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Christmas, are you ready? Make sure you have a relaxed holiday season.

Christmas is only a few weeks away and for many businesses this means a period of shut down, with offices closing their doors and shutting off the lights so employees can spend time with family and friends. But for many others, including retailers, this is the busiest time of the year.

While everyone is at home, drinking eggnog and opening gifts, the world doesn't actually stop. Believe it or not, people will still be buying online on Christmas Day. Preparing your IT for the festive period is paramount to a relaxed and carefree few weeks. From cyber security to contingency plans, these are our top tips for a disaster-free Christmas:

Insider ThreatsFrom a cybercriminal's perspective, the Christmas break offers a prime opportunity to attack. They know that everyone is busy, that teams are reduced and there is less chance that activity will be spotted. With that in mind it's important to ensure that your firewalls are up to date, that your desktops are secured, and that anti-malware and other patches are automatically implemented even when teams are not there. Using a monitoring solution such as Mutiny can help you detect unusual activity and alert your team. Also remember to back-up your configuration files so if a firewall or other security critical device fails you can bring it back up quickly.

As discussed in our previous blog, it is important that you have monitoring in place for internal activity. Track who is accessing which resources on your network and attempting to make changes; pay particular attention to log files to see when changes are made and who is making them. Detect and analyse spikes in traffic flow and potential data theft, and monitor IoT devices used by your teams. Remember with fewer people in the office, it's the perfect opportunity for unscrupulous activity.

2. Prepare for remote working

If your team is planning on working from home during the holidays, then make sure you have the connections available on your VPN. Also check that email is accessible remotely and securely, and that you are monitoring these connections for unusual activity. Ensure you don't hit your limits in terms of license limitations on simultaneous connections, and set up alerts to tell your team when these are getting close.

Remote Working3. Ensure you have support in place, Who is on call?

It's a bad subject and nobody wants to be on call over Christmas, but with mission-critical IT it's a necessity. Ensure that you and your team know who is on call and that you have an incident response and escalation process in place for when issues do occur. This will allow glitches to be analysed and solved quickly. Make sure you have a handover process in place, so that the next on-call individual knows of any issues that have happened, what is still outstanding and what potential issues have been spotted.

4. Ensure you have capacity

This is especially true of retailers over the Christmas period. Ensuring that you have the capacity for a peak time rush on your e-commerce site or through your tills is paramount for maximising extra sales and ensuring that customers and staff are not inconvenienced by outages.

If you are using internal systems to manage this data, ensure that you set warning limits and have contingencies in place for these peak times. Alert your team when limits are being hit and examine previous reports to understand when these spikes may occur.

If you are a business using a hosted solution on a service such as AWS, ensure that you have configured processing to flex your power requirements at peak times.

5. Monitoring activity and keeping your network safe and operational

Happy UserImplementing a monitoring solution across your critical infrastructure with automated alerting can forewarn your team of any potential issues. By using email and SMS alerting you can send warnings to the on-call engineer, even out of hours.

With a monitoring solution you can keep an eye on your network 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without the need for manual intervention. Implementing rules allows you to identify any unusual or malicious activity before it causes serious issues, and identify problem hardware and software before they interrupt network operation or cause issues for your team or customers. This gives your IT team advanced warnings of issues and your senior management team peace of mind that their mission critical systems are being monitored 24 hours a day.

Why not talk to us about implementing cost effective monitoring and configuration backups for your infrastructure before Christmas?