Come December 22, you are going to find yourself in one of two scenarios. Either the Mayans were right, and the world will have come to an end (in which case I hope you have your towel), or that Saturday will be just like any other and you will still have a number of admin tasks that you know you need to do, but haven’t done yet. Whether we reach the end of the world, or just the end of 2012, here’s a list of the 23 administrative tasks you should be working on now.

If you get these squared away, you can ring in the New Year happy and healthy. If you skip one of these, you might just feel like the end of the world actually happened if things go badly. Avoid the apocalypse by parsing this list, checking off the ones you have covered, and getting the rest sorted out before you go on holiday. Trust me on this; you will enjoy your time away much more knowing that these are all done.

1. Make sure your backups are working, by testing your restores

It might not be the end of the world, but it could feel like the end of the world to a user if their critical data corrupts and you cannot restore it. Don’t rely solely on backup logs. Confirm you can restore when needed by testing your tapes and making sure data can be recovered when needed.

2. Make sure all the critical systems are being backed up

And while you have backups on your mind, make sure that all your critical systems are actually being backed up. It’s way too easy for a system to be put into production by someone who forget to request it be added to the backup rotation. You don’t want to find out the hard way that something was missed. No matter whose fault it is, a dead system with no backup will ruin everyone’s day.

3. Make sure your DR procedures are up-to-date

The world probably won’t end on December 21st, but while every cable channel is airing disaster movies, you should be reviewing your disaster recovery plan to make sure it is current. People change jobs, older systems are retired and new ones come online. Is your DR plan current?

4. Make sure your emergency contact lists are current

If disaster does strike, you need to be sure all your key people can be reached. Make sure mobile numbers are up-to-date and stale entries are cleared out.

5. Make sure your authorized user lists are current

Whether you need to have a server rebooted by smarthands, to order backup tapes brought back onsite, or just to respond to an alarm in the datacenter, make sure you authorized users lists are up-to-date for any service that uses them.

6. Make sure your patching is current

A number of updates have been released by Microsoft and other vendors over the past few weeks. Many of them were listed as critical. Before your company goes into its year end change moratorium, get those patches deployed so you know you are secure.

7. Make sure your antivirus clients are current

This time of year is also a great time to review your antivirus logs for systems that are missing, not updating correctly, or reporting issues.

8. Make sure your maintenance and support contracts are up to scratch

Remember that the topic here is disaster. You don’t want any critical system to fail, only then to find out no one renewed the support agreement with the vendor.

9. Make sure you are in compliance with all licensing

Nothing will feel more like the end of the world than failing a software licensing audit. Many vendors run end of year specials. Run a report on all installed software and make sure you are in compliance before you find out the hard way that you are not.

10. It’s time to update all those passwords

Service accounts, admin accounts and the other “special case” passwords all need to be updated. This is a great time to do it, because a compromised account can rank right up there with your worst nightmares.

11. Change your own passwords

And while you are at it, change your own passwords too. Your personal email, your bank account, your Facebook, Netflix, etc. because if someone compromises one of your own accounts, it really will feel like you are starring in your very own disaster movie. And don’t forget to encourage your users to do the same because if you don’t, they will never think about doing it themselves.

12. Check free disk space on all servers

The holidays are a time when most, if not all, of your staff will be taking time off. Unless you like working on vacation, running a quick check of all critical volumes to make sure they are not on the verge of running out of space may save your holiday.

13. Check for disk errors on all servers

And while you are looking at disks, it’s a great time to also check for hardware errors or events that signify imminent failure. A bad disk in an array is something you might be able to wait on, but you know you have some disks out there that are both critical and single points of failure.

14. Verify your remote access

Unless you like tempting fate, or driving into the office while your friends and family are enjoying a bit of cheer, now would be a great time to make sure your remote access really works. Make sure you can VPN in. If you rely on a portable hotspot or tethering to your cellphone, confirm it works before you clock out for the holiday. Don’t let a small problem at work make a big problem at home.

15. Do database maintenance

With many people taking vacation at this time, workloads are probably much lower and many users are probably gone much earlier in the day than at other times of the year. This is good time to run any database maintenance you may have been putting off. Offline defrags, rebalancing users between databases or even servers, and other activities like that might be doable during your regular day with fewer users around.

16. Clear out old logs

Call this early spring cleaning, or even a part of making sure you have enough free disk space. Comply with your data retention requirements, but purge older log files you no longer need to free up space and speed up searches.

17. Publish details of your cover when you’re away

Are you someone that users or, worse, managers call directly to address issues? If so, you want to make sure you publish who is on call during the holidays. Sure, you could always answer the phone, explain you are on vacation and that “Bob” is on call, but if your boss’ boss already has you on the phone, they will expect you to take a “quick look” anyway. You know they will!

18. Check your UPS batteries

Most ‘End of the World’ scenarios start with the power going out. Hmm, most horror movies do too. Why? Because computers can’t run without electricity, and a world without computers is a horror to consider! Whether it’s sunspots, superstorms, or someone who crashes into an electrical pole, make sure your UPS batteries are charged and charging, so that your systems stay up during electrical glitches.

19. Check your generators

UPS batteries can only last so long. If you have generators for backup power, now is a great time to confirm that they start and generate power, and that they are fully fueled. Getting a diesel or propane delivery between Christmas and New Year’s won’t be easy, and if you need to run on generators for an extended period, you’d better be ready.

20. Confirm your physical access controls

This is also a great time to make sure all the card reader databases are up-to-date, and that anyone who shouldn’t have access to the building or datacenter, doesn’t. Hollywood shows people using their old badges to get past security all the time. Make sure your controls are current.

21. Make sure your cooling system is draining properly

This is mostly for those of you with older datacenters, whose cooling systems still condense humidity and drain it off. You don’t want a datacenter flood to occur because a drain is clogged, so take a moment now to do quick check.

22. Confirm your sensors are working and reporting properly

Whether they are temperature sensors, smoke alarms, or motion detectors, check all the sensors in your datacenter and other key areas to make sure they are working. The holidays are when you may not have anyone in an area for days in a row, so you want to know you can rely on the automated pieces that keep your systems safe.

23. Make sure you are ready yourself

Half of avoiding a disaster is being prepared for it. Make sure you keep your cellphone and laptop batteries charged, and if you are away from home visiting family, that you take your laptop with you. Better to lug it around and not need it, than to have to cut a visit early so you can drive home to remote in to fix something.

Of course if the Mayans were right, none of this will matter in a few more days. I don’t think you want to count on that though. So a little work now can help avoid a whole lot of trouble later. This list can help make sure your holidays are a little nicer, with fewer interruptions. From all of us at GFI, have a safe, happy and secure holiday season!

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