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Because even IT admins need a break – 5 tips to protect your “me” time

Although the holiday season is supposed to be a period of feasting and making merry, peace and joy, for the IT administrator there is always a nagging doubt that something is going to go wrong, spoiling their Christmas or end-of-year break. Something that means you have to rush into the office, or leaves a big mess to be fixed upon your return in January.

Here are five tasks you need to complete to ensure the lights stay on (and you stay home):

 1. Check event logs

Your server event logs are specifically designed to capture information about low-level errors and problems. Often the event log reveals issues before you or your end users realise anything is wrong.

As such, it makes good sense to work through the event logs looking for errors and anomalies that are indicative of a more major issue on the horizon. Filter the logs, paying close attention to red warnings – particularly those that are appearing regularly. You can find more information about specific event log error codes here.

Obviously if and when you do find something amiss, have your team investigate and resolve the issue before you shut down for Christmas.

 2. Apply software patches

Keeping your operating systems and software patched and up-to-date is one of the most effective ways to avoid unexpected outages – particularly those caused by hackers and cybercriminals exploiting security flaws. In the run up to Christmas, make sure you test and deploy all available updates across your entire network. Check the Microsoft Update webpage regularly in the pre-Christmas period to make sure you don’t miss the release of any new patches.

By ensuring that all of your assets are up to date, you reduce the risk of data loss or other problems as you enjoy your well-earned festive break.

3. Double-check firewall and antivirus settings

As well as patching systems to prevent exploitation, you also need to harden security to keep cybercriminals out of the network. Double check your firewall firmware is up-to-date and that settings have been properly configured to lock down network access and prevent data loss. You could consider disabling remote access for any users who are not scheduled to be working over the holidays, thereby reducing the avenues of attack yet further.

You should also check your antivirus software is fully up-to-date on both servers and workstations. Ensure that auto-updates and unattended deployments are configured to keep protection current on all systems that are left powered on over the holidays.

4. Shut down unused systems

It sounds simple, but powered-down PCs are unable to cause you outage-related issues or data loss. They are also impervious to attack by criminals, preventing them from becoming launch points for data theft or other unwanted activities.

As an added bonus, you will be able to help your business reduce its energy bill for the duration of the holidays.

5. Verify backups

You should already be regularly reviewing your backup regime to ensure that data is being saved successfully during every cycle. However, before leaving the office for a few days or weeks, you should double check:

  • That backup jobs are configured correctly and no data is being omitted.
  • Media is in good health and not showing any errors in the backup job log. Replace anything that is reaching end of life or showing errors.
  • Where applicable, ensure that tape drives have been cleaned according to manufacturer guidelines before leaving for your holidays.

For best results, test both backup and restore operations to confirm that all is as it should be and that there are not any data loss issues already present.

Obviously there is always the chance of a completely unforeseen issue cropping up between Christmas and New Year, but these five pointers will help minimise those risks. If you can get these preparatory tasks out of the way in time, you will be free to go and enjoy the holidays just like everyone else. Have a good one!