2017 is moving along quickly and there are a few things that should be on every Sysadmin's checklist this year. Things that should no longer be procrastinated or be on the list titled "sometimes later once the urgent tasks are done". Let's call those things the "five inevitables" or "the not to missed ones". So where should we get started?
1. Improving Your IT Security
Well that sounds like a given, doesn't it? But we're not talking firewalls, password requirements, encryption or trusted platforms here. We are talking about your users. We are talking about curiosity, about not paying attention for a second, about a bit too much trust in exactly the wrong moment. However, 2017 should not be the year of limiting users' permissions further or of locking their network access down to the intranet plus a few selected websites. Point one on your checklist for 2017: empower your users. Make sure they will never ever click anything suspicious again or do anything that might pose a risk for your systems.
Most successful attacks didn't breach a firewall or crack an admin's password to the encrypted customer database. Users themselves are the most vulnerable point in the security chain and the easiest to attack. So set up a user training plan for 2017. Teach them about ransomware, critical thinking in online behavior and all the common methods in phishing and social engineering: on how a typical hacker might phone them impersonating a colleague from IT or might try to steal a company device rather than brute forcing passwords. IT security is not (only) a tech challenge—it's a people business. Awareness, let's teach and train our user's awareness in 2017.
2. Optimize Your Cloud
No, we’re not trying to act like the cloud is anything new to anyone. But we do want to encourage you to spend some thoughts on allocating resources and budgets appropriately. Which systems are too critical to ever outsource? Where do you need rapid scaling for vastly volatile loads – now or anytime soon? 2017 is the year to finally think through your cloud strategy. Let’s make 2017 the year of coming up with a new roadmap of your storage strategy. Which of your systems should still be on premises in – let’s say 2019? Might there be a future in converged infrastructure at your company? How many entities and locations are accessing your data center? How is this reflected in your backup strategy?
Plan and act accordingly. Don’t rush into complex projects just because it’s currently en vogue or because someone from management heard something at a conference and wants to drive transformation without prior evaluation. Instead evaluate and identify opportunities for new strategies where they occur. Get engaged with your internal users to identify needs in adapting new workflows. Do you support collaboration, remote working and customer needs in communication and project execution in the way needed? Talk to product managers to learn their pain points and where they feel held back by the infrastructure.
3. Automate All the Things
In addition to your cloud strategy: let orchestration be the motto for your 2017 web hosting planning. Define your targets regarding the services and tools you need to provide. Sit down with product managers, sales and other stakeholders in your company to create a plan to automate your users' workflows and your company's processes. What do you need to define and implement to have all of your processes and services integrate seamlessly into each other? To have the system scale automatically when peak loads occur whether they may be predictable or not? To never need to manually set up resources during heavy campaigning or seasonal peaks?
Ensure that your CRM, marketing database, ordering and billing are set up to interoperate as well as was promised when your company purchased them. Where are the current break and pain points? Would for example something simple like a single sign on for all internal systems or services on the customer's side improve ease of use and security?
4. Never stop learning
Managing your clients and your infrastructure both in on- and off-premise systems will continue to be a central role in any modern business. But maybe there is more to that. As we are talking automation and orchestration we should also be talking about your personal growth. There are new challenges in automation, converged infrastructure and the ever-growing number of tools and systems to keep an eye on. Make sure to be on top of your game in those fields. Learn to handle the tools and write automation scripts yourself.
Put "improving my coding" on your list. Become confident in putting everything together, understand your whole setup and don't settle for being only an expert on a select few systems. Make yourself the expert for everything. Understand what is happening in your field and be never caught on the wrong foot. Like when that one manager comes back from the conference with those new buzzwords he learned and roasts you with. Stay one step ahead by evaluating new trends as soon as you first hear them so you can actively propose strategies that would work for you, and have good explanations why a new hype-fed strategy isn't a viable option for your company to follow when asked by management.
5. Maximize Your System's Availability
Downtimes happen. But they shouldn't. No matter how good your general setup is, no matter how careful you have been with your hosting, backup strategy, redundancies and fallbacks, downtimes happen. It will be you who will be asked questions and told to never let it happen again. Let's step it up a bit in 2017 and investigate new possibilities. There is always something left to be learned in hosting and backup. Could geo redundancy help by serving some services locally? Could it help reduce server downtimes if one data center cuts out temporarily? Could you save cost in the longer run by going co-local and have your own hardware in the data center instead of renting their hardware?
You should also self-audit your current backup setup. Is there still unknown territory to explore? As backup services in the cloud are getting more common you should definitely start planning on doing off site backups if you haven't already. High availability hosting services become more affordable even to small companies, so now is the time to reconsider your strategy. While you're laying out your cloud strategy (see above), make sure to consider disaster recovery through the cloud in there. So there is cloud backup/disaster recovery, switching to high availability services and co-location to be considered. Which of those are financially feasible and operationally sensible for you?