Disaster Recovery

Network admin's vacation checklist

Even the lonely system administrator can take a vacation. With summer just around the corner, IT pro Rick Vanover has tips to cut the cord from the office, yet keep systems running well.

Summer is here -- well not quite officially -- but it is time to consider getting out of the office for a vacation! For the network administrator, this can be a challenging task. And if you are the only person of the IT shop, it can be a little daunting for your users. Here are a few tips I will share on how you can get away!

  1. Find your help.
  2. This can be a person in the office that has casual IT interest or someone whom you feel can step in to assist in a pinch. Get this person what they need, including access to systems. For the case of "if you need it" access, consider an envelope for each system and an administrator-level password in it. If the envelope is opened, then change the password or remove the additional account when you return. If elevated permissions can be added (such as to an Active Directory account) during the time-frame, that can easily be removed. This also may be a good idea to set up a Skype account for you and the temporary helper for quick questions should you be traveling internationally.

  3. Address what you know will be an issue.
  4. Chances are, there is something that regularly needs interaction. Whether this be changing the tape, a periodic reboot of a system, or moving a file through a system that gets hung up; it should be something you address. If you can, write up a procedure for each of these situations, especially the most common situations like restoring a file or resetting a system.

  5. Move schedules around.
  6. If there is something that is somewhat regular yet requires interaction above what you can comfortably hand off, maybe move the schedule so that it happens right before you leave or upon your return. In the backup tape example, maybe tweak the schedule so that a full backup happens right before you leave and incremental backups happen daily for 10 days instead of 7. Of course, make sure the overall level of protection is not affected!

  7. Upgrade the phone.
  8. If your organization has a commercial wireless account, you may be able to add additional features to your phone’s data plan to be fully connected during your absence without incurring fees on your personal account. This can also include international dialing.

  9. Clear the calendar.
  10. Don't just blindly decline meetings, but try to push them to occur before or after your absence. For regular meetings, get the frequent attendees up to speed on your availability.

  11. Change passwords
  12. If you give someone privileged access to an admin account, prevent the password for changing during the vacation period and reset it upon your return. The same goes for your own user account, if by chance anything is using your user account - you would like to know about it beforehand. Change your own password as well a week or so before the vacation.

  13. Set up email auto responder and give some alternate contact.
  14. When I go on vacation, I’ll check in to both my work and personal accounts but still have an auto responder in place. The auto responder must state when you will return, how to get in touch with someone if this is urgent, and whether or not you expect this email to be replied to during your absence. You also may share your mobile phone with the helping person so that they can get you, even if only via a text message.

You can add more specific application and system tasks via automation. I’ve used Windows Scheduled Tasks or other scripts to do something that I know will be an issue, such as restart a delicate system, preemptively.

The systems will survive, but will you survive the vacation? How do you go about getting out of the office? Share your tips below.

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.

36 comments
The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

I have the right not to be disturbed - unless they pay me MUCH more money.

TieWan
TieWan

simply solution that you'll never have to worry about this. Just outsource the position to a provider. Let them worry about it. I'm trying to do that for my organization now. Outsource network infrastructure and hire more qualified application / management staff.

jdriggers
jdriggers

This applies to any IT job that resources are limited. I worked here 5 years before I took a vacation that I did not get a call. If you have your ducks in a row as outlined above, and you continue getting calls, try the following. Go on a cruise! Most ships have access but it's not free and cell phones do not work. It's a good way to get the others in the group to step up.

lafa91
lafa91

Add this one If You want real vacation go somewhere where you cant be reach. Where you cant have an internet connection. I'm lucky enough to be canadian and having the right to go to cuba, in cuba connection is so slow that i could be back from vacation before they could reach me where i could connect. you could find many country where the connection is too slow or where the hotel connection is too slow to be albe to respond. When i am in vacation i dont want to be reach by my job. I got at least another team member who could fill in. I do dthe same when its not my oncall time; i dont answer the phone or email from the company outside job hours. To be able to do this correctly advise your manager that this is how you do it when in vacation or oncall. Also try to find outside help good enough as back-up. If the company i work for is good enough they will understand that my time is mine and when i work my time is theirs. lafa91

richard.artes
richard.artes

Either you guys are addicted to work, or work is addicted to you. When you go on holiday, you gotta RELAX! And forget about work, for a week at least! They can do without you. You can do without them. And never forget you are expendable. No-one sheds a tear if you leave. Look after number 1 first!

