A calm and peaceful IT data centre

As the year end approaches, the holiday season intensifies, and things appear to slow down just a little bit in IT. Sure, the IT show must go on as usual, but problems seem to become slightly less urgent as employees sneak out early to go to parties and do their Christmas shopping. Assuming your IT operation is actually calmer this time of year (sorry e-commerce guys and girls, you’re left out), how can you get the most out of this peaceful season?

One answer is simple but important: take as much leave as possible and encourage your staff to do the same. If your staff is like most IT staffs, they probably need some extended rest after an intense year. In recent months, the IT staff at InfoWorld (a sister publication to Computerworld) has rolled out a new content management system, completed a migration to Linux on our Web site back end, moved Web hosting facilities, built numerous new applications, and customised dozens of existing ones — and that’s just scratching the surface. It’s time for some rest, and there’s no better time of year for your developers and systems administrators to take extended time with minimal impact on the IT operation. Early in my career, I thought it was a badge of honour to work all the time and let vacation pile up, but that approach is counterproductive for both employer and employee. Make sure each of your employees recharges his or her batteries for the intense year ahead. With any luck, we’ll all be working in a growth cycle in 2004.

It’s also a good time to reflect on contingency planning within your IT operation. We’ve spent a lot of time in the last year here running through what-if scenarios: What if our primary production database went down? What if we lost power in our data centre? What if our primary office WAN connection was the victim of a backhoe? The possibilities for failure in any IT operation are nearly infinite, but you never want to get snared by the reasonably predictable ones. The quiet at end of the year can give you a little breathing room to think about such things and make necessary adjustments.

The holidays are also the perfect time to thank those who have helped your IT operation during the past year. In most organisations, IT can be quite insular relative to the rest of the business, but IT people always need to remember who brings in the revenue (sales), who signs the cheques and pays the bills (the finance department), and who keeps the lights on (the facilities department). Keeping the IT operation running is a team effort that extends beyond the IT team itself. Besides, the more you know and appreciate the workings of other departments, the better you can serve them with IT solutions.

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