Even the lonely system administrator can take a vacation. With summer just around the corner, IT pro Rick Vanover has tips to cut the cord from the office, yet keep systems running well.
Summer is here -- well not quite officially -- but it is time to consider getting out of the office for a vacation! For the network administrator, this can be a challenging task. And if you are the only person of the IT shop, it can be a little daunting for your users. Here are a few tips I will share on how you can get away!
- Find your help.
- Address what you know will be an issue.
- Move schedules around.
- Upgrade the phone.
- Clear the calendar.
- Change passwords
- Set up email auto responder and give some alternate contact.
This can be a person in the office that has casual IT interest or someone whom you feel can step in to assist in a pinch. Get this person what they need, including access to systems. For the case of "if you need it" access, consider an envelope for each system and an administrator-level password in it. If the envelope is opened, then change the password or remove the additional account when you return. If elevated permissions can be added (such as to an Active Directory account) during the time-frame, that can easily be removed. This also may be a good idea to set up a Skype account for you and the temporary helper for quick questions should you be traveling internationally.
Chances are, there is something that regularly needs interaction. Whether this be changing the tape, a periodic reboot of a system, or moving a file through a system that gets hung up; it should be something you address. If you can, write up a procedure for each of these situations, especially the most common situations like restoring a file or resetting a system.
If there is something that is somewhat regular yet requires interaction above what you can comfortably hand off, maybe move the schedule so that it happens right before you leave or upon your return. In the backup tape example, maybe tweak the schedule so that a full backup happens right before you leave and incremental backups happen daily for 10 days instead of 7. Of course, make sure the overall level of protection is not affected!
If your organization has a commercial wireless account, you may be able to add additional features to your phone’s data plan to be fully connected during your absence without incurring fees on your personal account. This can also include international dialing.
Don't just blindly decline meetings, but try to push them to occur before or after your absence. For regular meetings, get the frequent attendees up to speed on your availability.
If you give someone privileged access to an admin account, prevent the password for changing during the vacation period and reset it upon your return. The same goes for your own user account, if by chance anything is using your user account - you would like to know about it beforehand. Change your own password as well a week or so before the vacation.
When I go on vacation, I’ll check in to both my work and personal accounts but still have an auto responder in place. The auto responder must state when you will return, how to get in touch with someone if this is urgent, and whether or not you expect this email to be replied to during your absence. You also may share your mobile phone with the helping person so that they can get you, even if only via a text message.
You can add more specific application and system tasks via automation. I’ve used Windows Scheduled Tasks or other scripts to do something that I know will be an issue, such as restart a delicate system, preemptively.
The systems will survive, but will you survive the vacation? How do you go about getting out of the office? Share your tips below.