pgit
pgit

There should be enough documentation of everything, clients, servers, external hardware (printers, storage etc) locations of all, any unusual wiring/hardware/software, a layout of authentication... everything. Write it up well enough as if handing the client (or IT position) to a new tech... this should be done anyway, before going on vacation is a good time to make sure it has been done. This way you are far less likely to get a call while on the beach. (um, Fred can't log in... the computer starts and he gets a desktop but he doesn't seem to have network access... ...did you check the routers in the closet on the third floor? )

derek
derek

having this as a pdf would be helpful too!

steve.hammes
steve.hammes

It seems like when I go on vacation, something always breaks!

b4real
b4real

It is tough to unplug, but we have to do it. One tip that I'd add to also change voicemail.

b4real
b4real

A hard working IT professional took vacation. This pro only took 1 week a year, even though much more was allocated. Mid-way through day 1, he gets a call: "Can you come on in? I'm paying you anyways, might as well be here" Top that.

b4real
b4real

Love/hate the single point of contact for all IT. In a sense, is it possible to not disconnect?

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Just wait until they have you over that barrel and remember this post.

b4real
b4real

If we tune accordingly, we may be able to always run on remote control!

techless
techless

I've supported shops for 20 years where I am the only IT person. I'm grateful for those above me respecting requests for remote access setups and hw / sw that travels and can be used remotely. I'm glad that I am in the habit of exercising it at least once a month from my home. When I go on vacation, if I go prepared I have a better chance of not getting people irritated when there are problems. All the suggestions and reminders in this article and replies has been helpful! Thanks. jk

timrush-aero
timrush-aero

I take vacations where there is no electricity and probably no cell phone towers. I am the only IT person in the local company. My backup would be from corporate, several hours away, but still available to them remotely. Makes for a relaxing time. But its still important that they place can run without you.

richard.artes
richard.artes

I forgot to say: I have a day off today, and I'm at home checkin my e-mails. Whoops.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

In a vacations in 2009 the air conditioning system in the server room stop working at 11pm on saturday. I contacted the provider and the lanlord in the building and they fix the issue for me. Having my laptop and 3G card help me to connect to the UPS temp monitor system and double check the air conditioning was not working. After that, I shutdown innecesary servers and make the emergency call. I was in the hotel at 10 hours from the office. You always needs to be prepared.

kenjunior
kenjunior

I am a single IT person in the organization. I have several times taken several days off (in a row), either in training or vacation, etc. A couple of times I have gotten a frantic call. I have almost everything bullet proof, as best as possible anyway. Remote connectivity is paramount assuming it's not the internet that is broke. I always work on the theory "If I fall off the face of the earth...." Some worry about job security, myself, I let my expertise speak for itself and figure if the company (thinks they are) is better off without me, so be it. Having said that, I am still here.

GSG
GSG

Unless you are the ONLY IT person in your organization, you've failed in your job if you can't take a vacation without being called. You should use what we call the "Hit by a train" plan. If you were hit by a train on the way to work, what would they do for the next 6 months? You should have documentation ready at all times, and a back up person trained who can take over the daily tasks and keep things running. If all else fails, they should have the contact information for the various vendors so that they can open a ticket on an issue. So many times I see IT people say, "I can't take time off without being called." What they don't say is "Because I've set things up so that I have to be called all the time to make myself seem important or indispensable." Nope, I don't buy it unless you are truly the only IT person in your organization.

MyopicOne
MyopicOne

Backup and security logs, etc. Unless you like the idea of vacations cut short...

