Making sure the festive period doesn’t go with a bang

Robert May, Managing Director at IT solutions consultancy ramsac, says with the Christmas period nearly upon us, many businesses are thinking about the inevitable slow-down of operations for the year-end.

“Undoubtedly we all want to celebrate the end of the year and get into the festive spirit, but it is important to remember that even though many people are on holiday, the IT needs of businesses still continue and need to be properly maintained during this time, especially if you don’t want to come back to another headache long after the new year celebrations are over.

Requirements vary according to the nature of the business, but for many organisations there will be a much smaller number of staff present for the holiday period. Despite the apparent decrease in IT needs, it’s imperative to make sure that there are experts on hand should there be any issues. Potentially a problem could go unnoticed for 10 days or more, which could have serious ramifications, come the new year. This is magnified for companies that close down for Christmas altogether. It may seem a bit ‘bah-humbug’, but the IT Manager (or outsourced IT team) need to be able to check vital systems and if need be, act on problems during this festive time. Remote access is ideal as it can save the IT team having to be on-site for the duration, whilst alerting them of any problems and giving them the tools to sort out any issues that arise.

Naturally the Christmas period is as prone to disasters as the rest of the year. It’s a good idea to make sure the emergency backup plan is up to date. Should the worst happen, such as a fire or natural disaster, it is essential to ensure all the vital systems can continue and that alternative arrangements are in place to keep operations running. It’s also worthwhile making sure that key data is safely and regularly backed up (preferably off-site for greater security) as it is the one resource that is irreplaceable.

Equally important, especially if the office is being closed for the duration is to make sure that the security (both of IT systems and of the physical building that hosts and protects it) is maintained. With the Festive Spirit in full swing staff may be less vigilant than normal, but it is worth making sure that the office is secure when everyone leaves, that all unused hardware is turned off and that mobile devices are either taken home by the team or secured on-site in a suitable place. Surveys show that 25% of mobile devices carry mission-critical information (source: BPMF) but that 30% of mobile devices are lost each year (source: SANS Institute) – which presents a serious risk to data security. The chances of losing or having a mobile device stolen undoubted grow when people are preoccupied by the change of routine and seasonal activities.

IT is an essential facility for most businesses, and as such is particularly conspicuous by its absence. It’s easy to be blasé about downtime over a quiet period such as Christmas, but whilst there may, on the whole, be less demand on the IT department, there is also a greater risk that small inconveniences could be overlooked and escalate into something a lot more serious.”