Hardware optimize

10 small IT projects you can do during holiday slow times


During the short week before the New Year's holiday, you may get a chance to tackle some tasks that you normally wouldn't have time for. Most organizations have a slower week if the office is open. Instead of having light days, you can slip in some little projects that have been on the back burner for maybe too long. Here are some possible ways to make good use of the slower days in the office.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Evaluate some additional virtualization platforms

Are you totally satisfied with your current virtualization environment? Many players are coming onto the virtualization scene that will be adding compelling management interfaces and functionality. It's easy to become too entrenched in a particular direction, so now might be the time to check into some of the new virtualization platforms and management options.

#2: Test your failover and disaster recovery mechanisms

DR mechanisms are critical, so why not take a moment to do a full or even a partial test of relevant procedures (or at least update the procedure, if it has changed). Include tests of any bare-metal recovery for backups as well as spare equipment for critical systems. This could be done to host live operations or to run in a simulation environment.

Testing these mechanisms will give you two added benefits: You'll be familiar with the process and you'll know that it works, should you need to use it in a non-drill situation.

#3: Inventory and remove your obsolete equipment

How many systems do you have that you know you will never turn on again for any real purpose? Take some time to assess the equipment you have that is not in use (and destroy drive data if necessary). Ask yourself whether you will ever really need to use it again and get the equipment to a recycling service. If you have a vendor that supports that type of equipment with other customers, you could also inquire whether a transaction can be made for the equipment (usually a credit to future purchases or a discount against a service agreement).

#4: Verify and update documentation

I can hear grumbles from coast to coast on this one, but this is a great time to get documentation updated (or to finally get around to it). Chances are you can make better documentation during a quiet time in the office -- all the while thinking, "How can I make this documentation so good, no one will ever ask me a question about it?"

#5: Ensure correct equipment labeling

As with documentation, most of us are guilty of being a bit lax in our labeling practices. How many times have you had to remember that a particular server was repurposed from an install perspective but not relabeled? If you have a device that gives you a particular error frequently, you might also want to make some self-help labels for that situation, which may save on help desk calls.

#6: Test and implement additional security measures

Take a look around for access that is over-permissioned and determine the correct required access. This can be viewed as a preventive maintenance opportunity to keep systems safe from accidental or malicious use. One example might be the use of service and task accounts instead of general rights assigned to users. In the Windows space, the Run As command can be a big help in delegating security and roles, while not having users log in as the particular user with full rights within their logon session.

#7: Benchmark

Take a little time to set up those performance monitor and baseline statistics that you can easily run on demand when the data is needed. By setting them up during the slow week, you'll get a chance to review the output. Be sure to run these tools during a more representative week as well for comparison. Benchmarks can be a big help when you're troubleshooting a performance issue, since a baseline that reflects the problem is really no help to the solution.

#8: Do some self-guided training

Self-guided training can be casual, peaceful, and most of all convenient. The slow times during the holidays can be a great opportunity to look at some new solutions from the training perspective, to catch up to a current version from prior version expertise, or to simply check for different approaches to common tasks.


Example

One good place to start is with the Microsoft Virtual Labs. These are useful resources available online for most Microsoft products. You can connect to a virtual system and perform tasks according to canned plans and exercises. This is a good way to get a first look at a solution you may be considering for implementation.


#9: Cross-train on the mundane

For tasks that are generally done by one person and that aren't too complex, consider training someone else on how to do it. This can really help in coverage situations. It also helps ensure that the process is done consistently and correctly, if you build a more formal procedure from the training.

#10: Perform your physical to virtual (P2V) migrations

The slow time of the last full week of the year may be a great time for you to schedule downtime so that you can perform any necessary migrations. Depending on how you approach your P2V process, you may need some downtime on your candidate migration machines. Just be sure not to get too excited and turn off the physical systems too early -- you may need to go back!

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

25 comments
Xwindowsjunkie
Xwindowsjunkie

A lot of those "slow time" projects are considerably more time consuming than they appear on the surface. Biggest reason is that if you're in a small IT department and you're the low-man on the totem pole, everybody else is gone on holiday! You are doing everybody else's work!

