

Document your basic internal infrastructure and create a basic reference guide on how to address typical network issues. That means that when you’re not there, others will know what each server does and how to recover from common failures.

Make sure you include a directory of vendors – complete with phone and email contact details and any associated maintenance contract information.

There are lots of online tools that can help you prepare this documentation and make it available to others. Try a good Wiki software package, or Atlassian’s Confluence product.

Tip 3: Chill out

You need to be confident your server room or data centre’s dedicated cooling system will perform optimally throughout the summer months. Before heading off on holiday, make sure the air conditioning system has been recently serviced. It’s also a good idea to display contract maintenance information in a visible and prominent location – like next to the thermostat.

You may want to consider deploying a spot cooling device, just in case the air conditioning goes down for any reason.

Tip 4: Check SSL certifications

Make sure website SSL certifications are up-to-date and aren’t likely to expire when you’re on holiday. You may be using a good monitoring package that warns you well ahead of time – if not, take time to manually check certificates before departing for your vacation.

Tip 5: Create a ‘to do’ list for manual processes

Processes like cleaning up log files before a disk fills require human intervention. Ideally you should be scripting as many of these as possible, ensuring there are checks in place to prevent a run-away condition getting out of hand. Make sure you nominate someone to take care of any processes that aren’t scripted while you’re out of the office.

Tip 6: Briefing the team

While you’re away, non-essential tasks may come up. To make sure your relaxation time isn’t interrupted by calls asking you to oversee these, make sure everyone understands that you should only be contacted in the event of a genuine emergency – and what constitutes an emergency.

When it comes to turning on your out-of-office email message, it’s up to you whether you include your direct contact information. However, if you’ve got a trusted colleague who can handle queries, then you should refer to that person and let them make the decision about who to escalate issues to.

Tip 7: Lighten the alert load

You’ve probably set your network monitoring system to alert you to a whole host of things on a daily basis – bandwidth utilisation, ping latency, and more. But on vacation you probably only want to be notified of bigger issues, like a critical application failure.

Finally, being connected to alerts 24/7 means you can relax knowing that everything is running as it should be back at the office. So you can get on with the task at hand – relaxing.

Tip 8: Check your personal devices

Check your personal laptop and other devices to make sure the VPN connection works and you can log into the network should you need to do so. This is essential if you’ve made any changes to the VPN, firewall, or Active Directory setup in recent months.

Michael Hack, SVP of EMEA Operations at Ipswitch