Five Christmas survival tips for the IT staff

With Christmas only a few days away, IT staff should by now be prepared to go through the holiday season on a short-staffed team and deal with ‘emergencies’ when away from the office.

An inevitable part of any holiday for system administrators involve a phone call from one of the rare employees who have to work through the festivities. The ‘emergency’ might be as simple as locating a lost file or folder, but sometimes it might concern a critical system. Either way, Christmas IT emergencies are not always easy to deal with from far away or on a reduced team.

Glen Gray, Product Marketing Manager, for SolarWinds gives five tips to help IT staff survive the Christmas holidays with their spirit intact:

1.Expect the unexpected. As much as you can, try and make good guesses as to what systems might fail over the Christmas holidays by polling the office ahead of time. Send an email to the entire office – or at least the managers – of each department and find out who will likely be working over the period and when. This will give a pretty good indication of what systems will be in use and what to expect in case of an outage.

2.Set expectations. Set the other employees’ expectations before everyone goes off on holiday. Make sure the manager of each department is informed about who to call in case of emergencies, under what circumstances they can call for assistance, and what kind of response time to expect. Managing expectations is a key component in customer satisfaction at any time, but can be especially important during the Christmas season.

3.Pick the right person and the right tools. Don’t burn out the one person on the IT staff that the team can’t live without. Balance out the load according to skillset over the holidays, regardless of who is on call. If a request comes in about a crashed Linux server, it makes little sense to let the Windows desktop support person struggle for hours trying to fix it. Get the right person working on each task to minimise downtime and maintain customer satisfaction. Employing good help desk software can help accomplish this by automating distribution of help desk tickets. When choosing help desk software for your organisation, make sure to look for one that allows you to set up rules to forward tickets to the right resources based on the type of work expected.

4.Do it remotely. If there is a good chance employees will be in the office over Christmas and New Year’s, there is a good chance the office IT pros will need remote access to computers in the office. Comprehensive remote support tools give sysadmins the ability to initiate remote control sessions from anywhere. In an office with a mixed-OS environment, it is critically important that remote support tools provide the ability to connect to multiple operating systems.

Another important tool is the ability to perform remote administration tasks. Sometimes a remote control session is not available, but if a sysadmin can restart a service or kill a runaway process remotely, a crisis might be averted.

5.Do it from a smartphone. When an emergency hits, you might not be close to a laptop with a broadband connection.

However, performing sysadmin tasks from smartphones is becoming easier with mobile administration applications. You should be able to perform most of your daily tasks from any of the most widely used mobile platforms. Imagine being able to control servers and desktops remotely, and monitor critical business systems from a smartphone at 3G or 4G speeds? If a wired connection to the Internet is not in the cards this Christmas season, a robust mobile administration application will help you keep the office running smoothly while traveling.

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