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Is Your IT infrastructure Ready For The Holidays?

02 August, 18

The National Retail Federation anticipates consumers will spend $691.9 billion in 2018 holiday sales, nearly a 4% jump from 2017. With deals posting as early as November 1st, retailers are counting on shoppers’ gifting generosity to boost profits into the black. To power these transactions at a massive scale, hard working IT professionals are critical in overseeing the vast ecosystem of merchant point-of-sales, internet infrastructure, and security services.

Regardless of your business size, we’ve put together five things you should be thinking about now – even if your business isn’t in retail.

Is knowledge distributed across your IT team?
Nobody wants to call in team members after hours or deny vacation time over the holidays. Distributing mission-critical knowledge across teams can help everyone work more efficiently while respecting time off and allowing those on the clock do their jobs more efficiently.

However, writing proper documentation takes time. If your engineers are overburdened and don’t have the time to craft a comprehensive manual, think of some creative timesaving ways to build a robust Knowledge Management system into your company culture. It doesn’t need to be complicated – it could be as simple as capturing quality content in video form and storing them in a wiki or even a shared drive. By doing so, you can ensure that appropriate knowledge is accessible to all your engineers.

Do you have redundancy and backup plans in place, and if so, are they regularly tested?
Winter weather, increased traffic, or a careless construction worker can quickly turn a regular work-day into a nightmare. While having redundant systems and backups in place is helpful, they are only useful if they are operational and are quickly available. Make sure that no matter when disaster strikes, your team is calm, collected and ready to bring your systems back online by:

  • Developing and adopting backup and disaster recovery plans
  • Identifying the resources needed to execute the plan
  • Periodically running drills on these processes
  • Implementing a cloud mirroring solution (if your application is in the cloud). This will allow failover of your entire infrastructure with datasets on a manual or automatic basis and have new production instances spun up in minutes. It is also important to regularly exercise the mirror and failover, to ensure your team can bring systems back online quickly in the event of a real outage.

Are you using systems automation?
You’d never cook a holiday dinner without timesaving devices like microwaves, blenders and coffee makers, so why not bring the same timesaving tools to your infrastructure? Automated deployment saves your team time, ensures consistency and produces faster release time for your products via continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD).

By implementing systems automation tools, you can automate the entire infrastructure – making cloud orchestration and configuration simple, fast and scalable. This allows you to deploy your entire architecture consistently and securely with fewer staff and in a fraction of the time. If any of your infrastructure requires updates due to security vulnerabilities, compromised servers or failed instances, you will be set up to deploy the fix over the holidays quickly.

Bolster Your IT Security
Cyber-attacks are not limited to a season, which is why IT security is a 24/7/365 endeavor. However, the holidays are a tempting time for cyber thieves. While many people think attacks originate in far-off countries, security begins with educating your employees and helping them develop a security first approach.

Implementing a holistic, company-wide plan and philosophy around training and preparation for attacks will make your organization much more prepared and ready to respond when cyber attacks do occur. Some of the most pressing issues in the security space are as much about raising awareness and training as they are about technology.
To make sure your security profile is as healthy as possible, consider the following:

  • Invest in an external security audit. If gaps are discovered, immediately take care of them. This should be in addition to any PCI DSS compliance your organization undergoes.
  • If you’re working with a cloud services provider, is it PCI DSS compliant? Your organization is ultimately responsible for meeting its compliance obligations — which typically include technical security issues — but a PCI DSS compliant provider can help. If you’re not working with a PCI DSS compliant provider, it’s a good time to start looking for one.
  • If you run an e-commerce site, don’t offer online guest checkouts. Instead, enforce address and credit card verification. Your systems should also be continuously monitored with alerts set up based on activity, transaction amount, and volume.
  • Only allow secure connections, which means using HTTPS instead of HTTP.
  • Avoid storing sensitive data. If you must, make sure it is encrypted. Also, review your data access and authorization tools and policies to ensure only the right people access the right data at the right time.
  • Take advantage of managed security services. Third-party managed security providers maintain the most up-to-date technologies, tools, and expertise to combat malware and other types of attacks.
  • Make sure all patches are up to date. (This is another area in which offloading this task to a managed services provider can help ensure you get the benefits of the most up-to-date services and resources.)
  • Educate everyone in your organization on the various threats and how to respond to them.

Are your current solutions easily scalable and sized appropriately?
For many companies, holidays mean increased demands on infrastructure. From increased data traffic or seasonal employees, making sure the appropriate resources are available should be planned for and tested. By planning and coordinating these changes with the appropriate providers, you can reduce mission-critical problems later, while having a tested plan in place and ready to dial up when the time comes.

Hopefully, your organization can say yes to all of these questions. If not, there’s still time to take steps to improve your preparedness. At iSymplify, we’re here to help ensure your business is secure, scaled appropriately, and ready for the holidays.

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