An IT Operations Pro Reading List for Covid-19

IT operations pros worldwide are in wartime. They’ve got to support a mass number of people transitioning to remote work overnight. This is putting a severe strain on networks and servers and security policies. They may also be dealing with major traffic jams on customer-facing websites, especially for consumer-facing businesses in retail, healthcare and financial services. If you haven’t done a lot of pre-planning, things might be a little rough in your business right now. We’ve compiled some insights from across the web to help:

Remote work advice

Everyone who can work from home is doing it right now and this article from Tech Target focuses on the DevOps role: “IT pros know they can fall back on IT automation tools that require little coordination and manual intervention to run critical systems. But many Agile and DevOps practices had been developed around daily or weekly team meetings in front of shared whiteboards, and organic conversations among co-located employees.” The article provides some excellent tips on how to keep everybody productive, such as by standardizing collaboration tools to the “lowest common denominator” of individual access.

TechRepublic writes about whether more permanent remote work is on the horizon for IT professionals and shares insights on collaboration tools: “Right now, the two most widely used collaboration platforms among tech workers are Slack and Google Hangouts, said Sarah Doughty, director of recruitment at technology hiring firm TalentLab.”

Security risks are a concern as more people work from home. Many federal workers have been jettisoned home and agencies are grappling with how to scale up VPN access so employees don’t use insecure workarounds and how to manage risk from personal smartphones being used to share sensitive files, as detailed in this article.

BankInfoSecurity interviews Phil Reitinger with the Global Cyber Alliance on tips for securing the remote workplace. The top threat right now is phishing. Reitinger calls for these actions now: encourage workers to patch home laptops, router and any other devices on the home network; use multi-factor authentication which is common in popular online tools like Google Docs; set up a protective DNS service on all computing devices being used for work; use your secure corporate VPN if it's available.

Uptime and troubleshooting during a crisis

Preparation and "fire drills" are key ingredients to resilience, especially as companies experience higher traffic levels due to the pandemic, as reported in CIO Dive. “Cloud computing —​ which offers the ability to quickly scale capacity — is a company's best bet for sudden traffic increases. Cloud-native companies, such as Amazon, are preconditioned to adjust to higher demand times, Frank Kenney, director of sales enablement at Cleo, told CIO Dive. But cloud vendors play a minimal role in uptime. As long as the vendor's operations are running, customers are responsible for gauging correct configurations and capacity for scaling services.”

The OpsRamp blog has advice from firefighters for incident management, summarized from the book “Incident Management for Operations”.  “When you face a critical incident, shift to wartime mode to maximize uptime and restore operations back to normal. To address wartime incidents, use the Incident Management System to organize the right subject matter experts under the leadership of an Incident Commander in a timely manner. You’ll be able to establish an effective incident response process that’ll help protect your company’s reputation, market standing, and financial position.”  

What CIOs should do Aside from keeping morale up and ensuring that remote workers are taking breaks and have great ways to stay in touch with teammates, CIOs need to take stock of the IT basics right now. That means email needs to be running reliably, bandwidth is adequate, encouraging secure remote work practices and assessing new security risks from pandemic opportunists, according to CIO Magazine.  IT leaders are also likely considering how to be more frugal now; many sectors are taking a beating as the economic impact of the coronavirus deepens. Check out this LinkedIn article for some simple ways to save money in the cloud. They include auto terminating development instances out of hours, reducing reliance on “on-demand” resources and using storage-efficient tools.

In closing, take this moment to rise to the noble cause of helping your company and your customers. We’re loving this sysadmin post from Reddit.  “Well, here it is. The glass has been broken and we've been called into actual action. This is the part where we save the world against impossible odds and come out on the other side looking like heroes. Well, some of us. The rest seem to want to sit around and bitch because the gig just got challenging and there's a real problem to solve.

I've been in this racket a little over 23 years at this point. In that time, I've learned that this gig is pretty much like being a firefighter or seafarer: hours and hours of boredom, interrupted by moments of sheer terror. Well, grab a life jacket and tie onto something, because this is one of those moments.”

Next Steps:

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