Around the office you heard a rumor about someone taking a vacation. So you web search this new word and discover strange and wonderful new things! You are curious to explore further but the realities of your job demand your attention. Back to work with you.

Later that night you speak of this discovery with a few friends at the local bar. You manage to have a drink or two before receiving an urgent call from the office. Can there be no escape, no temporary reprieve for the harrowed SysAdmin?

You are a dedicated, skilled worker and no one knows the I.T. systems like you. While this makes you indispensable it affords little time to rest, and you can never fully unplug.

So how can you work smarter instead of harder, and claim a little time to recharge? Here are a few basic sanity preservation tips every SysAdmin should practice.

1. Data Backups

Everything lives and dies by data – especially YOU

All businesses small and large need to maintain redundant backups and have a contingency plan. Imagine if the office was hit by lightning, flooding, or the sun fires a photon torpedo at your file server – how fast can you recover? Is the primary RAID storage array healthy and strong? Do you have a secondary? Automatic backups pushed to a redundant standby server? Backing up to an online “cloud” file storage service? Making daily encrypted backups to tape or portable drive for off-site storage?

The bottom line is, if you get a midnight call reporting the server has gone into full meltdown, could you have the company data back up and ready by 9 AM? If not, you better make a plan! Machine failure is inevitable; it is only a matter of time. And guess who’s in the crosshairs if the boss can’t open her documents?

2. Automate Maintenance

I.T. systems require constant maintenance such as hard drive cleanup, unload excess memory TSRs and even the occasional system reboot. Handle these tasks at your own pace by scheduling and automation. This also affords predictability – if you schedule the server to reboot each Sunday at 3:00 AM, you can inform the staff when downtime is expected and not to call and wake you. Scores!

3. Monitor and Prevent

Use a system monitoring tool like Simplify Monitoring to know the health of your systems, investigate symptoms before problems gets worse, and minimize downtime and urgent phone calls. If you can detect when a remote desktop or workstation is beginning to slow down, perhaps you can fix the problem before it turns into a user complaint. Nobody likes complaints.

4. Train Your Peoples

Is it always necessary to call you when a workstation stops working, web browser stops browsing or the printer stops printing? Discuss these common problems with your users, introduce them to the power button and teach them how to reset. You will thank yourself later.

5. Get Yourself A Keyboard Monkey

The disowned second cousin of the venerable code monkey, the keyboard monkey is your “mini-me”, that special someone you’ve trained to take over when you aren’t there. He or she should have a fundamental understanding of how your I.T. systems work, be knowledgeable of where key equipment is located, and how to perform basic life support like changing the backup tape or rebooting a mischievous server. They should be trustworthy, loyal and able to swing from Cat 5 cable with a single hand.

Think about these suggestions, discuss with your peers and see how they can be improved for your specific I.T. system needs. Hopefully by improving productivity and lessening downtime, you can find a little more quiet time for yourself. Then you can finally go on that vacation you’ve been dreaming about.