dealing with holidays

Sometimes I think that the worst part of being an IT Manager in a smaller company is the constant threat of your phone ringing and a major outage going on, which coincidentally, only ever seems to happen when you’re off work, out of the country or nowhere near a PC.

My netbook has been a constant companion of mine through my various travels over recent history, through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Peru – and some less exciting destinations too. I don’t think I’ve had one holiday whereby it hasn’t been used to fix something. Whilst I hope that’s no reflection of the IT solutions in place, I just think sod’s law kicks in the moment you enter the airport. Like the guy in the photo I’ve been sat by a pool in Ibiza fixing a broken WAN link and building a failover to ADSL – Dave Cameron certainly doesn’t have to do that when he’s in Ibiza.

So what steps can you take to get your kit ready before you leave to minimise the impact on your book reading, throwing some shapes at Pacha or kicking it back and chilling with a beer Lao by the Mekong…?

This is my top ten things to do as an IT Manager before you go on leave:

  1. Check the logs of every server, yes every server. Deal with anything you can that shouldn’t be there – you know what those are so stop making excuses, use if you need to. This will prevent anything inflaming that has been going on for a while that you’ve been too busy to pick up on.
  2. Check storage on every drive. I do a few things, DFS caching and deleted files can sometimes go mad so it’s good to check that’s happy as do SQL Server transaction files – they can be easily reduced with DCC Shrinkfile etc. If you can, run a defrag too.
  3. Check WAN connections, leased lines, firewalls, routers, VPN connections – check them all and verify everything is working as it should. Make sure firewalls are up-to-date. It is also imperative that your remote access policies and passwords are correct for both management and remote connections, again check them all – also create a consistent username and password you’re not afraid to give to a third party or colleague should the end of the world occur whilst you’re on the beach.
  4. Check remote access – for servers and other equipment you may need to remotely connect into – make sure your remote desktop policies allow the third party username and password can connect. Test everything is okay.
  5. Create a document – whether spredsheet or word document that has all your IP addresses, on ISP, telco contact details and links directly into remote management along with username and passwords. Also record anything else of use – phone numbers of IT providers, connection references, anything that could be of use, network diagrams are always good. This is your doomsday document. Now encrypt it and either store it on the cloud or something you’re fairly unlikely to lose like your phone, tablet or netbook. It’s okay to use dropbox if you’ve encrypted the file first!
  6. Nominate your ‘helping hands’ – if you’re the lone IT manager, then you need to choose a person in the company, one who is not an IT numpty who’s hobbies include spoon bending and one who doesn’t think they’re an IT wizard who fiddles and breaks everything – the sensible one who will check with you before doing anything really bad. You will have one, trust me. Now, take them through your systems, anything that can go wrong – don’t give them the passwords though, that’s only for doomsday!
  7. Set-up contingency machines and usernames. I don’t know why, but companies that I tend to work with are often very responsive when it comes to hiring people – must be the industries. So I always leave some generic usernames and a couple of old laptops ready for new starters to work on, or ready in the case of a machine failure.
  8. Call your buddy. Everyone has one, even us antisocial IT types. For a long trip, find another IT manager in another company or even an IT partner company that will be able help, share your doomsday passwords and documents in advance and go through the network with them. If the price is any more than a reciprocal agreement then I’d be worried that they’re not your buddy!
  9. Tell people. Okay, nobody really likes publicising that you’re off on holiday makes you sound well-off or something, however if you don’t tell people internally that you’re not around then you’ll get calls. Also tell them who your helping hands are and they should go through them.
  10. Decide what you’re going to do with the mobile phone. I always used to give managers and the helping hands, my personal number and only check the works one a couple of times a day – it stopped me getting bothered too much. You could keep it on you, but the last thing you want whilst visiting the Vatican is a sales call – unless it’s from us of course.

Whilst I can’t guarantee you’ll not get a gremlin, a cold call or any other act of Sod – you’ve got all the tools and techniques to deal with any issue that may arise quickly. It reduces the scowling of your other half quickly too, and let’s face it the only reason we agreed to a holiday in the first place is because of them…