Kick off the New Year with these smart practices for propelling your IT department — and your company — toward success.
The New Year is upon us. It's time to toss off the shackles of 2014, move past its failures, and carry the successes forward. But how do you ramp up to tackle the New Year with purpose and dedication? Here are 10 things you can do to hit your top speed right away.
1: Update, update, update
You probably should have run all your updates at year's end, but you may have been too busy. So now is the time to do this — on everything. Update servers, desktops, router firmware, mobile devices... get everything updated so you start the year off with a semi-clean slate. This is often one of the most time-consuming and problem-causing tasks you can undertake (especially when a server update goes wrong). Do it now, do it early, and do it right and you'll start the year ahead of the game.
2: Back up, back up, back up
Before (and after, in some cases) you do those upgrades, ensure that you have a viable backup of all critical data. You do not want to go into an upgrade without a solid data backup — bare metal, in the case of servers. If you go into the new year with a full-blown, bare metal backup that you KNOW is viable, your job is made all the more easy. Also make sure your backup schedule is working and all backups are tested. Too many times, I've seen clients who assumed their backups were good only to find out (too late) that even though the backup was working, the backup wasn't usable. Don't let failed backups trip you up as you head out of the 2015 starting gate.
3: Meet, meet, meet
Meet with your staff. Whether for reviews, promotions, raises, or just a nice chat, you should meet with your staff members individually to discuss the plans for the year, where they see themselves growing, what you'd like to see them do in 2015, specific tasks you want them to undertake — anything you can think of that will give them a running start into the new year. Even if you don't really have a plan for the meeting (although you should), this will go a long way toward reassuring them that you're on their side and they can come to you when they need to. Start out the year with confidence on both sides of the admin fence.
4: Clarify, clarify, clarify
I'm not talking about a shampoo you should use once a week. This is about clarifying your intentions for the year with upper management. Make sure they know what you expect — and you know what they expect. Do not start 2015 without clear expectations on both sides. If you have a solid understanding of what management wants, you can more easily deliver. If management knows what you want and need, they can more easily deliver.
5: Calendar, calendar, calendar
Take the yearlong calendar and break it into milestones. For example, by end of Q1 you want to have Server X hardware upgraded. By end of Q2 you want all software licenses renewed. Have all (or as many as possible) vacations on the calendar and set long-standing and recurring appointments. The more detailed you can get with your staff calendar early on, the easier it will be to navigate the waters of 2015.
6: Educate, educate, educate
Now is the time for training. If you know you'll be migrating to a different technology or adding a new platform or service into your company this year, don't wait until rollout to start training. Rollout is for usage, not for scrambling up the learning curve. Use the early part of the year to get up to speed so when the rollout comes, there is no hesitation or loss of work. Educate your staff, educate your users, educate your management. In the end, you'll thank yourself for doing this. The time spent on the front end will have you running with the new tech immediately.
7: Cloud, cloud, cloud
You should already be working with the cloud in some fashion. If not, now is the time to do so. Even if it is just noncritical data backup or a single software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, you should take advantage of this powerful option. One smart solution I suggest to clients is moving away from the standard QuickBooks server/client model and to the cloud-based service. You won't have to concern yourself with a constant loss in data file connection or Microsoft updates breaking the client, and you won't have to worry as much about data file backups. This is just one example where a cloud solution is superior to the old model.
8: Check, check, check
It's a good time to visit with your network provider to find out what it has in store for the year. Can you get a fatter pipe? What about a redundancy solution? What about planned upgrades or outages? Is your provider set for the year or is there any chance it might be purchased or even go out of business? That might sound crazy, but your network is your link to the world — without it, business becomes challenging. Make sure you are fully in the know with your service provider to minimize any "surprises" that could pop up in the months to come.
9: Purge, purge, purge
Many IT departments start looking like hoarders have taken up residence. We keep things well beyond necessity. Why? You never know when you might need that SCSI card! Or that old PS/2 mouse? Come on! Seriously — the beginning of the year is a great time to get rid of all those pieces of hardware you no longer need. And when you do purge, make sure to do it responsibly. Larger cities usually have computer recycling services that can safely get rid of your old technology. Use them. By tossing out the junk, you'll make for a much more efficient start of 2015.
10: Ticket, ticket, ticket
If you're a medium to large company and you aren't already working with a support ticket system, you are doing the company a major disservice. It's time to adapt and evolve. Employing a support ticket system will make your life exponentially easier and more efficient. If you're on a shoestring budget, give osTicket a try. It's open source and incredibly powerful.
You don't have to start the New Year off at a crawl. With just a little work up front, you can hit the ground running and never look back. See whether one or more of these tips helps you get 2015 off to a great start.
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What steps will you take to ensure 2015 is a winner from the start? Share your advice with fellow TechRepublic members.