Holiday homework: 7 tasks for IT pros stuck in the office

Not everyone gets to take a vacation this holiday season. Here are some tasks that IT pros can work on to prepare for the coming year.

Photo of I.T. task list, surrounded by evergreen branches
Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

If you're an IT person still at work while many people are away on vacation, it's a great time to catch up on all sorts of maintenance tasks that are often overlooked.

The obvious tasks to do are things like updating passwords, turning on two-factor authentication, updating and scanning for malware, experimenting with network setting optimizations, patching systems, clearing browser data, and reviewing and removing old or unused files.

If you get tired of reviewing your security policies, try the following tasks to keep your organization's systems running smoothly.

1. Update firmware

Check for firmware updates to hardware, especially:

  • Routers
  • Firewalls
  • Switches
  • Wi-Fi devices
  • Printers
  • Scanners

While most companies patch servers, desktops, and mobile devices regularly, the above devices are often overlooked.

2. Refresh Wi-Fi settings

You might also update Wi-Fi network settings for your access points for both employee devices and guests. Depending on your setup, push the updates automatically to employee devices, or ask employees and guests to update their settings. Also, change the administrative password for your access points or, at the very least, make sure the settings are something other than the manufacturer defaults. (It still amazes me how often I find Wi-Fi devices with the manufacturer's default settings configured.)

On individual devices, consider clearing saved network settings. While it is convenient that your laptop automatically connects to the Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop, airport, or hotel, it is more secure to choose to connect to these networks manually.

3. Review apps

In addition to reviewing the allowed apps for your organization, you might also look through the apps installed on your own devices. Review every app on your laptop, your tablet, and your phone. Still need it or use it? If not, remove it.

The same goes for your password manager. Look through every account you've saved in your password manager. Again, do you still need it or use it? If not, it might be a good idea to login, then delete the account.

4. Check user lists

If you're an admin, check your user lists to make sure they include both the right people and correct level of access. While most organizations disable or delete accounts when an employee leaves, permission levels sometimes get overlooked.

For example, when Sue moves from support to product development, you may need to adjust her access to apps, files, and administrative controls. (In G Suite, this means you look at account permission levels and organizational unit assignments.)

SEE: 10 ways to keep the lights on in IT during the holidays

5. Replace batteries

Check your uninterruptible power supply device batteries, and replace those nearing the end of their useful life. Older portable mobile device batteries--in laptops and external batteries for phones and tablets--might be worth replacing, too, if they're older than 12-18 months, since battery life tends to decline after use.

6. Check automated tasks

Take time to review all the automation you have configured. That includes:

  • Email filters or rules
  • IFTTT applets, Zapier zaps, or Microsoft Flow tasks
  • Social media automation setup
  • Any other triggers you've set up between apps

Often, these chug away in the background. Make sure you still need all the filters, rules, and triggers you once configured. And, if you haven't automated tasks, now's a great time to experiment with some of these potentially useful time-saving tools.

7. Backups

Make a manual backup of your critical data, and check the settings on your backup system. Also, make sure to actually test a recovery from your backup data for your server, and for data stored on cloud services.

Other ideas?

What work-related tasks do you accomplish when you're at work while other employees are on vacation? Tell us in the comments.

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