'Tis the Season to Prepare: IT Considerations for the Holidays

The upcoming holiday season is a time of celebration, but for IT teams, it can also be a time of heightened stress. With increased online shopping, remote work, and virtual gatherings, the demand on IT infrastructure and support often reaches its peak during this time of year. Proving the case, research shows that ransomware attacks increase by 30% during the holidays, and average website traffic can increase up to 1.5x—so the time to prepare is now or never.

To ensure a smooth and hassle-free holiday season for both your organization and your customers, it's crucial for your IT team to prepare ahead of time. In this blog post, we'll explore some essential steps for IT teams to get ready for the holidays, including: 

  • Assessing Infrastructure
  • Load Testing Resources 
  • Locking Down on Data Security 
  • Disaster Recovery Prep 
  • Assessing Customer Support 
  • Remote Work Requirements 
  • Communication & Coverage 

1) Assess Current Infrastructure

The first step in holiday preparation is to assess your current IT infrastructure. Conduct a thorough review of your systems, networks, and hardware to identify any potential weak points or bottlenecks. This includes making sure all software and hardware are up to date, and upgrading any components that may be outdated or nearing the end of their lifecycle. This proactive approach can help prevent system failures during peak holiday traffic.

2) Load Testing

Once you've assessed your infrastructure, it's time to perform load testing. Load testing involves simulating heavy traffic and user activity to gauge how well your systems can handle increased demand. This is the time to identify any performance issues that may arise under stress and take corrective measures such as scaling up your resources, adding more server capacity, or increasing bandwidth.

3) Data Security

The holiday season is prime time for cyberattacks. With more people shopping online, cybercriminals are on the lookout for vulnerabilities and unaware buyers. Ensure that your cybersecurity measures are robust and up to date by implementing strong encryption, regularly updating your firewall rules, and educating employees about the importance of cybersecurity (including avoiding suspicious emails and links). Regularly monitor your network for any unusual activity.

Here are a few quick tips to share with your staff and customers prior to the holidays: 

  • Beware of too-good-to-be-true discounts and deals (because they might be a scam). 
  • Always be sure to double check that your emails came from a valid sender—and when in doubt, throw it out. 
  • Only shop from trusted brands, and avoid clicking into ads or websites that you’re unfamiliar with. 

4) Backup and Disaster Recovery

Better safe than sorry, they say! Don't leave anything to chance when it comes to your customers’ valuable information and corporate data. Ensure that your backup and disaster recovery plans are in place and well-tested by backing up critical data regularly, and storing backups in secure, off-site locations. Test your disaster recovery procedures to ensure that you can quickly restore operations in the event of a data breach or system failure.

5) Customer Support

If your organization deals with customers directly, ensure that your customer support team is adequately prepared for the holiday rush. Provide additional training and resources to handle increased inquiries and issues. From an IT perspective, you might consider implementing chatbots or AI-driven support systems to assist with common queries, freeing up your people for more complex issues.

6) Remote Work

Tis’ the season for traveling! Especially this time of year when several staff members are bound to be out and about, it's essential to ensure that your remote workforce is equipped to handle holiday-related demands. Provide remote employees with the necessary tools, such as secure VPN access and collaboration software, to effectively carry out their duties from anywhere. Address any potential bandwidth or connectivity issues that may arise.

7) Communication

Effective communication is key during the holiday season. Keep your team members informed about the holiday schedule, emergency contact information, and any updates or changes to IT policies and procedures. Establish clear channels for reporting and addressing IT issues, both internally and externally. And lastly—make sure your IT team is well staffed! Because hackers know you’re taking time off, it’s the perfect time for them to strike. Ensure you have adequate IT support in place to monitor and maintain systems while you’re away. 

By proactively assessing and preparing your IT infrastructure, focusing on data security, and ensuring your team is well-equipped, you can navigate the holiday season with confidence. If you find yourself in need of a little extra support during this time of year, consider working with a Managed Services provider that can lighten your workload and guarantee redundancy when your IT staff are away on holidays. 

Happy holidays, and may your IT systems run smoothly and securely throughout the season!

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