10 year-end tasks for network administrators

Out with 2011 and in with 2012. Rick Vanover shares this list of tasks to help keep you organized as you tie up those loose ends before heading into the new year.

With 2011 coming to a close, this is a great time to get things in shape for next year. Here are some tips to help you get ready for 2012.

Note: This article is also available as a free download in checklist format.

1: Use up that remaining budget

Almost every organization has the "use it or lose it" clause in the budget. Should there be any space left in a budget, it may be a good way to get any additional miscellaneous things, such as cables, tools, or utility software. The unused dollars in a budget may not seem like much, but they can be useful if they let you stock up on little things that are not available next year -- especially if the budget for 2012 is smaller than 2011's!

2: Get your software and hardware maintenance up to date

Go through and make sure that all of the maintenance agreements are in order. This includes not just the big ones, such as Microsoft and VMware; but also smaller, ones such as network switches, line of business applications, tape drives, printers, and any other IT service that has a service agreement. Aside from support, these usually entitle customers to updates and version upgrades.

3: Check for obsolete components

Walk through the computer room or computer lab and ask yourself, "Is this gizmo still going to be here in good order at the end of next year?" This can be anything from a tape drive, storage array, or server. The best approach is check the product lifecycles for all the devices and software in use, making sure nothing is falling to end-of-life status.

4: Check for powered off systems

Nothing is more unsightly than a rack filled with mostly powered-off servers. Many organizations have embraced virtualization and consolidated their servers in the data center. While not everyone has a quiet end of the year, it may be a good time to get the old systems out of the rack. In fact, there may be money in that old equipment. It might be a good time to wipe hard drives and send the servers and PCs out for disposal or resale. I'll advise you that the aftermarket does pay money for Ultra-320 SCSI drives for servers. This is primarily because they aren't made anymore, and people are still using them.

5: Rearrange racks and servers

After the powered-off servers are removed, it may be worth stepping back and determining a new arrangement for the equipment in the data center. Also consider revisiting the domains of failure. While a rack fully loaded with equipment is visually impressive, it also is a single point of failure in itself. Consider dispersing the workload across the datacenter.

6: Updates BIOS, firmware, versions

Anyone who has worked with me will concur that I am a little weird when it comes to firmware updates. You can never underestimate the value of the BIOS firmware update for computers, servers, and storage. In fact, when I visited HP in Houston, this was an area that caught my interest. For current products, there is effectively a daily build of the BIOS that goes to the products in the test labs. HP is not unique in this, and the end of the year is a good time to plan out any updates to low-level drivers and to software in the operating system. This can be management agents as well as hardware management suites, such as Dell OpenManage and HP Systems Insight Manager.

7: Chase down the old operating systems

Windows 2000 has ended its extended support phase, so it is really time to map out the plan to remove this operating system. This will be similar to how Windows NT was removed, a necessary evil; but it is definitely time. Aside from the operating system being obsolete, if this system is on physical hardware, it too may be obsolete.

8: Organize workspace and tools

This is a good time to clean up workspaces. Do we really need the Windows 2003 beta release poster still displayed on our walls? IT pros are not usually noted for their clean work environments, but a professional appearance is good for any profession. Think of it as spring cleaning in the middle of winter.

9: Organize software installations

It may just be me, but I can't stand a mismatched collection of software installation locations, types, and formats. This primarily centers on our collective switch from CD-ROM-distributed software for enterprise accounts to managing CD-ROM .ISO files. I am sure I have the Windows Server 2008 .ISO copied into a number of places using a number of different names. This may be a good time to centralize all installation types and to implement a consistent nomenclature for the .ISO files.

10: Get connected

There is so much good information on the social network scene. Twitter and LinkedIn provide great avenues to connect with IT pros just like you, as well as the chance to engage in enriching discussions relevant to the day-to-day role we all share.

2011 will be here before we know it

These are a few ways to get ready for 2011. What other steps help you prepare for the new year? Share your suggestions below.