Holiday projects for your network and data center

Now that Halloween is behind us, we have officially entered into the "Holiday Season." That can mean anything from "hands off everything" to "time to get those special projects done" depending on which industry that you're in. If you want to use this time to get some projects accomplished, I have a few suggestions.

Get certified. I used to work a lot with a major retailer located in the central U.S. November and December for them were strictly "hands off" unless something was down. No change controls were approved and all improvement projects had to be finished up before October. So, the team there spent November and December sitting around a lot and nervously waiting on the next data center outage that would literally cost their company millions of dollars each hour until it was corrected. Not a whole lot of fun in my book. If you find yourself in a situation like this, one of the things that you can do is set a goal of getting a new certification by the end of the year. Certifications add credibility and validation to your skills and no matter how many you already have; one more will look good on the 'ole CV.

Shore up your IT management strategy. Implementation of most management and monitoring tools don't require operational changes to your systems so they're safe to do at just about any time. There have been a lot of changes lately in the IT management space and most organizations are expanding beyond just basic fault and performance management. A few areas that you might want to investigate if they aren't currently being addressed in your organization include:

  • Synthetic end user monitoring. This involves using an IT management application to act like an end user. Sythetic monitoring runs transactions through common applications and times and the performance and health of each of the application components. Synthetic end user monitoring applications are like having a secret shopper that tells you how long each step in the process takes. For example, they can log into an ecommerce site, search for a product, add it to their cart, check out, and then receive an online receipt. 
  • Virtualization management. Most organizations are using virtualization technology pretty heavily these days. This creates an opportunity for near real-time capacity and performance optimization, which requires specially designed management tools. Also, because virtualization technology usually saves companies money, it's fairly easily to get funding approval for a new product that will quickly show ROI.
  • Log and event management. Most every company out there has some sort of requirements around log collection, storage, and reporting. Whether you're subject to PCI, HIPAA, or FISMA, if you don't have a strong solution in place for doing log and event management this is a good time to go shopping.

Standardize your configs. Whether you label this as a "compliance" requirement or you just do it as a best practice, standardizing your configs will help to improve the security, performance, and reliability of your systems. Network configuration management products make configuration auditing and standardization easy by pulling all of your configs, comparing against known good baselines and documented policy requirements, and presenting any found inconsistencies. In many cases these products also offer the ability to push changes to correct the issues found.

Learn a new technology. Seems like every holiday season I find myself sitting at my desk watching videos for at least a few hours. Why not instead of watching the latest "double rainbow" you watch some "how to" videos on a technology that you haven't had a chance to learn yet? The number of free, technology oriented, educational videos available online increases every day. Take advantage of it.

Got a great suggestion for things to do over the holiday season? Please share it here as we'd love to hear it.

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Josh Stephens is Head Geek and VP of Technology at SolarWinds, an IT management software company based in Austin, Texas. He shares network management best practices on SolarWinds’ GeekSpeak and thwack. Follow Josh on Twitter @sw_headgeek and SolarWinds @solarwinds_inc.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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