Business Management – Being willing to work strange hours

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This is another installment of my Business Management posts, geared towards those of us who are business owners and/or consultants.

Being willing to work non-standard hours is something that we as technologists need to seriously consider. I’m not talking about a ‘once a year’ deadline where you’re working on some report that HAS to be ready the next day. I’m talking about getting used to regularly working strange hours.

As you know, my company provides 3rd party IT support services to clients. Part of those services includes full network administration, along with managing server infrastructure. What do we know about servers ? Well, the Windows ones need regular updating. Microsoft releases hotfixes, security patches and the equivalent of “service packs” for their server editions of their operating system. Very often, these updates, once downloaded and installed, require a reboot of the server in order to be applied. Normally on a desktop workstation, a user would go ‘oh, OK, let’s reboot then’. That’s easy to do on an individual workstation where the only person impacted is the user sitting in front of it. When you’re talking about a server, this could mean an interruption for many users. You may lose e-mail services for a short period of time. Users would lose access to shared files and data. Anyone working within a shared software might be kicked out, or worse yet, might lose all the work they’ve done if they haven’t saved recently. What happens if the update(s) cause some sort of issue and the server doesn’t come back up after the reboot ? I could go on and on, but you get the general idea.

So how do we mitigate the impact of this ? Well, it’s very simple. We have to apply updates and do the required restarts at times when users aren’t using the network. Normally, this means afterhours or on the weekend. Now you may think to yourself that this isn’t a big deal, you can quickly do this regularly and I’ve been sniffing too much thermal paste. But you need to seriously consider this. Updates should be done regularly. This will depend on your clients and how they feel, but we’re talking about weekly or bi-weekly. This means that for a period of time on Friday night, or Sunday mid-day, you’re going to be either going on-site or logging in remotely and doing, what I call, “maintenance service”. Most times the server will come back up no problem, but there will be times when it doesn’t and you’ll be getting your jacket on and heading to wherever it physically is. And because updates never end, this will be on-going forever. Meaning that you will begin planning YOUR weekend, YOUR evenings, around these maintenance tasks. Oh, you want to head out camping for the weekend on Friday afternoon ? What about that server you’re supposed to maintain Saturday evening ?

Many business owners and individual consultants don’t think about this type of thing. Providing technology services to clients requires discipline, and a willingness to accommodate users and keep things running when they need to be. Remember, you’re being paid to serve your client in the best way possible. Sometimes, that doesn’t translate to what might be most convenient for you.

Author

Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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