No User
No User

I don't know if it's just me but SLOW TIME can't say I have much experience with that what ever it is..... ;) If you stop to think about that intelligent people will agree. ;) The only slow time around holidays that I ever experienced would be delays from vendors or (others) which makes it even harder on me. Typically companies run with skeleton crews around the holidays. That means if your lucky "You" are the one on vacation otherwise even if business slows down you are working like a one arm wall paper hanger. Although all the ... ahem ... 10 points (TR sure likes the number 10 is it the new lucky 7?) are certainly good things if not necessities you need to plan for and then typically make them fit when you can. Summer is often a better time. That is when everyone (the company, vendors, customers) are on vacation and you have much less demand of course unless you are in the vacation business or related industries. It also has less impact on Operations if what ever you are doing causes issues. You can get away with things like rebooting a server which stops users in their tracks and requires them to reboot as well. What is with the number 10 anyway? Everything is 10 steps or 10 things to do. That is a little to convenient for reality. I think things are both added to and left out of to make it 10. It sounds like a sales/marketing pitch which ultimately focuses on the number 10 and not the subject which then gets lost in a vast sea of 10s. How about 3 things to do for the holidays that seems much more obtainable. Better yet how about things to do around the holidays which happen to number 3 or 10 or what ever the number is?

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

Those dust bunnies build up and up! I know that's what I'll be doing over the quite(r) times, cracking open the boxes and vacuuming up dust and blowing dust and wiping dust...I sooooooo look forward to christmas...

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

What [u]are[/u] you talking about? I'm looking forward to the POST-holiday slow times in the middle of January.

alec.wood
alec.wood

What are these "slow times" of which you speak? I wish!

ima
ima

Sweet, This post rox. I will definately try these out!!

mohadadel
mohadadel

That's a good tips really, I've tried some actully specially the Disaster recovery part. It do help to practice for the real situation.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

No fingers feel left out and no need to remove the shoes... ;) Edit: emoticon typo

BobLaubleau
BobLaubleau

Yeah I couldn't believe the assumption that this is a slow time. End of year is one of the busiest times for my business, most of my clients and I'd assumed most other business as well.

GoodOh
GoodOh

Christmas is summer here with everything gearing up for nearly total lunacy (literally this year with a full-moon on Christmas Eve). Mid-January the chaos dies down enough that we can breath again. Leave in the company during this time is by special approval only. Christmas is a heart-breaker. However, a great list for when things are quite.

burntfinger1
burntfinger1

After the holidays, a good night's sleep (maybe two) and then - maybe - some quiet time :)

ESchlangen
ESchlangen

It must be nice to have "slow" times at the end of the year! This is the absolute busiest time for me.

meme122
meme122

Don't you mean - #3: Inventory and remove your obsolete STAFF?

b4real
b4real

Most organizations have slower days before New Years and after Christmas. Realize - not every company has this phenomena.

GSG
GSG

I plan to do quite a bit of general maintenance that my users sqwauk about. We're healthcare, so taking a system down can really cause issues. During the week between Christmas and New Year's we'll have a much lighter patient load, so it's a great time to do that maintenance. Other than that, some long put off chores, and tweaking of some existing programming will be perfect during the quieter times.

ellsanto
ellsanto

Awesome post. Great info. Too bad I will be on vacation that week...

No User
No User

That was great!!!! You ask a question you get an answer. I'll bet nobody can come up with a better answer either.

rhonda.russ
rhonda.russ

Yeah, we're slow PROJECT-wise at EOY, usually, but operations never slows down. 24x7, baybee!

Server Queen
Server Queen

I'll never forget the "all hands" staff meeting before the holidays one year, when they made us sit at tables with people not in our department, and go around talking about our "special plans" for the holidays. Everyone else is talking about some trip to see family, go to the Nutcracker, something, and I'm sitting there, growling, "I'll be here, upgrading servers, just like every other holiday." Kind of killed the conversation for a minute or two, but do people think magical elves do the systems maintenance?

b4real
b4real

This is the perfect time for it! Go for it.

b4real
b4real

This is the perfect time for it! Go for it.

Tang Support
Tang Support

I would like to apply for a job with a company where I can have some slow times. Where does one get such times. I am flat out all the time. During the holiday season I am usually too busy catching up on stuff.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

All my store are closed on Christmas... B-)

Guitarzan8
Guitarzan8

as an app developer in RDIS (research, design, implementation and support) service for the company I work for, there are 2 modes that I find myself in: 1) Work as fast/efficient/long as you can on one of my Priority 1 projects, or 2) drop those and work faster/harder/longer on this new idea. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I would want to work at a SlowTime-able company. I'm too anxious, I'd worry about job security. In a team of 13 of a retail company of 2300, I have a problem reading about slow times. I appreciate the article though. It's nice to know that "normal" IT jobs still exist.