Do you have a plan B?

As I approach my holiday period I start to think about the risks associated with holidays. After being in the IT industry for almost 20 years I have seen all sorts of things go wrong and I know that post-holidays is always traumatic on the help desk.

Stuff just seems to go wrong over holiday periods. Still every year there are things we never expected.

One of the observations is that there are more adds, moves and changes for our help desk to perform as staff fail to return from holidays for one reason or another. They decide to relocate or find a new job that kicks in post-holidays. What if it is your IT manager who finds a new job? Are you ready for that?

In the SME marketplace we see a lot of very poorly documented, internally managed IT systems, where they are well enough run to keep the lights on most of the time. Yet the tactical employee who is great at problem-solving and is there when you need them is not well known for documenting the environment.

Thus we find businesses with IT systems that have grown organically over time with a mix of technologies strung together, where the IT guy has it all under control, run into problems when a holiday disaster strikes. It could be that the plumbing lets go or the roof leaks, a bushfire or just a super hot day when the power fails or the air-conditioning misfires.

What is your plan B for any of these unpleasant events?

In the SME world we constantly exchange money for risk reduction or reduce spending and increase risk to protect cashflow. With the economy currently as tight as a drum, risk has been wound up to some of the highest levels I have ever observed. I have no doubt that this holiday season will see some catastrophic IT situations. I hope they do not happen to you.

Some precautions to take include:

  • Create an online backup solution for your data or as a minimum take an extra complete system backup off site before you go and store it carefully.
  • Have your servers externally monitored to ensure they remain healthy.
  • Ensure your servers are in a physically secure space within your office so they cannot be tampered with by staff or contractors.
  • Have your IT staff provide you with updated systems diagrams and key password lists to store off site. Don’t set up a situation where your system’s back-up and the passwords to them can be stolen in one swoop.
  • Get your air-conditioning serviced and timers set appropriately.
  • Ensure your staff know who to call if there is an outage during the period.
  • Check your insurance documents for cover and currency.
  • Check your smoke detectors and fire protection systems.
  • Check your power systems such as UPSs and generators.
  • Plan to shut down your office computers over the holiday period.

The last point is often overlooked but computers running in an empty office will increase the load on power consumption when we all run our home cooling systems and create peak loads for the power grid. They also create extra heat in the office, which should have the cooling shut down. This can lead to overheated PCs and more unnecessary problems.

Of course if you are driving anywhere these holidays check your tires, radiator, oil and battery before you go too. Stay safe on the roads and have a great holiday. If you have been in a small or medium business this year you know you deserve a good break. All the best to you for 2013.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.

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