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

Additional ideas: 1- I know you will be in vacations and disconnected so you can relax, but is not a bad idea to leave a good remote control system waiting for your connection in an super critical emergency. You can for example install Logmein in your admin computer so you can take control of your system if required. 2- You need to have a sheet with all tech contacts and providers (Cisco, HP, Air conditioning, electrician, etc), just in case! Have email, phone, cell phnoes and office phones available for contact. 3- In vacations I travel with my Aspire One mini laptop with a long lasting 7hour battery, JUST IN CASE. Imagine you are 8 hours far away from the office and someone contact you because need something critical. Having a laptop and connect / solve the issue in 5 minutes can save your vacations. 4- Get a 3G card with you. Perhaps during your travel in the highway or in the remote location, you don't have internet access and need to quickly connect to solve a simple issue. 5- Go to the road with everything you maybe needs: blackberry, battery, charger, car inverter, minilap, 3g card, etc. I know if you go to vacations you don't want to spend your time on tech issues, etc, but imagine if you are out for a week or two and you are far away, is better to be prepared, just in case. If you have several IT assistants, you perhaps can modify the above.

srunfola
srunfola

In the years I have been working here, I have taken vacations, but never have I had one that I was not contacted to do something at least once. Soemtimes vacation is more stressful thatn being at the office!

dhuscha
dhuscha

All i can say is wow, though not surprising. Luckily my bosses arent that bad. I am in the same situation where Im the only IT person in the company. I still though take 2 weeks every year off. I have every vendor number documented, and common solutions on our Sharepoint site. When I go on trips I carry my BB, and Laptop with 3G card, and always leave an out of office response and voicemail that says I will not have email access 24/7.

wyltk75
wyltk75

I say, once you have made the checklist and the contacts and shown people what they need to know, forget the 3G card and the laptop and the cellphone. Then say you were out of reach of service. Actually, just plan your vacation where there is no service.

brad
brad

My boss "accidently" shut down our server! On my WEDDING DAY!!! Fortunately, I was able to talk him through the re-start.

jasonemmg
jasonemmg

I have detailed notes for the work I do saved on my PC as well as printed in a folder..I go over my work with others before I leave on a vacation.. Of course if something major comes up my boss knows how to get in touch with me!! I don't need to travel with laptops, Blackberries,etc...

jasonemmg
jasonemmg

I am the only IT person in the office. My boss has spreadsheets with all IMPORTANT information (passwords,IP information, contact names/numbers,etc...) They would rather call me for every question rather than take 2 minutes and open my spreadsheet!! This is why I DO NOT HAVE A BLACKERRY,etc... Vacation is time I've earned by working hard the rest of the year..I am entitled to some time away from work with my family.

jred
jred

Out of everyone I know in the technical fields, most are the only one in their "organization" that can do their jobs. My company has several IT ppl, but most are specialized. You probably don't want a .net developer troubleshooting a firewall...

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

In vacations (4 days - a week max) I always get a request every couple of days. I can solve it easy because I travel with my lap and 3G connection (just in case!!)

b4real
b4real

Your points are good. The better you document, the lesser the chance you get called in!

lfloyd
lfloyd

I recently took a vacation, had laptop packed with all chargers(laptop and phones) and cards. But, forgot to pack it in the car. Did not realize it until I was 3 hrs down the road. Needless to say, I did not turn around and get it. Shut down phones at night and some during the day. Had the car charger for the trip home. Best vacation I had in years.

jasonemmg
jasonemmg

On my wedding day I WOULD NEVER ANSWER A CALL FROM WORK!!!!

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

I go twice a year to Cancun with my family, I travel with my blackberry / laptop and 3G card and is not a problem at all. Always they have something to request, no matter they know we have a remote helpdesk in New York, they always call me. Perhaps they leave me a couple of days without calling me or asking for something, but at the end, they need to request something. Is very anonying and the only way to deal with this is to have remote tools and be ready. If I don't have that, I cannot even take a vacation!

GSG
GSG

Maybe they can do a basic check of things, and follow a check list. I keep a "top 10" list for all my apps. This is the top 10 things that go wrong, with a step-by-step list of what to do to fix it, and what NOT to do. Sure, you don't want them going too deep, but after that first little bit is checked, then they can call the vendor. As far as tapes go, even a secretary can change a tape on a basic system with enough training. I know, I used to do it when I'd never even used a mouse and just did it by the written instructions.