As the final days of 2014 fly by, make sure you've tended to any lingering IT chores so you can start the New Year off right.
The year is winding down. Next thing you know, 2015 will be here and you'll be wondering what happened to good ol' 2014. Hopefully, you'll get everything completed and in good shape to ensure your IT department continues working like a well-oiled machine as you head into the New Year.
But which year-end admin tasks should take priority? I compiled a list of 10 things you can slap on as a recurring calendar event to help ensure that they are completed at year's end. Will they all apply to every admin out there? Probably not. But you can be sure that a few of these tasks will be necessary on your network, systems, or department.
I'm always shocked at how many administrators go without updating systems. Don't get me wrong. I fully understand where this is coming from. But those updates often bring crucial security patches, bug fixes, and necessary feature additions. Unfortunately, updates have been known to break systems — and that's the last thing you want to have to deal with heading into a new year. So before the clock strikes midnight on December 31, be sure you have all updates done and working on all servers and desktops.
Make sure all machines have the necessary malware/antivirus software. There is no better time than the end of the year to do this. No matter how diligent you are, some desktops will slip under the security radar. Though you may be knee-deep in hardening your servers, you must not allow those machines touched by end users to go ignored. Ensure that every desktop and laptop machine has both anti-malware and antivirus software installed and up to date ─ otherwise, all that work you've done on your servers could easily be compromised. This might also be a great time to switch over to a managed system (one you can control from a centralized location).
3: User loose ends
End users come and end users go. During the hectic daily grind, there are times when users are released from duty, and their profiles, logins, and data remain. Although the data might be a "must keep" piece to the puzzle, it's doubtful that profiles and logins need be saved. So go through your user list and clean house. Remove those users who are no longer with the company. If there's data that must be saved, move it to a centralized repository that can be accessed by those who need it.
4: Active directory degunking
When Active Directory works, it's a thing of beauty. When it fails, it's a nightmare. Although a rogue AD profile will not likely take down the ship, there's no reason to chance that nightmare. It's the end of the year and you should take the time to back up the AD server and clean up the Active Directory database. For more information on this process, take a look at Brian Posey's "10 things you should know about degunking your Active Directory database." The article is a few years old, but the information is still relevant.
5: QuickBooks data files
Like Active Directory, QuickBooks can be either a boon or a bust. When the data file is clean, QuickBooks works like a champ. When the data file is dirty, the software can start to drag and even bring the whole QuickBooks system down. With that in mind, the end of the year is a perfect time to clean up that QuickBooks database. There is a built-in tool for this that will walk you through the process of backing up the database and then cleaning it. I always recommend doing this quarterly — but if you can manage it only annually, check to make sure it's been done by the end of the year.
6: External hard drive status checks
Hardware fails. Period. End of story. All those external drives you have backing up your servers, data, and other information... they will fail. It is always best to be ahead of that game rather than trying to play catch up. (The game of "catch up" can be costly.) Nearly every external drive has a tool you can download to check the health of the hardware. Do not depend on the Windows tools to test these external drives. Go to the manufacturer's website and download a drive-specific tool for your testing purposes. You may find a dying drive in time to extract the data and replace the hardware without loss.
7: Bare metal backups
If you aren't already doing this, get a backup of every server so you can dump that backup onto a new piece of hardware and get up and running in hours. This should already be on your radar (or even better, already implemented). If it's not, now is the time to do so. You should at least have a monthly bare metal backup created and stored offsite. Year-end is a great time to inventory those offsite backups and make sure each one is viable and ready to go.
This is one of the first tasks to get thrown out the window. Let me put it as succinctly as possible: If you have solid documentation for your servers, systems, and procedures, your department will run infinitely smoother. Without documentation, you will have an administrator quit and disappear with all the information necessary to properly manage one of those servers or clients. Don't let this happen. Take the time at the end of the year to update all documentation and even put into place the process by which you will keep documentation up to date on a daily or weekly basis.
9: Software disks and manuals
How many times have you needed an older piece of software or wanted to reinstall something recently purchased... but you couldn't find the install disks and licenses? The end of year is a good time to track down all that software and store it in your office. To this I can add ...
10: Total cleanup!
Through the year, your office, the server room, storage locations, break rooms... everything can fall into disarray. Now that the clock is winding down on 2014, take a day or a week (however long is necessary), to spit-shine every inch of the department. All that dust and dirt gets sucked up into servers ─ and we know what that leads to. Beyond the obvious, a neat and tidy department leads to more efficient work. All of a sudden, you know where everything is and nothing is buried under a pile of cat5 cables or old pizza boxes. A clean IT department is an efficient one.
Tech Lang Syne
Yes, there are tons of things you have to do before the clock ticks midnight and you ring in the New Year. But if you know precisely what must be done to get your department shipshape before the end of the year, you'll be better prepared to start 2015 at full steam.
What year-end tasks are must-do for your department? Share with your fellow TechRepublic readers.
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