Today, every second of downtime equals lost revenue for almost any business, so resolving problems quickly is critical. That puts a lot of weight on the shoulders of the IT department, who are often on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. How do these unsung heroes cope with the stress of handling the responsibility of the 24-hour workday? We spoke to a number of IT pros to hear their tips and tricks.
Leverage Tech Tools for Automated Monitoring
While it may not reduce the anxiety of always knowing in the back of your mind that you’ll need to spring into action if something goes wrong, automated monitoring tools can reduce the busywork, and often allow you to identify and fix problems before they become catastrophic.
Tim Segraves, co-founder and CTO of Revaluate, a real estate startup, says, “As the sole technical founder on the team, I’m on call at all times. I use a number of tools for monitoring and alerting of when things go down or are operating with degraded performance.”
Segraves’ primary suite of tools includes the following:
- Pingdom: This tool monitors website uptime and sends alerts if the site becomes unreachable.
- New Relic: Segraves uses this to monitor server health. “You can configure alerts for when certain server parameters — CPU, memory, disk I/O — exceed given thresholds.”
- MongoDB MMS: A tool that keeps tabs on the company’s MongoDB database. “It monitors the overall health of the database and the servers they run on and can alert us if there are problems.”
Tools like LogMeIn can also simplify the troubleshooting process by enabling quick and easy remote access to any desktop at the office.
Get Everyone in on the Action
Glenn Gillen, founder of Glu IO, says that the 24-hour IT workload “can definitely be stressful, but it turned out to be good practice for becoming a father.” He’s learned that it takes a village – or at least a dedicated, supportive staff – to make sure the ship keeps sailing.
In addition to monitoring tools to alert the appropriate technician if sites go down, he leverages a Slack chatroom so that everyone can stay informed. “This is great if I’m out, as it’s a convenient way to get an overview of what’s wrong from my phone.” Gillen says, “I also have alerts sent to my phone, email, and our HipChat room so the entire team is aware of any issues while I work on them.”
Of course, full-time support does limit Gillen’s leisure time. “If I’m on call it inevitably means I have to take my laptop with me everywhere, and we can’t go any places that I won’t have cell reception or might have difficulty getting out to use my laptop (so concerts are out of the question).”
That’s why a carefully constructed, closely monitored IT framework is crucial not only for every business, but for every IT pro’s personal sanity. If you can eliminate most probable problems before they manifest, all you have left are the improbable ones – and maybe enough time left in the week to relax.
Remember: It Gets Better
“The most important thing is that if you are proactive about monitoring and maintenance, you won’t have that many middle of the night emergencies,” says David Xiong, vice president of technology for J – I.T. Outsource. He reminds us that IT can often be a tough gig that’s “not for the weak,” but that being on call 24/7 doesn’t actually mean you’ll be working those hours. “Being on call was tough in the beginning,” he says, “but after a year or so, you get used to it. I even began to enjoy the challenge!”
Xiong also adds a sentiment that many in the profession will understand: “IT isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle.”