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.
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#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.
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.
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!