Thursday, August 15, 2013

Read Only Friday - Getting ready for vacation

Today I am getting ready for a vacation. Aside from avoiding major changes to the network environment as I do on Fridays - there are some additional tasks that I like to work through before going on vacation. Some of these are longer term efforts to get ready, some of them are things to do today.

Check Backups to be sure that they are running smoothly...
Train your coverage staff on items they will need such as:
- A refresher on the servers, and how to access them
- Any required passwords (or a password database)
- A list of vendor contacts for specific systems and areas
- Any specific procedures, such as how to on-board a new staff member, how to set up email, how to administer the spam filter
Check any systems such as patch management for errors, and resolve them before your last day.
Check your vendor contracts to be sure none require renewal while you are out, some vendors are very hard to deal with if you miss the renewal date (Citrix)

Make plans for how or if you will be reachable during your vacation.
I advocate disconnecting as much as possible, but if you are going to be in touch consider the network costs if you are traveling. You can use Skype, Google Hangouts, or Facetime to stay in touch if you have a Wifi connection at your destination. Your peeps at home can peep! You can share video if they have a computer and a camera.

Be careful with outrageous international coverage rates and even worse data roaming charges if you plan to leave the country. If you are leaving the country it is probably best to shut down your cellular network and only use Wifi. If you are traveling out of the country for a long period, and you want to be reachable it may be easiest to get a SIM card or a temporary phone when you arrive. One good recent feature in gmail, google voice and also in Outlook is SMS to email conversion. You could be able to text people from your email, without the cost of SMS messaging.

-- Update --
So now I am back from Europe, and a quick comment on travel network access. First, weird fact, in France and Spain Wifi is pronounced "Wiffy". I found that Skype was great, but even more so I set up my T-Mobile cellphone on Wifi calling. Text messages and telephone calls went out over the network for free, as I had disabled the cellular network. Text to my Google voice number translated into my email, and that was also helpful. But there were definitely times I could have used a local cell phone. Pretty good overall.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Read Only Friday - What's next?

For System Administrators and IT geeks - "Read Only Friday" is a great time to take care of cleaning the office, organizing and making minor changes to things that do not affect anything meaningful. Last post I wrote about cleaning up your email box as one example. Of course you have to take help desk calls, and put out fires. But keep the fingers away from anything dangerous lest you spend the weekend in a box!

Some interesting ideas for your Read Only Friday...

  1. When is "Friday" Thursday?
    1. Don't break an RSS Feed on Thursday, Don't apply patches willy nilly Thursday night (or run Windows update on a Friday)
  2. Do internet "research" - and I don't mean FaceBook - look into those product upgrades that you don't have time for the rest of the week. If you don't have money look into open source software that could solve a problem in your office. (Example - PDFCreator)
  3. Review the log files, you know, in your policy it says you review the security logs for this firewall and the backup logs from that server... Give it a once over and find out what you're missing that might bite you later.
  4. Submit your PCI SAQ (or insert other compliance document). Oh yeah, that's what I should be doing right now!
  5. Write up documentation, and make WINK videos training users on basic stuff.
  6. Wipe out old PC hard drives. You choose: DBAN or Sledgehammer!!!
  7. Set up old PC's to donate to a charity or staff.
  8. Catch up on back help desk entries...
  9. Do something for your partner (work, home, business - whatever!)
  10. Check the Tech News - this Friday: Obama Reportedly Holding Press Conference On Security Transparency Today At 3PM ET

Thanks to the Spiceworks watercooler for some ideas...